Archive | February, 2013

Bellycopter

23 Feb

First, here is baby scrounging for change between the couch cushions. I mean, what are you gonna do, really?

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Second, I think we (briefly) breached stage three, before retreating to stage two. If you’re indifferent to clicking through that link, it’s a cute post about how to read Green Eggs and Ham to your toddler, even after you are sick to shit of reading it. For us, this includes Goodnight Gorilla, In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, Brown Bear Brown Bear, as well as such high profile titles as Peek-a-Who, Bedtime Peekaboo, and Trucks. It’s not that I mind these books, in fact I think many are pretty awesome. It’s just. Well, we have read them SOOOOOOOOOO many times.

So, after your kid has memorized the book, stage 1 is to read a sentence and then stop before the end. Mickey fell out of his clothes, past the moon, and into the light of the………..And after a moment, the kid will respond, “Night Kitchen!” At this point, we let him tell a decent part of the story this way.

Stage 2 is that you start substituting nonsense for the words. “I see a yellow…peanut butter sandwich!…looking at me.” (for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?). After a moment, baby will be all, “No, papa! Yellow Duck!” Stage 3 is that he starts to get in on the making up stuff act. Stage 4 is you hide the book and pretend you’ve never heard of it. What wild things?

Third, I made a joke the other day, and I think it’s the first ‘bricolage’ joke BB got. I sometimes do a little airplane in the hangar action with food on the spoon, to get him to eat. It’s actually pretty cute. Here comes the airplane, the boat, the car, the whatever. The helicopter is a big hit. Then he opens wide, eats the food, and I play all coy, like “where did the helicopter go?!!?” He then points to his big open mouth, then his belly. Joy all around.

This time, I did the helicopter, then I said, “where did the helicopter go?!?!” then said, it must be a Bellycopter!!! He almost fell over laughing so hard. I had to repeat it 20 times. And he still thinks it is hilarious.

What’s neat is that he figured out helicopter, then that he points to his belly, then that bellycopter is a portmanteau, and finally that bellycopter sounds funny. All in all, a surprisingly sophisticated set of cognitive tasks to get to the joke.

I would say our baby is brilliant, but he also thinks he’s invisible if he can’t see you. Plus, he’s afraid of the feathers that sometimes come out of the sofa cushions.

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A rare profile of the artist as a young tot

12 Feb

Brooklyn baby is hungry. It’s 7:00 A.M., he’s been up for an hour, and he hasn’t eaten a thing. “I’m freakish about breakfast,” he says, by which, thank God, he doesn’t mean he wants an extra diet cookie. “You’re not going to eat, like, fruit or something, are you?” he asks, with real concern. “Because I’m gonna eat.” He orders the eggs Benedict without looking at the menu.

The place he chose to breakfast-up for this day of casting meetings – he’s got four of them, in response to his performance in the breakout The Station Agent – is a 5th Avenue diner with a view of the still-empty streets of Park Slope, which is where we sit. It’s a typical morning in Brooklyn, and he’s got no good reason to tuck into the booth where we sit. The toddler is in an enviable point in his career: The attention that comes with being an ascendant actor – the paparazzi, the romantic linkages to stars and starlets, the ANOREXIC? headlines because he orders his hollandaise on the side, which, for the record, he does not – is still a few months out. For now, he’s just trying to enjoy a moment that never lasts long enough.

Baby has been working steadily since he was discovered walking, nine month ago. Remarkably, he completed work on the short film Teething Biscuit when he was only 7 months old. It has been a whirlwind ride ever since. “It was an accident, that film. Some weird guy calling himself ‘papa’ didn’t even ask, he just started shooting video,” he says, with the barest trace of a Brooklyn drawl. “I should probably have asked why he wanted to do that. Or who he was. And maybe for some more biscuit.” It led to him landing an agent, his mother. “Oh, he’s camera ready,” she says with a trace of a smile. She beams proudly, impressed by her young son’s sophistication. “He’s still friends with some of the kids from Tots on the Move. He knows the difference between his real friends and the hangers-on. I would never allow him to pursue this path if I thought it would go to his head.”

But it almost certainly will. The Station Agent is a hard, unflinching look at a boy sitting on lawn furniture, eating a cracker. When he puts his plate down, and turns to drink some water, you never wonder if he’s acting – he just is really thirsty. He handles his character with a balance of urbane aplomb and and boyish charm, and he never loses his grip. It’s the kind of place-specific performance Matt Damon would spend a year living in an Appalachian train-side shack to get just right.

The eggs, of which he has eaten only the toast, and only the bits of the bread that have not touched egg, sauce or ham, are yesterday’s news, and he is headed to his first meeting. “These meetings are all the same. A little crawling, a little playing with trains, some fish crackers, and then you’re whisked off before you can really sink your teeth in the role. They want you to be all cheer and share, but sometimes I just can’t even think of the words. It horrifies my publicist, but what can you do?” His mother hastens to add, “yeah, he naps at like 11.”

[sorry about all this, really. I was on a kick of Documented Instances of Public Eating – DIPEs, and ended up here. Don’t click through unless you want to like Esquire a lot less, and Jennifer Lawrence somewhat less.]

Anxious

7 Feb

I sit, looking at my baby, trying hard to stop counting the seconds between coughs. Eight, nine, ten, ele..cough. One, two, three…He coughs about once every ten or so seconds, and I am doing the math in my head. Six per minute. Three hundred sixty per hour. He’s been doing this for a couple of hours now, seven hundred coughs. He threw up twice yesterday, the combined mucus of a weeks-long cold that comes, goes, transmutes, returns. The coughing becomes gagging, becomes a kind of gooey non-food throw-up. Once on my lap, once down my shirt.

Meanwhile, the ingrown toenail from a week ago became infected enough to warrant a weekend urgent care visit. The urgent care doctor there told us the infection had passed, but a callus had formed at the corner of the toenail, which would likely require a podiatrist. We went home with a prescription for an antibiotic ointment, to prevent re-infection. The doctor there was sick herself, sneezing and wheezing. She didn’t wash her hands before handling baby’s foot. But baby is now banging the toe pretty regularly, and he starts crying any time it is remotely touched.

This doctor is unbelievable on a number of levels. Callus? What? Did they just pull a random woman off the street, dress her in a white coat, and collect our copay? We send off a photo to his pediatric orthopedist, the amazing Doctor David Scher. He responds via phone call Monday morning that the toe is still infected, to get a course of antibiotics, to not see a podiatrist (who will likely just exacerbate the problem by shaving the skin around the toe, which often causes another hangnail when it grows back), and to soak the baby’s foot in warm salt water a couple times a day. We make an appointment to follow up with him later in the week. The first doctor is looking like a malpractice suit in waiting. Good luck with that New York Methodist.

So fine, this has been the nail in the coffin that is our relationship with our current pediatrician. She’s fine, but her practice, Park Slope Pediatrics, has often left us feeling sad and a little angry. And if the benefit of an urgent care center nearby is offset by the fact that the urgent care center does more harm than good, well, then what’s the point? Our new doctor takes a 5 second look at the toe, declares it infected, and sends us home with a 10-day course of amoxicillin. She, like Dr. Scher, is puzzled by the suggestion of a podiatrist. We have an appointment with Dr. Scher later this week, so we’re still a little in who knows territory.

None of this post is meant to be about baby’s health. But his health has been spotty these past couple months.

Instead, it’s about a creeping sense of anxiety that I’ve been feeling since yesterday, but which has bloomed more fully in the past day or so.

I often find myself thinking I’m the wrong guy for this parenting gig. I am not saying I’ve made bad choices, that I don’t want to be married or have a baby (though I do sometimes think life would certainly be easier. Not better, at all. Easier.). I love the kid very very much, and I love my wife even more. But what I am saying is that I do not know whether I have the fortitude for parenthood. Honestly, I may not have the fortitude for adulthood. My interests seem juvenile even to myself, I don’t obsess over work. I just don’t know how to keep moving forward, not worrying about baby’s health, or family’s wealth, or my mental well-being.

Rationally, this makes little sense, I know. But I look around at the other parents, and they seem different from me. When I was a kid, my father used to enjoy reading historical fiction and James Bond novels, and playing tennis. He liked to collect fountain pens. I like playing video games and thinking about intractable social problems, like why American culture seems to hate women so much. I still read fantasy novels, and I can quote pretty reliably from any number of nerdy movies. In my spare time, I conspire to build and program robots, and I like to make pancakes. None of these things scream serious father to me.

Maybe this will all go away a bit as baby’s health picks up. It’s exhausting, maybe it’s just a lack of sleep. But when along the line are you supposed to stop feeling like you’re faking it and actually feel like you’re the adult others imagine you to be?