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Achievement: unlocked! Baby as a RTS video game

23 May

(tl;dr version: parenting is like video games, we should make it more so)

My favorite game nowadays is Starcraft II (actually, Dark Souls is giving it a run for its money, but getting time to play an incredibly violent XBox game on our single living room TV requires, um, negotiation). Starcraft is what is called a ‘real time strategy’ (RTS) game, meaning that the game unfolds against another player in real-time, as opposed to a turn-based game like tic-tac-toe or something. If you’re taking 10 seconds to decide on what to build/research/train, then your opponent is already sending troops across the battlefield to kill you and all you stand for.

What’s brilliant about this game is that there are two elements to it: the ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ game (I know, my partner’s eyes are now fully glazed over as she’s reading this, wondering who this man-child is that she married, and when we can finally kill him, bury the body at sea, and get on with more updates on the fucking job search already. It’s happening, man, just not the point of this post). But this macro/micro division is a wildly fascinating, innovative way to think about video games. Stick with it a minute, it’s interesting, I promise. Because with games like Space Invaders, Tron, etc., the earliest games, the point was just to imagine disembodied people shooting or running, or running away from imaginary aliens. Or digging tunnels. Whatever. But the connection between that kind of activity, and the realism of life was tenuous if it was considered at all. They weren’t meant to be taken seriously. I mean, when did those people eat or rest? Who kept filling their magical guns with ammunition? If any military endeavor is basically the massive logistical ability to throw, say, 400,000 troops halfway across the world, with the ability to feed and house them, then our video games have got a long ways to go. These older games exemplify ‘micro’-only games – you micro-manage your troops, bases, gun-toting horned alien wildebeests, etc.

On the other side is something like the Sims, as well as a slew of turn-based strategy games (like Risk), where the focus is on the ‘macro’-level resource-gathering and intelligence-management. In these games, if there is a piece of the game to attack (an enemy state, your neighbor, etc.), the actual attack itself is managed by the game, usually through some dice/weighted-score/chance algorithm. If you have a better economy, with better upgrades, and happier citizens, it is likely that you will win battles. You don’t have to actually fight the battles by clicking on individuals, swinging their swords, reading spells.

Starcraft is so great because it requires both macro and micro skills. You basically build units that mine minerals and gas, build buildings, expand your bases, which then allow you to build/train/evolve fighting units. And then you take your fighting units off to kill off your opponent. With bad macro, you have no economy. With bad micro, however, you lose the actual battles.

Soooooo. I had an epiphany, that parenting is like this. There are macro and micro components – macro is remembering to change his diaper, put the baby in his crib for naps, feeding him when he’s hungry, timing out his sleep with your own schedule of work and obligations, tending to kinwork. Micro is actually getting his shoes on, or getting him to wear a hat when it is sunny outside. Reading to him in the funny voice that he likes, and feeding him rice, letting him use the fork or spoon but not getting food all over the floor. Bad macro means that baby will be tired and cranky-pants. Or that you won’t be able to get to the park to meet friends for a picnic, because baby is sleeping while everyone else is playing.

Bad micro means that you’ve put the shoes on the wrong feet (which I’ve done); or that you’ve accidentally poured hot water over baby’s head, freaking him out in his bath (which I’ve done); or that you’ve left the bowl food on a placemat in baby’s reach, which he’s pulled off the table and onto the floor (which I’ve done).

What’s missing in parenting, then, is the achievements you get for doing stuff, like in video games. 10 consecutive baths without a tantrum? Cleanie-weenie Badge! Vegetables eaten at dinner? Green fork badge! 30 books read? Brainiac badge! Social parenting badge! Daycare without a care badge! Achievements! Unlocked!



19 May

Our baby has somehow become obsessed with penguins. Or rather, with the few examples of penguins that exist around our house. And in completely inexplicable fashion, he has somehow come to a different relationship with these different manifestations of penguin. Here is a little Brooklyn Baby penguinology:

Case 1 – the smothered candle

This penguin is a weird figurine that mother-in-law brought home as a present from her trip to Israel (Yes. I agree. Let us just let that sink in for a moment. MinL went to Israel and brought us back a penguin candle). This penguin, or ‘peh-peh’ as baby calls it, sits on wife’s dresser, or, more recently, on the bookshelf right next to the bed where after-bath-put-on-shoes ritual takes place. Because if it is not in sight, then increasingly frantic ‘peh-peh, peh-peh!’ pointing happens.

If you look closely at penguin (and you should – look closer…closer, Clarise, closer…), you will have noticed: a) that penguin is holding a book on his foot. The book, which is an integral part of the penguin experience, used to be held by his flippers. Repeated pulling of the book has resulted in a book that is now separate from the rest of penguin, and that penguin only has one flipper with which to hold penguin. Against his one foot. The other of which was, we think, eaten by toddler; b) that penguin looks a little frantic. This is because his beak has been somewhat chewed off and is now stuck tenuously back onto his face. For now; and c) that penguin is in fact a candle, his little tuft of white hair being actually a wick. After some discussion (and by discussion I mean that I suggested this, and wife told me that I’m insane), I have come to realize that if we actually were to light penguin up and let him fulfill his candlish destiny, Baby would completely lose his shit. This is, I submit, the most well-loved penguin-candle in the history of penguin-candles.

Case 2 – the one-armed flapper
We do a bedtime ritual that is pretty much the same every night. Eat around 6, bath at 6:30, shoes and brace at 6:45, bed at 7. This will vary a bit, but generally if baby isn’t in bed by 7:30, something’s gone wrong or someone is in town to play. This routine is smooth like silk, except for the shoes and brace.

(Let me pause for a second, since people often have a mis-perception about his brace. I often say that it’s fine except that baby doesn’t like to be restrained, and they nod and think, who would want to be restrained, the Mitchell Brace is, well, restraining. The truth is that he doesn’t care about the shoes and brace at all, he doesn’t like the process of putting them on. Once they’re on, he’s back to happy as a baby clam).

So we use books as a way to distract him from getting his shoes on. And, you know, cause books is to making baby smert. This bathtime peekaboo book is a favorite. Every time he gets to this page, we say ‘Can you flap your arms like a penguin?’ and baby wildly flaps one arm. Disturbing. Is the one arm an early sign of asymmetrical brain activity? Does he know something about penguins that we don’t? Is he trying to tell us something?

Case 3 – Scary bath penguin
And then there is the penguin which actually sits in its natural habitat. Well, water at least. A baby gift along with rubber ducky, this penguin has wind-up flippers, so that it swims around the tub. This penguin was initially interesting, and many baths have required non-stop winding. But something happened a few weeks ago. Now penguin is a problem. If he sees penguin in the bath, he tries to throw it out of the tub. If he sees it in the box of bath toys, he shakes his head emphatically and whimpers (‘no no no no no no no..’until you make it disappear. We’re loathe to throw the thing away, since there have been turnarounds before (don’t get me started with bath-dinosaur), but it’s also a kind of awesome wind-up penguin.

As an aside to this post, our baby is entering a phase where things are endlessly fascinating to his parents, but are clearly the dullest possible things that could be happening, if it’s not your kid. I’m considering switching to a full-on ‘here’s the shit that’s crazy about my wife’ site until this phase passes…

Search terms

3 Jan

Can I just say, whoever is finding this blog by searching for dad and boy naked together, I think you’re in the wrong corner of the internets. You want the creepy pedophilia corner, this is the awesome fun section.

Smells like shit

25 Aug

Ok, one of the things you all promised me was that the poop situation would continue to be ‘no big deal’ – some combination of ‘you get used to it’, ‘it’s like cleaning up after a dog’, ‘poop doesn’t bother me’, whatever. But I want to let you know that not only is the shit still gross, but it definitely smells, now that he’s eating solid food.

And there is something about the chemistry of the poop, the relatively small room he’s in, with the high ceiling, and my olfactory composition that is conspiring to get the smell of poop into my sinuses. Where I can smell it for hours after I’ve changed his diaper.

This whole bit, I suspect, is going to get much much much worse before it starts getting better.

chicken chicken chicken

21 Jun

I dunno, maybe the last post was a little melodramatic. So here is a chicken story to make it all better.


5 Apr

People told is that having a baby would mean that all our ideas about rationality, reasoning, and understanding would be thrown out the window. Babies, we are told, are pure want and need and emotion. And, to a certain degree, that’s been true. Especially in the first couple months, so much of what BB wanted was just unreasonable.

Of course, the flip side is that the development books (specifically the Baby’s First Year) does cue you in to what you could expect to happen. BB is now making baby cooing sounds, and starting to sleep better, and tracking things, and neck control, and grabbing rather than batting, etc.

But the fact that three weeks of basically bi-hourly diarrhea could suddenly not just come to an end, but also include two full days of no bowel movements, it’s just insane. Because, first, wife and I are living this surreal existence, whispering urgently to each other ‘did he poop?’ ‘was there poop?’ ‘where the hell is the fucking poop?’ for two full days. Should we ‘stimulate the anus’? (would that be YOUR solution?) call the doctor?

The Book, of course, blithely says in a quick paragraph that sometimes babies can go up to a week with no bowel movement, normal! And I’m all skeptical, because my brother goes a week with no bowel movements, and that bought him a trip to the Mayo Clinic.

Second, his GI tract basically just reset itself. I mean, wtf?

Oh and just for the record, I won the poop roulette twice in a row after this, the second time of which I basically cleaned up, well, two days worth of waste. I’m pretty sure I actually saw his stomach deflate as half his stinking body weight was squeezed out. Yay.


4 Mar

Our baby has a bit of blood in his poop, which is apparently attributable to tiny cuts by his anus and possibly allergies to something or other that baby mama is eating. So now baby mama has to cut out dairy (the loss of cheese, not just unpasteurized cheese, is brutal), and we have to do some wash/clean/ointment deal for his butt cheeks. I wish I could make some of this shit up, but it’s all very real and happening.

And for a certain friend, baby mama went to the pediatrician with a bag of pooped-in diaper. So, yeah, it’s high times in the Brooklyn Dad household.