January 06, 2008

Field Notes

I have strictly minor observations -- but I have a handful of them.

Elliot's chatter.
What a fascinating creature he is -- signs that he knows how to make, he stops making (see, "toilet", "please", "up", "more"). Words he knows how to form, he gives up on (see "key", "tooth"). Syllables he knows how to apply (see "d"), he doesn't apply: it pleases him to call me "ba", instead of "da". And habits that he has, he loses, and then he refinds.

Last week, for example, he forgot how to have dinner. There was just no dinner-having. But this week, he is eating like a champ again. (Well, he's a "champ" if we're grading on a curve, I suppose. Elliot is not nearly as interested in food as most babies. Possibly relatedly, most babies are larger.)

But his talk. Such splendid nonsense, I could listen to it all day. Fluent, elaborate, enigmatic babble grows around him and his activities, like a vine or a cloak or a moat. He vocalizes, soliloquizes, whoops and doo-wops about all sorts of things, from the undignified way we are stuffing him into a winter bundler to the sight of a bird.

The uncanny thing is when it verges on -- or *seems* to verge on -- perfect English. Did he quietly say the word "raisin", just as I offered him a raisin today? Or did was it more like "g'bleisnihhh" that he mumbled under his breath, simply as the fancy struck him? He may have been mulling over something entirely separate from the raisin, something that needed urgent remarking upon. Maybe he was talking through his plans for a new assault on Ada's left nostril with his right index finger. Absolutely no one knows. And yet when our two parallel worlds even seem to swing into alignment, even for a flash, it's eerie. It's arresting.

Elliot's teeth. He spent the week after Christmas teething fiercely, the most obvious episode of stereotypical "teething" that we've seen. (And it seems to have passed now. No new teeth ever showed up, though in our experience, the real pain is in the tectonics, while the teeth do their burrowing underground. Cutting teeth, per se, seems milder.)

Not a drooler, typically, right after Christmas my son began leaking -- pretty much constantly -- from his poor, slack, wistful, but still-half-smiling mouth. He would apply the back of his hand, sadly, to his cheek, and moan "uhhhhh" piteously. He would weep, sadly, many times a day. He was so sensitive about everything. It was pretty sad.

One day I wore a gray cotton shirt that (as it turned out) turns very dark when it's wet, so it shows any spots of moisture very clearly. Then I spent a few hours with Elliot. I found myself decorated with damp half-moons, from one shoulder to other, across my collarbones: the garland of many little consolations, mutterings, minor wrestles, and restful hugs.

While he was lying passively upon me at the bookstore in Evanston, I talked to a woman trailing a thoughtful, experimental little five-year-old girl. They both had eyes for Elliot. The mom asked me if he was teething (this was while I was wearing the drool-shirt, so it was a relatively easy call). I said that indeed he was: baby teeth 17 through 20, if I'm not mistaken. He has everything else. How interesting, said the woman. Those are the same teeth that she (pointing to the daughter) is working on right now.

Kids vary a lot.

Elliot's fever. While the teething was at its peak, he came on all warm. At least, he felt weirdly warm to me, first thing one morning last weekend. I could tell, the same way (I think) that my Mom could always tell: lips pressed to head. (How many times a day do we do that? So many.)

And found him different, strangely radiant. So we called a nurse at the doc's office, and they asked us to take his temperature. New parental task -- who holds him down? And who sticks it up his ass? Answer: B holds him. S sticks him. Elliot: didn't really cry, but didn't exactly break into applause either.

His temperature was a little north of 100, and they said we should bring him in. He had some tiny red dots on his skin, here and there. They called it a virus, and said it would blow over with a little tylenol, which it did. At around the same time as the teething pain stopped, actually, the fever disappeared.

Now, did you know that, officially, our medical establishment doesn't believe that teething can bring fevers? I think they're kidding themselves, but I'm too busy trolling the internet for news about the primaries (pollster.com, for example) to troll the internet for studies about teething immunology.

Elliot's crying. Now we've over the teething episode, and we're over the fever, and we're eating decent dinners again. And yet he wakes up so sad, these mornings. Just crying and crying. It takes something to snap him out of it -- a surprise bath, or an unusual object, or a change of air.

Elliot's head-butting. He head-butts me. He did it on the airplane trip home from Utah, all of a sudden, as we were getting situated in our seats. He just put down the crown of his skull, pointed it at my chest, and started whacking away. I laughed like it was the best thing that's ever happened, and it basically was. This egged him on, and he did it some more. The only thing to watch out for is that he doesn't know what's OK to head-butt, and what's not. He head-butted the armchair I was sitting in today, and that was OK, but when he head-butts the coffee table, it goes poorly for him.

Here's a little video which shows 2 things:

  1. Elliot head-butting my knee

  2. Ada getting a bath today. Total chaos ensues after Ada escapes from the tub -- still muddy, still grimy, but also with a coating of fresh, gooey shampoo -- and proceeds to SHAKE, which rockets shampoo and muddy water all over the walls. Due to my limitiations as a journalist, most of the real action was not captured on video. But you get to see how it all starts, anyway.


Nico said...

The head-butting had me truly laughing out loud, with my husband giving me funny looks.

Beck said...

Head butting is a charming habit. I thought one of my babies actually BROEK MY NOSE one day. He's so funny! I laughed out loud when he ran over to bang your knee.

Amy E said...

Excellent post, B!

Roxanne said...

that boy is so stinkin cute!! He loves his ada!!