Parenting Week 153: sleep, Christmas, and biology

Instincts are strange things. I had forgotten how much the simple crying of a baby can snatch me out of the deepest sleep with the part of my brain stem where ancient instincts take root demanding that I leap up and attack the intruding sabretooth tiger with a rock or pointy stick. Failing to find a sabretooth tiger after several moments of groggy searching, I usually lower my alarm clock and wander into the baby’s room to see what all the fuss is about. It’s usually gas, which is actually harder to deal with.

Geralyn forgoes the tiger thing, but she sometimes reacts before the baby makes a peep. We’ll be sitting watching TV and Ger will suddenly straighten up and cross her arms over her chest, palms to shoulders. “There they go,” she’ll say. “Baby’s gonna wake up in three… two… one…” And she does, thanks to some weird but deep-seated cycle synchronization between mother and baby. You other moms out there know what I’m talking about.

Besides the crying and the late-night burping and the clockwork lactation, the other big news this week was that it was Christmas last Monday. As predicted, Samantha made out like a incontinent bandit, scoring tons of loot from me and Ger, my mom, my sister and brother in-law, and Ger’s parents. The biggest hit was one of those big plastic kitchen sets with a whole store’s worth of accompanying plastic food, dishes, cups, pans, pots, and appliances. We whittled away a whole hour the other day with me just flipping through “Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals” and telling Sam what ingredients he’d need for “Chicken Salad with Figs and Proscutio” or “Turkey Loco Burgers with Chunky Guacamole.” She’d run to her kitchen, find plastic replicas of the ingredients I read to her (or a reasonable substitute, like banana for fresh oregano) and cram them into one of her little aluminum pots. Then she’d run over and dish out a plateful for me and yell “EAT IT! EAT IT” for a couple of seconds before snatching it away and babbling something about leftovers and the refrigerator. Repeat.

On the opposite end of the gender stereotype spectrum, Sam also loved her Lightning McQueen and Mater cars, which she delighted in repeatedly ramming into each other, the wall, and plates full of “Moo Shu Pork Pockets with Jasmine Rice Sundaes.” Tying for third place are her wooden train set and a bright pink electric keyboard with a voice synthesizer that she loves to sing into. I’ve already succeeded once in getting her to take the latter and jam out with me while I play Guitar Hero.

Sam also continues to take to Mandy, pretty much constantly wanting to give her kisses and running over to her when she cries to say “It’s okay. Don’t cry.” Which, you know, doesn’t really work. But it’s a nice sentiment. Sam is also fascinated by the entire nursing process –which does work– and wants to get up close and personal every time her little sister has a snack. This has led to some very basic biology lessons and conversations like this one:

“Babies drink boobie milk!”

“Yes. Or milk from a bottle, but Mandy drinks …um, boobie milk. As you say.”

“Do you have a boobie, Daddy?”

“Er, no.”

“If I had a boobie, I could feed the baby.”

“Okaaaay. That’s true, but that would be really weird.”

“Yeah, that would be weird.”

Generally, Mandy is doing great. She’s not quite sleeping through the night, but usually she just wakes up a couple of times in the wee hours to feed. We can can get anywhere from six to eight hours in, which is way more than we dared hope for and a lot more than we got in the first few weeks of life with Sam. Mandy hardly ever cries except when hungry, which again stands in stark contrast to Sam, who pretty much constantly wanted to be held or soothed.

It’s nice, but I think Ger is still apprehensive about when I go back to work in the next few days. We started off having my family in the house for Christmas right after we got home from the hospital, then having me home from work, and when I go she’ll be outnumbered. I’m just afraid that when I come home from work one night it’s going to be like the ending of Lord of the Flies. Wish us luck.

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