Transmissions From Baby-Town: “Send Sleep, Vodka, And Bacon”

*PSSSHHcracklehisss*

“– you hear me? The stuff’s everywhere — black tar — came pouring out of diapers — could lay shingles with this stuff OH GOD HERE COMES MORE OF IT –“

*kkkkpsshhhhfsssss*

“– haven’t slept in days — seeing things — cherubs with wings, but not like out of a greeting card but like out of the damn Bible — so many eyes — fiery swords — chubby cheeks –“

*weeooooFSSHHHHcrackle*

“– think they’re cute but they’re deadly –“

“– energy levels low, rations dwindling –“

“– everywhere you go it’s always there watching waiting peeing –“

“– alert, alert, this thing’s got witch nails, it killed Samson, merciful Jesus it killed Samson! –“

“– we thought we controlled it, but no, no, it controls us! –“

” — such hubris, we thought we understood the parameters –“

*KKKKFSSSHHHHHBSSHHHH*

“– OH SWEET SID AND MARTY KROFFT IT’S CRYING AGAIN WHICH MEANS ITS HUNGRY — “

” — send sleep — vodka — baaaacon –“

CARRIER LOST

The Littlest Penmonkey Beseeches You

The baby is well.

He’s covered in the acne of an 8th grade math nerd.

He’s still trying to tear off his own face with his komodo claws.

He still looks like we enrolled him in Baby Fight Club.

He sometimes smiles. He likes dancing to the Beastie Boys. His poop has transitioned from the foul black hell-slurry to something that looked like swamp mud to something that looks like deli mustard.

He’s good. And we’re pretty good, too. I mean, no, we don’t sleep for shit. And we’ve learned that the most elemental functions of human life are precious — eating, showering, your own bathroom needs, they’re all second to the baby. He’s like a power-mad deity, this kid. He’s suddenly been dropped into the universe and placed not at its periphery but at its golden nougaty center.

The biggest issue I’m wrestling with is finding time to write and blog. It comes in fits and starts.

Anyway, the thing is, being “new parents,” we are of course on the receiving end of buckets of unsolicited advice, so I figured, why not just lie back and think of England? Why not go with it?

Thus, here I am, flipping the switch from unsolicited to solicited.

Hit me with your best shot. (No, not shit: the baby’s already doing that, thanks.) Best advice for parents with a newborn — double points if it’s advice that goes toward helping this penmonkey still monkey with his pens. I know you parents have collected wisdom stored up in your brains and it yearns to have the cherry popped. Pop it. Break the seal. Rupture the fontanelle. Let it all spill out.

And thank you in advance for doing so.

Oh! And happy Memorial Day.

77 comments

  • *Lots* of good stuff here, Chuck. Lots.

    Look, from one new dad to the next (mine is sixteen months old — in a couple of days), here’s the best thing I can tell you: wing it.

    I know, I know. You’re looking for input, for guidance. Help, for God’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all great stuff. But it’s sort of like the guy on the radio in the tower and you’re at the controls of the plane. And you’ve never flown (but you’ve seen lots of movies with planes!). Hey, the radio guy is helpful. You *need* the radio guy. But the radio guy ain’t gonna get that plane on the ground with all the passengers in tact.

    The plane, you know, is the kid. The passengers are… him going to college? Fuck. I knew I’d fuck this up.

    Anyway, the best advice I ever heard is a version of this: just cruise. Which is a hipster way of saying be cool, be flexible, take it easy, and understand that whatever rhythm or groove or schedule you think you’re going to get into now, forget about it. It’ll change in a few weeks, if not a few days.

    That’s the big picture from the life equivalent of the guy who said, “I picked a bad week to quit sniffing glue.”

    The personal advice — because I like you, Chuck — is to have fun. I know. It’s corny, I it just about causes me physical pain to write that. But Lord Almighty, have fun. Enjoy it. The little shits are an awful lot of fun.

  • To echo what someone else said: GO [THE FUCK] TO WORK. Treat your writing as a 9-to-5 office job. Kiss your wife & son bye and make the 6-second commute to your writing lair every morning.

    Join your family on your 30-minute “lunch break,” and then get back to pounding those damn keys in your office.

    Keep your crap comin’! I am a big fan and want to keep reading your output.

  • By the way, I have two little boy monkeys, ages 3 and 5. I know what you’re going through, man!

    Even though I worked outside of the home, I helped my wife a lot throughout each night. We eventually started caring for the little guys in shifts. I was always tired the next day, but it was worth it.

  • I don’t have kids but I here’s my 2 yen to help squeeze in a bit more writing:

    1.Use a voice recorder to help write
    2.Keep a small notepad and pen on you at all times, something very cheap you don’t mind spilling stuff on. Keep it in your back pocket, write down ideas. Date each page.
    3.Turn on music for the baby when he sleeps. Doesn’t have to even be kids stuff (it saves money!) I plan to play Daft Punk and Red Hot Chili Peppers for my kid. My parents played ACDC and I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics until I was like 11.
    4.If your family/friends offer to help, take them up on the offer to stay over for a few hours to watch the kid while you and your wife can get other things done (or sleep)
    5.If your wife is showing any signs of postpartum depression, do take her in to see someone ASAP. I hear after the big “congratulatory” phase is done with friends and they start to leave you guys alone to do your thing, it can get really lonely.
    6.Shower friendly markers. Get them, so you can write on the tiles while you take your shower.
    7.Stick up a white board in the baby’s room for another place to squeeze in a bit more writing opportunity in.
    8.Keep a notepad by your bedside table as well. Try and do all the brainstorming and thinking beforehand so when you sit down to pump it out, you’ll be writing like your face is on fire.

    Thats all I really have at the moment. I hope it helps.

  • In another couple of weeks I officially cross the line into ‘mother of a teenage son’ territory (scary thought) but here’s a couple of unconventional things that worked for me when he was little.

    1) The Long Word Game: This was a soothing strategy I made up to stop myself dieing of boredom. Conventional wisdom has it that to calm a baby down you’re supposed to talk to him/her in simple sentences and say comforting things, what I did instead was just list as many polysyllabic words as I could think of, words like serendipity and mono-sodium glutamate, it gave my brain something to do and reassured me that my vocabulary wasn’t being shriveled into nothingness by motherhood and even better the kid loved it, and if not actually learning any of the words was at least getting a feel for what kind of sounds make up the language.

    2) Avoid modern kids tv like the plague, I swear all those bite-sized segments actually shorten kids attention spans, classic kids programs are better as they tend to have longer, more involved stories or just stick the kid in front of something intended for adults, I mean sure avoid stuff with explicit sex and violence but complicated political intrigue that a child has no chance of following? go for it, from a kids point of view the whole world is made up of things they don’t understand, one thing more or less isn’t going to bother them. I have to admit I did this because I couldn’t stand the forced cheeriness of kids tv, but it paid me back big time, at the age of maybe four years my son sat through the whole of Fellowship of the Rings (extended dvd version) absolutely rapt, you can get a lot done during a film that length.

    3) Foreign language films are a godsend, this may not work for anyone else, but I found that my son would try and pay attention for a while, realize that nothing made sense and fall asleep. Didn’t keep working for more than a couple of years because he wised up, but while it worked it was like magic.

    Anyway, results not guaranteed, take advice with truckload of salt, etc. Good luck.

  • My best freind is in your same situation, only … She has a triplet!!! It’s a fucking nightmare, think having 3 like your son in the house! She says that shifts work and, also, when hey really don’t sleep, she put them on the washing machine while it’s working. Apparently the vibrations do the job and the little monsters instantly fall inot Morpheus’ arms

  • My biggest concern after my first kid was born was how I would be able to write, because that’s the kind of guy I am. So here’s a few things that can help make that happen.

    1) Right now and for the first week or so, just worry about consistently writing. Don’t give yourself ridiculous word goals or anything. There were days i was happy to write 17 words. Really.

    2) My wife breast fed and that’s when I got the bulk of my writing done. She usually fell asleep, the baby would fall asleep, and I’d get between 30-60 minutes where I didn’t feel like an asshole for not doing anything

    3) Get a Snugli. I would put Spenser in it and then put my laptop on the kitchen counter and stand and write. I could get an hour or more done like that. It’s heel on the back after a while, but so is most of my time writing in a chair too.

  • Well, right, what you have to do is get him to associate a word with the elimination, saying it at the time you notice the elimination, then after a short time it should trigger the elimination. I’m a fan of the word ‘quickies’ myself, as shouting ‘dear god will you please take a shit it is raining’ rather embarrassing down the park. Oh no, hang on. That’s dogs.
    Um. Babies. My friends found that teaching their offspring the sign language for ‘nappy’, ‘milk’, ‘more’ and ‘finished’ helped tremendously cut down the frustrated crying (theirs, mainly) and the kid could understand and form the signs much earlier than they thought they would. That, and holding the kid upside down to help with colic. That’s kid face down along adult’s forearm, not hanging by the heels. Also helpful for getting vomit on your carpet/shoes/dog, not your face. Bon chance.

  • Best advice? Shift work and lower your standards. Sorry. I used to be anal about the entire house being spotless. Now? I am happy if there is a trail I can walk without detonating a toy that talks, chirps and sings until you want to rip out the batteries with your teeth.

    You will get used to it. It’s like being in battle. Soon the sounds of shelling and falling plaster don’t bother you as badly :D.

  • I respectfully disagree with the suggestions to use formula and bottles. Formula does not make babies sleep longer. To heck with the anecdotes. Some babies sleep through the night early and some don’t. Formua doesn’t make a difference. Both of my kddos were exclusively breastfed. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2 or 3 years (okay…that might be a little exaggeration…but not much). My son, started sleeping through pretty early. Neither had any formula.

    It sounds sweet and equitable to say, give a bottle of formula or pump some milk so that mom can sleep better at night but…then someone has to get up and get the bottle. If Dad manages to wake up before Mom, super. Otherwise, it’s probably Mom that wakes up first because moms have that sixth-omigosh-did-the-baby-just-snuffle-sense. She’s probably going to wake up anyway. Popping the boob in the babies mouth is loads easier than either pumping or mixing formula.

    Cosleeping: I did it. It’s not all fairies and dandelion fluff but it can get you more sleep. No freaking out in the middle of the night when the baby actually does sleep through and you (actually, probably Mom) wakes up and goes “Oh my sweet soaking diapers! Is the baby still alive!!!!. Baby is right there. Plus, babies and cosleeping parents can sync their sleep cycles so that those middle of the night wakings are not quite so disruptive. And, once Mom learns to breastfeed laying down…it’s mostly fairies and dandelion fluff. Seriously, sometimes baby finds the nipple all by himself. I don’t think any of us would have lived through the newborn days if we hadn’t coslept. Of course, some kiddos take longer to transition out of Mom and Dad’s bed than others. It’s a bit of a crap shoot. To me, it was worth the sleep in the beginning.

    Elimination Communication: Time consuming but it totally rocks. Having far fewer diapers to change and kiddo that is potty trained long before two is well worth the time and effort. However, it does take a lot of commitment.

    Little babies are extreamely portable. Strap the babe into a sling or mei tai and go anywhere. You can write with baby snuggled up close against your body. You can take a walk, get stuff done around the house, whatever. Soft baby carrier is a must have, in my opinion.

    Baby Sign Language is the bomb. It’s a little early for that now, but it can work wonders later on. My daughter didn’t say more than 3 words before she was 2. She did use a lot of baby signs (and no, she didn’t not talk because of the signing…my son signed and still talked early). The signs were immensely helpful in keeping tantrums at bay. Once she hit 2, she started talking in sentences, then paragraphs and she still hasn’t stopped. LOL.

    Nothing lasts forever. The newborn period feels like it’ll last forever but it goes by quick. Try to enjoy as much of every stage as you can. They’re never repeated. And each child is different. Plus, it does get a lot more challenging when they are mobile and then again when they can argue with you. LOL. Hang in there.

  • I will preface this by first saying I don’t have a baby, yet. I’m pregnant now with my first. My friend gave birth to her first baby a few months ago and she recommended I watch a video by Dr. Harvey Karp. He shows how to get your infant to stop crying in about 30 seconds. It’s magic. We tried it with my friend’s baby and it works! (I thought it would be complete bullshit, so I was pleasantly surprised.) Anyway, check out the link:
    http://www.babyslumber.com/happiestbaby.html At the bottom of the article is a link to his dvd.

  • 1) Establish good sleep habits from day one. If you let him hang out sleeping in your bed now, he will be there until he is 21.

    2) Potatoes, pots & pans, and cardboard boxes are their favorite toys for the first two years so skip the fancy crap and start a college fund.

    3) Trust yourself. We all grow up in spite of our parents, not because of them.

    All the best.

  • I love your honesty about the experience…it really is fun to read. And cackle at, because we’ve all been there, done that.

    Advice:

    1. Expectations/goals for yourselves and baby — you wrote them on toilet paper, right? Because that’s the only way they’re gonna be useful — when you wipe your ass with them. You have to relax and as some others have said, lower your standards. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourselves isn’t gonna make anyone happy. And yes, even keeping the house clean is unnecessary pressure. Really, the standard of living drops sharply after kids.

    2. Breastfeeding is super hard. Ask for help. Put the kid to the breast often. And don’t listen to your doctor. Most of them are clueless about the actual process/mechanics and would find it easier to help you if you gave your kid formula. Sometimes formula is necessary but not as often as it’s being recommended. The number of women who can’t produce milk is insanely low — it’s actually technique that causes the problem and makes the doctor think you don’t have enough. Find a local http://www.lllusa.org/ and get wifey to go to a meeting. She’ll meet other mother’s and get support even if she isn’t having trouble.

    3. Find other ways to write. Shorthand note taking, voice recorder, put baby in carrier/sling: http://www.funkyslings.com/index.php?cPath=9&main_page=index while you write.

    4. Postpartum depression — it’s real, it happens. Sepia 200c, a homeopathic remedy, literally saved my life. It started working within days and I started to feel more like myself. Your wife may not feel it now (or she might) — but the real depression seems to creep up when no one is paying attention. http://pipermartin.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/homeopathic-remedies-for-postpartum-depression/ You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sepia-200C-Homeopathic-Tablets-125/dp/B0036V0EGU

    5. Nothing lasts forever. Even the bad stuff. It might feel that way but babies are changing week to week. What he likes/hates/cries for this week will be different next week. You have to roll with the punches and believe (even when it’s hard to) that a month from now your outlook and baby will have changed.

    Bottom line — reach out for help and don’t stress yourselves out. It looks like you have a lot of supportive people who follow your blog — if you’re having some problems, let someone know!

    You will sleep again. I promise. Good luck and happy parenting.

  • I have found that it’s helpful to have “baby stations” all over the house, which consist of boxes filled with several nappies (that diapers to you, Chuck), plastic changing mats, wipes, spit up rags (for the baby, not you), hand sanitizer and preferably a small bottle of whatever alcoholic spirit floats your boats secreted away inside.

    I’ve also discovered that I have to write when baby is asleep, no matter what time that is and work all other tasks in around that. This involves doing household chores at weird times of day. Just today I cleaned the bath tub at 10. 50 pm, and after giving her a feed at 5 am I put a load of washing on before I went back to bed for an hour or so.

    The iPhone has also been a godsend because I can sit and check emails, twitter, blogs etc on it while attempting to placate or feed a screaming baby and can jot down notes with one hand. The Qwerty keyboard – worst invention ever. Someone needs to invent a keyboard that can easily be typed upon with just one hand, preferably the right.

  • Ooh, I forgot — I also write with her snuggled against my chest and the laptop on my knees all the time, as, like you, writing is my livelihood. This works well on days when she will sleep, and doesn’t work at all on other days. It also leaves me with crippling guilt that she’ll get a brain tumor from the wireless broadband, but it’s the only way to get some work done some days. Now that she is 8 weeks, she is sleeping longer and being a bit more independent, which is nice. I’m finding I have longer blocks of time to write, say 4 hours instead of 1.5 hours. Plus she’s started sleeping through! Hoo-RAY.

    About the 5 week mark was the hardest for me. Just as I hit the wall and thought I’d never be the same again, never get a nights’ sleep again, never *well you know* again, never write again, she changed, it changed and all for the better. She is now easier to manage and actually does stuff to amuse herself, like kicking at her play gym, jamming her thumb into her mouth (eye/face/nose – not so coordinated yet), trying to grab the cat, babbling etc. They tell me it’s all easier from here on in and I have to say, I hope it is, for your sake and mine!

  • ANyone suggest the taking a birthday picture every year with child displaying (no pushpins, please) last year’s picture. You end up like Dutch Cleanser. Similarly: take some video every year. Combine into a CD for child’s 18th birthday. Suggest for first couple years, do every month. Also, for Ghod’s sake, write down all allergies, illnesses, and trips to doctor, or you end up trying to remind ex of the time you spent Palm Sunday in the emergency room at children’s hospital (he did not have appendicitis, thank heaven). But it all disappears. Document it.

  • Schedule schedule schedule. Our son slept 8 hours in 8 weeks. Our daughter (smaller, finiky eater) slept 8 hours in 10 weeks. Feed every 4 hours and set that baby down for regular naps in a bed, not on you, even with some crying. Let him learn to fall asleep on his own, which will involve a little crying. You’ll be happy you did.

  • Bacon does make everything better, doesn’t it? Your 25 things re storytelling list, so damn wonderful, thank you. Here are a few small tips I can share re kids:

    That first year a blur, so only general feedback: get sleep and be kind, to monkey and spouse and yourself.

    Some specific stuff: for increasing milk, fenugreek; for teething, Hyland’s Teething Tablets.

    Two must-have book series, and they make great presents: Bing Bunny, can start at first birthday: Piggy and Elephant, starting around three, those will become first readers. Best coloring books are from Taro Gomi.

    And savvy gained from pooch, can be applied, but not as obviously as I did, in store, monkey racing around corner, me erupting, without thinking, voice two octaves lower and loud, “STAY.” Egads, poor kid. But it worked. All in all, the alpha stuff you learned with pooch, works here as well. And, so far, kid as happy and healthy and exuberant as pooch, so it’s all good.

    Talk through whatever you’re doing with the child, whenever you can, locate the child in the universe, be kind, say hello. Give kid as many choices as possible, whenever possible, will make the moments without choice easier. And they grow faster then you can imagine, so always remind yourself, they can do more than you imagine, and let them do everything they possibly can themselves.

    Happy, healthy monkey! So wonderful. Congratulations!

  • Man, if you did some kind of wordart trending thing, I think “sleep” would be the largest word in the pile. My seven year old is now up three hours past what I’d like to think is her bedtime, dressed in panties and a blanket, spraying ink’d pictures she made (with the spraybottle I told her she could use to “cool off”) since she discovered it works kind of like watercolor. It’s hot – I’m about to toss her in the shower with me so she can sleep, but I’m not stressing it. It’s summer. We’ll get her back on schedule later on, when we’ve acclimated a little more.

    The joke’s been that you can tell the first time parent from the multiple time parent by the size of the diaper bag. It’s true enough – I’d had enough exposure to kids to be happy with a spare nappy in the back pocket of my jeans, and a “just-add-water” bottle (nursing didn’t work for me – we’d tried for months, but no go – having a readily available breast would have been just as nice.) They eat, they sleep, they poop. On one hand they’re not that complicated.

    On the other hand, they’re tiny human beings and you’re suddenly at least partially responsible for creating all the background (and the neuroses, useful and harmful) that will help design their future. If you obsess, you’re just going to stress. Stay mellow.

    Your number one goal is to help this tiny thing learn what he needs to learn in order to make good decisions when you’re not around. Anything you do to get in the way of that is “bad,” anything that helps that is “good.” That’s the measure we tend to use.

    1) The kid picks up your cues. Small things, like the fact that I always roll my sleeves to the elbows. Both my little sisters and my son do this because they’ve watched me. It’s a little thing, but you’ll see it in your kid.

    2) Say, “Yes,” whenever you can. Let him come sleep in the bed. You’re going to miss it when he decides he’s too “grown up.” Let him stay out a little later. Let him make a wrong decision or two that he’s going to have to clean up. You’re there to help, sure, but let him do it.

    3) Make mistakes. Apologize and explain, but keep your backbone. “I made this decision because I was tired and frakkin’ cranky. It was the wrong decision, but don’t forget that you pushed it.”

    4) Listen to the kid, not just your gut (although in doubt, stick with the latter.) If you think something is “off” keep a look at it. Don’t fret about fretting – you’re allowed. In fact, make sure you give yourself that allowance in everything – the instruction manual wasn’t made for your baby’s model, so you’re going to have to jury-rig and wing it. We’re tough and duct tape and baling wire’s just part of the package.

    Finally, 5) a lot of people will tell you that you need consistency and discipline. I’m flipping them off right now. Life is all about adaptation. Teach your kid to feel out the natural social rules and adapt to what’s allowed in that situation. At home it’s OK to strip down and dance about not doing your homework. That’s not OK at school. It’s OK in front of my sister, but not in front of the maternal grandmother. They’ll try to take advantage of this – but you’re wily. Yes, my rule is that a popsicle doesn’t count as “dessert.” Dad has relented, but if we disagree, the answer is, “No,” until a good argument is made.

    Oh, and it just gets better from here. Last night we discussed gravity, god, and good music. Really, the more you watch them grow into their being human, the sweeter it is.

  • I won’t bother repeating everything that people have already said – the only advice I’ll give you is Olive Oil. Seriously. After bub’s bath? Baste that baby like he’s a Sunday chicken. It’s better than any of the ‘specially made for baby’ crap they try and sell you at incredibly inflated prices, don’t have no chemical crap in and will make his wee skin soft and supple and so perfect you’ll be ragingly jealous.
    Just be extra careful ‘cos it’ll make him slippier than a full-on slippy thing.

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