Rigging Up Your Baby Alarm

When our Kraken was a newborn grub, we bought one of those alarm systems that you stick on a baby, and if the goblin stops breathing (or the device falls off), a big loud alarm goes off, and… uh… I guess you know? Now that I think of it, I’m not sure what I would do in that situation. Infant CPR? Panic? I guess at the time I thought that he needed me to be alert at all times to keep him alive, so by extension if I woke up then he would instantly be fine, through the miracle healing powers of my own exhaustion?

It was a weird time.

Honey, I think we need another baby camera.
#NotJoking

Every medical professional I’ve talked to says those things are scams, wastes of money for sleep-deprived parents who don’t know better. There’s no evidence to back up any sort of lower SIDS rate if you use them, and no reason to think that you even really need one. There’s a long, long list of all the ways that The Man gets you to spend stupid amounts of money on things when you’re too high off hormones to think straight, but this is probably near the top. “Peace of mind” isn’t a reason to buy this piece of junk. 

Except! Oh, except my dear, sweet, well-meaning, stupid medical professionals. Except. At home, alone, terrified that I was somehow the grown-up in charge, wondering how the hell I got in this situation, it was impossible for me to fall asleep. I’m pretty sure there’s some cave man biology going on there, where your lizard brain knows it needs to keep you awake and watching for wolves that might sneak in and attack.

To be fair, if I was a wolf, I’m pretty sure a sleeping mom and her newborn would be delicious. I really can’t blame the wolf.

Their babies are also a lot cuter and fuzzier than ours. It’s just a fact.

More than the whole wolf-thing though, I was horrified by the idea of SIDS. Did our parents worry about it to the same level? Everywhere you look, on every piece of baby anything, there’s a warning about suffocation. The entire baby-industrial establishment wants to make sure you get reminded at least three times a day that this squirming creature you worked so fucking hard to make could just stop breathing at any second, without any warning. ANY SECOND. And nobody really knows why, so, you know, just keep that from happening. No biggie.

You know what’s really, really hard to get out of your mind? The mental image of going to pick up a baby, and finding out it’s dead. That’s some fucked up shit you can never un-imagine.

Which is a long, roundabout way of saying that whenever someone told me, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” I would scream, “I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO.” I probably had crazy eyes.

It's pronounced I-gor

That new-mother glow!

So. An alarm system for you baby. Like a car alarm, I’m pretty sure it’s never actually helped anyone, but for some reason even knowing that I still feel better knowing it’s there. I could tell myself that if I relaxed my extreme vigilance for a bit, I wasn’t willingly trusting a half-formed human to the cold, indifferent universe. I mean, I was, but at least there was something loud that would maybe alert me to any oncoming comets?

That… was not my best metaphor.

What I’m trying to say is that, even though on the face of it these things are totally worthless, they also have an enormous value. The value of false confidence, when you can’t make any of your own. The value of the kind of advanced surveillance system I might expect from a prison. The value of sleep.

It’s so beautiful, I can barely stand to look at it

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Are Single Children The Worst?

Full disclosure: I have a brother. My husband has a brother. Basically everyone in my friend group has brothers, actually, now that I think about it. That’s… pretty weird, actually. Where the sisters at? Anyway, the point is, I don’t come with a lot of built-in experience about only children, other than presuming they’re automatically self-centered, awful people, and suspecting that most CEOs were once only children. And also psychopaths. That too. Are most psychopaths only children? I think, somewhere in the back of my brain, I sort of thought so? Not that I thought psychopathy was a guarantee if you didn’t reproduce more than once… just that it probably upped the odds.

"I could destroy you all on a whim, puny mortals."

OBVIOUSLY I’m a super thoughtful, fair-minded human being who really thinks through all my opinions.

So here’s the thing. I’ve gone and reproduced once, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No, seriously, let me repeat that: THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE. I pretty much lost three years of my life, almost four if you count the pregnancy from hell. My brain is usually on delicate footing to begin with (though my old Roommate can tell some genuinely hilarious stories about the time I was tripping balls off brain meds in the grocery store), so for some reason enormous physical, psychological, and practical upheaval of everything I know to be true about myself was slightly troubling. Who’d have thought? They should really warn you about these things.

This is where I should admit that I actually said out loud that I was ready for my life to be completely uprooted and overhauled, that that was actually something I wanted.

Stupid, naive Past Me. When will you ever learn?

dumb

The point here is that the spawn is in school a few hours a week, and he’s capable of speaking in more or less complete sentences, even if I can’t always understand what they are. We’ve got a schedule and a support system and life kind of sort of a little bit worked out.

**KNOCKS ON ALL THE WOOD WITHIN ARM’S LENGTH**

Not that I’m superstitious or anything.

But. But. The time is looming when we’ve got to decide if this is it. Is this the only little cretin we’re going to bring into this world? Which makes me sound like I want another, but I’m not sure that I do.

Pros

The child is the only child, only nephew, and only grandchild. He thinks he’s the center of the universe because, in all fairness, he basically is. He went trick or treating rolling five deep in his posse of adoring adults taking pictures of his every move. So yeah, I kind of see how some of my stereotypes about only children could come true. I mean, sure, I can say till the cows come home that we’ll try not to make him the center of existence, to make sure he knows he’s not the only person in the world, but let’s be clear about one thing: I am not capable of actually doing that. Having to share Mommy with a sibling would teach him that he’s only 50% of the galaxy, which, hey, at least that’s progress!

world revolves around me

Considering how long it took us to figure out the earth revolves around the sun, it could be a couple of millennia before he realizes this diagram is wrong too.

We already know how to handle a baby. Sort of. A little. Okay, we know nothing, but at least I probably wouldn’t cry and think s/he had a concussion after a minor head bonk? Maybe?

Literally the look on my face for the rest of the day.

When we’re old, there would be two of them to deal with our ever-mounting list of unreasonable old people demands. I plan to be a completely obnoxious, eccentric old lady with an extensive hat collection.

eccentric old lady

This broad knows how to live!

I really like having a brother. I know not everyone does, but I was lucky, and I’ve got a rad little brother who I genuinely enjoy hanging out with. Being a Big Sister is an important part of my identity. I can’t think of anything sarcastic to say about this one.

We always got along like perfect angels!
(don’t ask my mom)

I’m going to repeat my point from earlier, because it’s kind of the biggest one for me: Having a sibling might make you less of a dick. Or at least make it easier for me to raise less of a dick, which is basically the same thing.

Cons

Ummmm… I almost feel like they don’t need to be listed? I mean, come on! Babies are the worst!! I know, they smell good and can be pretty hilarious and cute, but they also need you 100% of the time, while literally draining you of life force via the boob, and generally refusing to contribute to society.

All babies are secretly harboring evil deep within.

I’m a terrible mother, aren’t I?

Everyone I talk to says a second kid isn’t 2x the work, it’s 10x the work. And I can barely keep up with 1x the work as it is! Do you know the last time this place was vacuumed? Because I sure as hell don’t. I also really enjoy the fact that I can still sit down and have a cup of coffee and write terrible thoughts down on the internet for all the world to read. I think that tiny, minuscule sliver of freedom goes out the window with another person to keep alive.

And when I say **A** cup of coffee, I really mean…

How do people juggle two schedules? I don’t even understand how you can have a baby’s sleep schedule and a preschooler’s sleep schedule, at the same time. That makes no sense to me, and I’m pretty sure everyone who claims it “just works out” is lying.

Pregnancy sucks monkey balls, and I would literally rather train for a marathon than go through that again. If you knew how deeply I loathe running, you would understand.

Just the worst.

Childcare, yo! Honestly, I think I could deal with all the stuff, if I knew that after the first year or so I could put the offspring in daycare at least part time, for all of our sakes, but have you SEEN the cost of childcare? We would be paying for two kids to be in school at once, and god dammit, I don’t even know how that’s mathematically an option for people.

Ironically, this is the only solution I can think of.

Most importantly: what if the second kid isn’t as stunningly awesome as the first? What if s/he doesn’t want to curl up and read about dinosaurs and Norse myths for hours on end? I don’t even want to know what it’s like to parent without the Vikings to back me up.

Above: All of his dreams coming true.

So there we have it. A whole series of relatively irrational points, with little to no cohesion, and no system for balancing them out. Instead I think I’ll just go and obsessively lose sleep, thinking in circles about it without coming up with any new thoughts or conclusions.

That seems like the healthiest option right now.

How To Halloween

It’s the day after Halloween, so naturally now that it’s no longer relevant I have all sorts of things to say on the topic! Maybe I should just schedule this to be posted in 11.5 months.

Keep all your kid’s fingers

If the measure of a good parent is sending your spawn off to college with all the same body parts they were born with, then you probably want a way to carve pumpkins that doesn’t involve handing a preschooler a giant knife.

Enter: Fright Lights! 

Worth more than its weight in gold in our house.

Yeah, stupid name, I agree, but seriously everyone should buy one of these. Probably two, because I’m pretty sure this is one of those promotional things that they’ll never make again, because The Man has to find new ways to get you to buy carving kits every year, otherwise the entire Jack-o-Lantern industry would go belly up.

I digress. This thing is genius, and has kept my petit fromage busy for days now. Basically, it’s like a Lite-Brite for your pumpkin.

Because nothing says “Halloween” quite like a glowing clown grinning at you.

This is how we did it:

  1. Cut the top, scoop the insides. Obviously, you should hand the child your biggest, sharpest knife to stab repeatedly into the top until something like a lid forms from the erratic gashes. Or just do it yourself. Then probably also scoop out the insides, even though that’s the most obviously kid-oriented part, because your diminutive angel has suddenly developed a horror of getting his hands dirty, even though this is literally how he ate dinner last night:

    messy spaghetti

    This was actually the clean part.

  2. With a trembling hand and great trepidation in your heart, hand your developing human a permanent marker. See your life go flashing before your eyes as you suddenly realize how many surfaces of your house are not covered in scribbles. Let the kid go nuts drawing whatever they want ON THE PUMPKIN, then snatch that Sharpie out of his hands the second he starts to slow down.
  3. Punch holes along those lines. They don’t actually provide you a way to pre-punch the holes, and the pegs are totally flat, so you’ll have to get creative with an ice pick or something. Me, I used a punch thingie from another kit, but honestly anything sharp should work. Make sure that the cherub gets no ideas about punching holes in his or anyone else’s heads. No, seriously, the only thing keeping most tiny people from becoming serial killers is it hasn’t occurred to them that sharp objects can be used like that.
  4. Hand cramp!

    the injustice of it all

    NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  5. Flail like a break-dancing chimpanzee while the mongrel laughs his head off. Resolve to bring up his delight in your pain during his wedding toast some day.
  6. Okay, so hopefully you’ve got a pumpkin that looks a little like it was attacked with a machine gun (because it has holes all over it, though now I’m imagining a pumpkin in pinstripes and a snazzy hat). Stick that thing on the floor with a bowl of brightly-colored pegs and the world’s least effective hammer, and let the diminutive artist go to town! Lean back and enjoy the sight of your kraken entertaining himself for 10 minutes. Try not to think about the 45 minutes it took you to set this up.
  7. Turn off the lights, and shit son, you just made a sparkly Light Bright pumpkin!

    Fancy AF.

Whenever the little goldfish gets bored, he can rearrange the pegs however he sees fit. Over and over again. And the “candle” is battery operated, so he can carry that thing to every room in the house if he wants to, and you don’t have to worry about a fire hazard.

Seriously, this thing is pure genius.

Create as much stress as possible for yourself

My mini-me loves this show, Sarah and Duck (quack), and wanted to be Sarah for Halloween. This is Sarah:

In this family, we smash the patriarchy by dressing as cartoon characters. OF THE OPPOSITE GENDER!

Dude, world’s easiest costume! I’m one of those people who go totally overboard on Halloween, spending truly embarrassing amounts of time and money on costumes, so this year I was resolved to embrace this gift the universe had just given us. Easy costumes for everybody!

Fast-forward to the day before Halloween, and I was full of rage, sitting in traffic, trying to get home in time to paint stripes on a sweatshirt two sizes too big for the sprog, design and paint a duck on a shirt, paint a hat to look like a duck, and fucking sew a god damned beanie. You know, those hats that you can buy for $1? Yeah, I used $6 and 3 hours of my life sewing one so that it could look 1/3 as good as a store-bought hat.

Wait, why are you painting stripes on a sweatshirt, you ask? Why not just get a stripey sweatshirt to begin with? BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST, ASSHOLE.

Sorry, sorry, it’s a sensitive subject for me. I spent at least two hours online checking every store I could think of for a kid-sized pink stripey hoodie of any description. If I was a pregnant woman, I would be drowning in choices for some reason, but I guess pink stripes are totally unfashionable in the under-8 set. So in addition to those 2 hours wasted, I then spent at least 2 more painting stripes badly onto a sweatshirt, while freaking out that I was going to run out of fabric paint halfway through, and wondering if there’s such a thing as a 24 hour craft store.

God dammit, they even make one for DOGS?!

Yeah, all of this could have been avoided, but Amazon decided that “next day shipping” on the stuff I bought so that I specifically wouldn’t have to make anything would mean, “Somewhere within the next few months.” And I’m bad at understanding how time works, so suddenly it was the day before, and we had, at best, half of a costume done.

How a hoodie and hat turned into a whole day’s labor, complete with lower back pain, swearing, and longing for a cold beer, I shall never know.

The pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

Big kids are the worst

In general, I have no beef with tweens. They’re just trying to figure their shit out, while their brains tell them that giggling like a deranged circus performer, or spraying enough body spray on to fill an Olympic pool, is probably a good way to pick up boys. Life is rough when your brain isn’t done yet!

A medically accurate image of the average 12 year old’s brain.

But oh man, they turn feral on Halloween. They’ve got costumes on, so they’re already primed to pretend to be someone that the rules don’t apply to. Then they’re organized in roving packs, with disinterested adult supervision at best, and we all know how well groupthink always turns out. Then, they’re basically mainlining sugar while being explicitly instructed to run around and gather as much free candy from strangers as they can possibly carry.

What I’m saying is that if your goblin has short legs, I recommend keeping to side streets and back alleys like a convict on the run. Anything to avoid getting trampled by those savages in Hamilton attire.

I saw at least three of these, roaming the streets of Berkeley and singing showtunes at the top of their lungs.

Steal candy from a baby

My last bit of advice hardly needs saying out loud, but here it is: steal your kid’s candy the second you wrestle their sugar-addled bodies into bed. The benefits are twofold:

  1. You’re reducing the amount of candy sitting in your house, calling its sweet siren song of hyperactivity and diabetes to your offspring.
  2. You get candy.  And isn’t that what Halloween’s all about?

So You Want To Be A Parent

I have several people I love dearly who are considering taking the plunge into reproduction. Not a one of them has asked me for advice (I can’t imagine why), but if they did, I’d ask them a few simple questions:

  1. Have you ever been in that relationship where you want to be together all. the. time? Like, full physical contact all day, every day, with no breaks, even to go to the bathroom? Someone always touching you. All the time. Clinging, hugging, crying with heartbreak if you ever want to be apart. Okay, first, if you have been in a relationship like that, you probably need to see a therapist, and secondly, you still have no idea how much you will want ten minutes to yourself.

    Like this, only you’re the tree.

  2. What are your feelings on sleep? Did you know that sleep deprivation has been used throughout history as torture? 

    You have no idea how painful it is for me to look at this picture.

  3. If you’re going to be getting pregnant, or cohabitating with someone who’s getting pregnant, was puberty fun for you? Do you enjoy the wild ride of hormones, emotions, and total lack of control over your own body, which is suddenly changing into something unrecognizable? (if you were that one kid in high school who managed to always look beautiful and never had acne or bizarre growth spurts, I hate you)

    Molly Ringwald

    Unless you’re Molly Ringwald. I could never stay mad at you, Molly!

  4. How long have you ever gone without showering?

    To be fair, it’s a good look.

  5. Do you have pets? How would they feel about being ignored for the foreseeable future? How would they feel about being ignored for the foreseeable future by everyone except a tiny screeching monkey who thinks tails are for pulling, and tries to steal her food when no one is looking?

    Remember when you had time for me?

  6. Have you looked into childcare costs in your area? And then compared them to your rent/mortgage/the annual GDP of a small country?

    Seen here: Your child’s preschool teacher.

  7. Do you like sex?

    Don’t. Touch. Me.

  8. Do you have friends who don’t have children similarly aged to yours? Just how important are those friendships to you?

    I tried to find a generic picture of friends, but this is all the internet would give me.

  9. Is your living space clean, organized, and recently vacuumed? Is your kitchen unrecognizable when all the dishes are put away, or do you have a Mount Kilimanjaro of dirty clothes on the floor? Do any of your dirty clothes have human waste on them?

    I know I left the baby somewhere in there…

  10. On a scale from 1-10, how much would it bother you if a complete stranger stopped you in the street to tell you how your life choices are completely wrong? 1 being, “I hate everything,” and 10 being, “I kill everything.”

    I’m not saying parenting might send you into a murderous rage, but I’m not NOT saying it.

The final step in this questionnaire is to throw all your answers out the window. No one ever had a kid because of well-reasoned logic. The continuation of our entire species is predicated on the fact that we’re all dumb, emotional animals who like to bone and think babies are cute. Shit, knowing what I know now, I’m still glad I had the tiny monster, because the manipulative little buggers somehow manage to make you feel lucky to have them in your life.

Most of the time.

Poop

Note: If you’re easily grossed out, maybe don’t read this. Here’s a baby elephant having the time of her life at the beach. 

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get right down to it: Poop.

poop

Getting the poop emoji out of the way right now, so we can focus on other things.

Even if you’ve never met a child, you won’t be surprised to know that poop takes up a lot of a parent’s world. Most of your life, you get to blissfully, quietly keep your business private. You bring your phone into the bathroom with you, close the door, and that’s that. And then you suddenly have the bodily functions of another human being to worry about. Hell, if you have a kid via pregnancy, then your own bowels become a topic of conversation, long before the succubus makes his or her way to the outside, or at least it did for me.

Yep. You had to have seen this coming. It’s oversharing time!

Hooray, just what we always wanted!

If you met my sweet, affectionate goblin today, you’d never guess how much misery he has inflicted on all those around him, and me in particular. From the time he was just a ball of dividing cells, he made me sick. Like, sick enough that when I went in for my first prenatal, I looked so miserable the doctors and nurses were all treating me reeeeeaaaally gently, and it finally clicked that they thought this was unplanned, and that I was considering an abortion. I had to straight out tell them, no, this was on purpose, I just needed something to stop the literal 24-7 nausea. Please. PLEASE.

Pictured here: the bane of my existence/future heir.

Once we got that misunderstanding out of the way (they totally changed their attitudes, but it made me super respectful of how kind and supportive they were when they briefly thought I was going to terminate), they gave me the same anti-nausea meds they give to chemo patients, and it kind of worked! I could sit up at my computer long enough to get some work done! And, like, forget for whole minutes that I hated the universe and everyone in it! Miracle!!

But. Or butt. (sorry, I had to) They had warned me I needed to take a lot of fiber and drink a lot of water, because this could bind things up a little bit, which, let’s be honest here, sounds more like a mild, “Tee hee, you want to keep regular!” reminder that Jamie Lee Curtis would give you, while peddling the latest brand of yogurt.

Hella regular!

Nope. Nope nope nope. I was so constipated I was shitting blood. Yes, you heard it here first folks, I tore up my own sphincter to the point where I had open wounds.

When I called the doctors in a total state of panic, they were very casual about it. “Oh yeah, that happens sometimes.” WHAT?? THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

Needless to say, I stopped taking that, and went back to the option that involved more lying very still for the next few months straight, and less blood.

Okay, we need a break. Here’s a hedgehog, begging for belly rubs.

And that’s the end of my weird pregnancy poop stories, because I was lucky and never got hemorrhoids (I guess the whole bleeding-butt-thing was something technically different?), and I had a C-section, so I didn’t push my infant out on a tidal wave of crap, nor did I have a torn up perineum, to the point where pooping was as scary as birth itself.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time around pregnant women, or been one yourself, I’m so sorry that I had to be the one to break this to you. The butt hole goes through a lot during those nine magical months.

My pregnant body hasn’t betrayed me for ten whole minutes!

Anyway, once you get your own bathroom needs sorted out and back to normal (hopefully), there’s still your little bundle of insomnia to worry about. And you are now in charge of all the poop.

ALL of the poop.

Like, seriously, so much poop.

This.

From that first poop, that seriously looks like tar, to the basically not-smelly yellowish poops of a breastfed baby (or the right-out-of-the-gate smelly poops of a formula fed baby), to the “Oh dear god, does he really need to start eating solids?” introductory real poops with digested food in them, you get a whole rainbow of experiences. Bright green poop? Yep. Freaky red poop? Probably. Hell, if someone told me their baby had pooped robin’s egg blue, and the doctor said it was fine, I’d be totally unsurprised. Babies are such bizarre little aliens, even their waste doesn’t make sense.

Hopefully yours is cuter than this one.

Okay, so you survived baby-hood. Do you know what happens when babies become toddlers? They toddle. Which has the added benefit of squishing, squeezing, and generally mashing up poop, so if your diaper game isn’t on point you’ll be cleaning up a shit ton of shit, out of places like car seat corners and cribs.

Do you like having poop on you? Okay, actually, please don’t answer that; what you do on your own time is your business. My point here is that many people do not. I am one of those people. Excrement is gross.

You’re going to have poop on you. If you’re lucky enough to never mistake that brown smudge on your hand for chocolate, well, you’re better off than some moms I know.

I’ve ruined chocolate forever now, haven’t I?

And we’re not even going to discuss the part where, for god only knows what reason, evolution didn’t develop an instinct for poop-avoidance, so babies and young kids think it’s hilarious, and will happily explore it if you let them. Hey, new texture!

My own experience has also involved a kid who gets constipated, to the point where, when it finally does come out after days and days, it’s so painful that he’s shaking and crying. To avoid that particular trauma we watch what he eats like a hawk, and on more than one occasion I’ve shoved soap up his butt.

Okay, time for more cute baby animals!

Okay, it’s called a glycerin suppository, and it’s actually way more gentle and effective than Miralax or something like that, but at the end of the day, I’m still taking a tiny little cylinder of glycerin, then, using the stealth and assurance that comes from way too much practice, I’m sliding it where the sun don’t shine.

**sigh**

At least it works well! There was a time we were travelling, and couldn’t find the kid’s sized version, so we had to get the adult one instead, and I found myself standing in front of a kitchen sink, whittling a suppository down to the proper size.

I was basically this guy.

At this point, if you’re still reading after this much butt talk, I commend you. I won’t go on any more about the myriad joys of wiping someone else’s butt every day, or get into the bizarreness that is potty training (did you know some kids actually think of poop as theirs, since it came out of their body, and get protective of it?), but I will leave you with one final, lasting thought.

Be nice to your mother. Because no matter what you do, no one will ever know your butt as well as she does. 

Oh, and also here’s a video of baby animals making adorable sounds, as a reward for your dedication.

Philosophy for Preschoolers

When we made the decision to reproduce, I had no idea it would involve more deep, philosophical discussions than I had as a freshman in college. No, I don’t mean with my baby daddy/partner-in-crime. I mean with the offspring himself, because it turns out that explaining the basics of the universe is kind of tricky.

Let’s sit on the quad and have deep thoughts!

First came the laws of thermodynamics. “Hot” and “cold” weren’t that hard, though sometimes I think we’re still working on gradations like “warm” or “no, the lukewarm bathwater isn’t going to scald you, please stop turning into a limp noodle every time we try to lower you into it.” Then, we got to the point where cooling off hot food was A Thing, and a whole wide world of hyperventilating from having to blow on every bite before he would touch it opened before us. But I never really questioned any of this stuff. I mean, he just sort of figured gravity out on his own, so these super basic things are pretty self-explanatory, right?

Then one day he asked me to warm something up. Not, like, in the microwave, but just the same way that if I leave a bowl of soup out it’ll cool off. Just, you know, will it into warmth again.

The kid thinks I have control over the basic principals of physics. 

Pictured: Me.

And ever since then, this has been an ongoing conversation. Yes, if left alone, hot things cool off. It’s called entropy, and it’s where we’re all headed in the end. But no, it’ll never heat back up again, no matter how much you use “please” and try the enormous puppy dog eyes.

Why? Why does heat only go one way, and not the other?

Uhhh…

Here’s some bedtime reading that’ll help.

Next up is the concept of selfhood and the mind. The first few years of a kid’s life are rooted in the concrete realities in front of them. Hell, it takes them a while before they realize that if they’re not looking directly at something, it’s still there. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I realized that the lilliputian didn’t understand that pretending to be a cat doesn’t entirely negate his existence from the world. As in, his brain was capable of imagining being a cat, but he wasn’t 100% sure that he doesn’t have super powers that creates a reality out of whatever is in his mind, thereby literally turning himself into that cat. Possibly permanently? I think? He was pretty freaked out.

I’d be pretty freaked out if I thought this was my future too.

So then we had to back up to what imagination is, and why playing pretend doesn’t mean that it’s real.

Oh right, THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN TO A THREE YEAR OLD.

“You see, my sweet little succulent, your mind is a powerful force, and it allows you to imagine whole different ways of being, but your identity isn’t actually altered by pretending to be something else. Although there are some who might argue that, as the self is merely a construction of the mind, by allowing your mind to embrace alternative realities you are essentially deconstructing your selfhood, but even those philosophers would surely draw a line at pretending to be a baby kitty.”

Mmm hmm.

Descartes was an asshole.

Eventually, I just told him that he can pretend to be a kitty and still be himself at the same time, he looked at me like I had just told him it can be simultaneously day and night, and asked if we could just play with blocks now.

Pretty sure the next thing on our list is the idea that a proton is both a wave and a particle at the same time. Or maybe that gas and liquids share the same essential properties of fluid dynamics. Or just the concept of the day after tomorrow.

My brain hurts.

Jean Luc Picard

Ow.

Bad Advice: Books For The Baby Rebel

If you’ve ever been to my house, first let me say, no, that was not an anomaly. There are always that many dirty dishes. But also, you know that the entire place is full of books. I won’t say that we could build a whole second house purely out of all the books we have, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to sacrifice them for structural integrity.

a house made entirely out of books

But how are you supposed to read them?!

Inevitably, the wee leprechaun has developed his own substantial library, which is slowly spreading and taking over what used to be a relatively sizable living room. And while some of his favorites are either weird (I’m looking at you, Wolves in the Walls), or bore the pants off me (**cough** Little Engine That Could **cough**), most of them are pretty great, and some even teach some valuable lessons!

So today I thought I would share. Buckle in, folks, because I’m bringing you…

Children’s Books With Important Social Messages 

 

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

By Doreen Cronin, Pictures by Betsy Lewin

This was the first book to introduce the concept of revolution for the under-5 set. Ostensibly a cute little book about a bunch of cows that find a typewriter in the barn and use it to ask the farmer for electric blankets (it gets quite cold at night), the real message here is about the power of collective bargaining. The Man may have opposable thumbs, but if enough people/farm animals band together and refuse to participate in his oligarchy, eventually the patriarchy will tumble! It’s Marxism with charming illustrations!

 

But Not The Hippopotamus

By Sandra Boynton

Look you guys, mental illness has been stigmatized for far too long in our culture, and it’s often hard to know how to open the conversation. Let Sandra Boynton help you, with this parable about social anxiety. The hippo just needed a little encouragement to get over her fears, and soon she too will be drinking juice with a moose and a goose!

 

The Cat In The Hat

By Dr. Seuss

On the topic of social anxiety, I’m pretty sure this is the book that woke that sleeping demon in me. One minute, you’re hanging out, watching the rain fall and contemplating the nothingness of the human experience, then next you’re trapped in a party gone horribly wrong, and you’re helpless to stop it. Never open your door to six feet tall cats, kids! And listen to your goldfish at all times!

I think we can all agree these are universal messages we all need to learn.

Oh, and also: Moms are terrifying, and ruin all the fun. Which is just true.

 

Instructions

By Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Charles Vess

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always worried about accidentally going through the wrong garden gate and winding up in a fairy tale, with hidden dangers around every turn. Thanks to this book, my offspring is fucking prepared, yo. Witches? Enchanted forests? Door knockers that have a nasty tendency to bite? He’s got it covered.

(All right, I’ll admit it, I’m at most 50% sarcastic about this one. I really do read this to him with an eye for him to learn life lessons, but I’m also an English Major who took a seminar-level course on Fairy Tales, so you really shouldn’t be surprised)

 

Nobody Likes A Goblin

By Ben Hatke

Dude, do I really need to explain this one? Nobody likes a goblin. Duh.

Oh, and all the good guys from Dungeons and Dragons are actually terrible, and you should therefore definitely find a better way of spending your pubescent years than in the dark in someone’s mom’s basement. Kind of hoping the spawn will take that lesson away too.

 

Miss Rumphius

Story and Pictures by Barbara Cooney

I couldn’t resist this one, I had to include it, even though I don’t actually have anything sarcastic to say about it. It’s just my favorite, and I really and truly think the story, about a lovely woman who grows up to visit far off places, comes home to a place by the sea, and then devotes her life to making the world more beautiful is pretty spectacular. The pictures kick ass, there’s no token love interest just because she’s a girl, the heroine is an old lady, and I want to be her more than anyone else in the world.

Read this book, even if you don’t have any small humans within yelling distance. Read the shit out of it.