We’re stuck in a loop. Or, rather, Jack has us stuck in a loop. Fair warning: this post is going to be about poop, or at least partly about poop. Yeah, I know, like, half my posts are about poop. I live with a 4-year old who just finished potty training and an 8-month old, who’s basically a pooping machine. This is my life. Deal.
Every morning around 5:00 am, with the precision of a German-built… well, a German-built anything, Jack poops. While his regularity is enviable, his timing sucks. This baby, and most babies, can sleep through the night wearing diapers that range from slightly damp to Weighs-As-Much-As-A-Phone-Book* wet. But the very instant that poop comes out, boy howdy, he is done sleeping. I don’t quite understand why his poop has this effect on him. He poops with ease, like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, and his daytime poops happen without his knowledge or notice. But there’s something about that 5:00 am poop that works like his alarm clock. The first thing he knows each morning is that there is poop on him. And because babies have no secrets, that’s the first thing Mom and Dad know each morning, too.
Some mornings, I can get him back to sleep after changing him and topping him off with some milk, but he usually decides that he is, in fact, Up. Now, babies and adults have different ideas about being Up. For adults, it just means being awake, and covers a pretty wide swath of conscious states, from alert and ready for the day, to just-woken and unsure of your identity, to ready for bed three hours ago but still talking to your houseguest who won’t shut the hell up. These states are shades of gray for us as adults. For babies, though, Up is basically a binary thing. The baby is asleep or the baby is awake. Sleeping babies are good. Awake babies are not. At least not at 5:00 am.
Fortunately, our house has a room where I can take my vocal, recently mobile, inquisitive baby so that he can be Up without making everyone else in the house be Up. The room is in the basement, part of an addition to the house that can be closed off with a door to make it virtually sound-proof.** Here we’ll “play” while the sun crawls its way out of its dark bed, giving me a highly observable reminder that I am Up before I want to be. I’m an absolute grouch without my nine-and-a-half hours of snoring.
Playing with an infant is a cruel form of tedium. They can’t really do anything interesting, certainly not anything interactive. The closest you’ll come is handing him something and watching as his fingers deliberately and slowly curl around whatever it is, study it for a moment, and then try to shove it as far into his mouth as he can get it. Yay, fun! The worst part of infant play is that, once they’re mobile, they seek out any and all ways to horribly and irreparably hurt themselves. They’re little death-seeking missiles. And you can see their tiny, puppy brains working it all out. Glass coffee table? I better try to pull up on that sucker. Electric space heater? Lemme shove my fingers in that. Ball of yarn? That looks like fun; I’ll just pick it up and wrap it around and — OH MY GOD IT’S CUTTING OFF THE BLOOD FLOW TO MY FACE!!!
Jack’s crawling has improved a bit, mostly from these morning practice sessions, but it’s still a jerky ride. It’s more like watching a stop-motion film of a baby crawling. Except, not that smooth. My wife told me I should add some pictures to my blog, so here’s this gif of Ray Harryhausen just casually animating a skeleton.
Before having kids, I was told that having one is like having a puppy that slowly learns to talk. There’s some truth to it, but it’s kind of an insult to puppies. They learn things faster, they’re far more coordinated, and you can take them outside to poop in the yard without the neighbors calling Social Services. They’re also cheaper since they don’t play sports. Well, most of them.
Of course, a baby will learn a lot more, over time, than a puppy. There’s talking, feeding themselves, dressing themselves, using the toilet, and math. I’m sure there’s other stuff, but with those five, they’re basically self-sufficient. Take it from the unemployed guy. I know lots about self-sufficiency.
I’m not really sure how to break Jack, and us, out of this loop. His diet is still made up of milk/formula, designed by nature and scientists, respectively, to zoom on through with a minimum of fuss, whatever new fruit or vegetable we’ve introduced, and some of his “cereal.” Regularity isn’t his problem, so that drip feed of prune juice is out. But I also don’t want to make him less regular. I can’t imagine he’d enjoy being backed up any more than the rest of us. And when baby’s unhappy, everyone is unhappy, so we’ll save the steak and potatoes for later in life. He did try both kidney beans and black beans a while back. He really liked them, but his poop, though smellier, was no less timely.
We’ve had limited success in moving his bedtime back. Last night, we got home late after picking blackberries*** and Jack ended up going to bed about 90 minutes later than usual. This morning, he still awoke to poop, but judging from how warm it wasn’t, he’d slept with it for a little while. I don’t relish the prospect of keeping my baby up later at night, but if I get to sleep an extra hour, I might consider it.
We’re going to ask his pediatrician for advice. We’ve been lucky to have great doctors for our kids over the years, and they’ve always come through with great tips on everything from sleep training to different kinds of lotions for Joshua whose skin is drier than Melba Toast. You’re welcome to comment, too, of course, but we’ll probably do the same thing with it as you do with advice from Internet people.
*For all you kids out there, a phone book is a printed book which lists the phone numbers of businesses whose phone numbers are also listed on the Internet. The books are distributed for free, usually without you requesting them, and there is no known way to make them stop coming. Their arrival and your subsequent handling of the situation is one of the earliest tests of adult life. Will you use it as a door stop, kindling (they make excellent kindling), or will you record a video of yourself trying to tear one in half to demonstrate your vitality for your 19 YouTube subscribers? The choice is yours!
**I went through more than a few nice wristwatches before I learned the practical differences between water proof and water-resistant. I suppose our room is actually sound-resistant, but I’ve never heard that term before so I don’t think it’s actually a thing.
***We are ridiculous people.