08 November 2012

On children

Last night I read from this book to my 3rd roommate, who moved in in September directly from the hospital where she was born.

Chalk it up to the combination of New York real estate craziness and ex-roommate PTSD that when my current roommates told me they were going to have a baby, I didn't immediately start making plans to move out. We don't belong to a commune or anything, and they told me they understood whatever I chose. My reasons for staying were complex, and I looked into breaking my lease; but I think the tipping point occurred with a desperate email to my dad about what-if-the-crying-never-stops-and-I-go-crazy. He wrote back: "Babies are not like that!"

It's true. The baby in question is 6 weeks old now, born with extraordinary timeliness exactly on due date. (The night before, I came home to an empty house and my first thought was, "They must have gone out to dinner." Nope.) I bought a 20-pack of earplugs and got used to the hushed astronaut feeling they give me. In general, having a baby around that you aren't the primary caregiver for is pretty great if you like kids but don't plan to have your own for a while. It has been instructive, but not that much of an interruption -- for me. (Her parents feel quite differently.)

I'll keep an eye on her sometimes so her parents can take a shower or do some dishes. After Hurricane Sandy, when my office lost power for a week, I worked from the couch with her sleeping on the Boppy pillow next to me. She can't really smile yet but she looks around with a very adult-looking furrowed brow, as if taking stock of all of us.

One night I was attempting to entertain her in her swing and thought I would read her a book, but none of her books were out, so I gave her about a page and a half of James Wood's essay about Richard Yates from his new book THE FUN STUFF -- editing around the cursing veteran from the short story he was quoting. (Not that I haven't sworn in front of her before; I have plenty, but I'm hoping she'll forget.) I thought she seemed absorbed, because you can more or less project any emotion you want on a non-crying baby. 

Last night's choice, a slow and moving novel about an Ohio teenager who disappears on her way to her summer job, was perhaps not the most appropriate. I was on edge in case the teen in question would turn up in those few pages and something grisly would come up (more to her parents' point than hers I suppose). But as I read a passage to her about the girl's friends reuniting at a high school football game over Thanksgiving, I speculated about what she would be like when she grew up, how she would learn about that time when she was born and there was a hurricane and an election in the span of two weeks. How she slept and how she woke up again. I stopped reading when her mother came back in and said, "She's looking right at you."

1 comment:

Marjorie said...

What a sweet post. Maybe it is a testament to New York housing insanity, but it sounds like an experience worth having nonetheless.