Friday, June 22, 2007

The haunting

I've gone on a great lengths about the intelligence and wonder of Dear Alex, to the point that I'm almost sick of writing about it myself (hence the sparseness of postings of late), but more and more of late Dear Alex will do or say something that completely surprises me, and gives me a clue that this being a father/parent thing - while rich and rewarding - will also have moments that truly humble me and break my heart.

On Wednesday morning of this past week, we had the usual bustle of getting Dear Alex up and Beautiful Wife dressed and out the door, and for some reason on this day I was moving a little slower - BW got out the door first after nanny J. arrived, and I did my usual walking back and forth gathering things and finding wallet, keys, phone, computer accessories, etc. . The kid was a little on edge anyways, asking for "mommy, mommy, mommmmmmy", and accepted only sketchily that "mommy went to work". That was okay, more or less, but Dear Alex saw my briefcase - "daddy work, daddy work" - and me getting ready to go, and she kind of lost it, and came out with the line that's haunted me for days: "Daddy (snuff) work Alex crying daddy (snuff) work Alex (sniff, sniff) crying". It stopped me in my tracks: Daddy work = Alex crying.

Yeah, I guess she wanted me to stay and play with her for a while, but I had some storyboards that needed finishing, and a print ad to revise and I was already late - and what's a daddy to do?
I had to go, and had to hand this beautiful child off to Dear nanny J. despite my desire to stay and hold her and comfort her and let her know that there was nothing else in the world that I would rather be or do than be her daddy always, now and forever and that I'd never leave her.

Guess what? I left. The ugly reality of life is such that I did indeed have to go to work, and unless I hit lotto big time that's not likely to change...

I wondered and wished for the longest time that Dear Alex could tell us what was bothering her when she was upset by something, and I guess my wish came true, but the first instance of her new associative skills really got to me - I've been thinking about it for days, in fact. It turns out that all was just fine when I got home, and we haven't had a repeat of that particular complaint, but I know now that I do wish I could spend more than the the three or so waking hours a day that we do have together. It all counts, and I do try to make the most of it, as does BW. I wish it weren't so hard, and I wish we could make every day a Saturday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The name is Alex

This started a few weeks (maybe a month?) ago, but Dear Alex finally figured out who we were referring to when we said "Alex" - none other than the dear girl herself. It started around the time I started putting more pictures of her up on flick'r, and playing them for her on-demand, as in her sitting in the high-chair, pointing at the computer, and saying "picture picture". That's what she knew the computer as, as really that's all it was for in front of her - her generic term for computer for the longest time was simply "picture picture" - but it's since evolved*. We'd show her pictures of Alex, and pictures of mommy and daddy, and pictures of things, and a dumb little powerpoint alphabet that I made - but one day she asked for "pictures of Alex" - Now she narrates her life in the third person - "Alex goes for a walk outside, Alex hiding" - and rushes me when I take out the camera to see "pictures of Alex". It's getting harder to take her picture.

So, the newest challenge that I have is how to teach Dear Alex the difference between "you" and "me" when she's referring to herself - It's something I've never really though about before - when do we come to that distinction, and how do you teach it? ( I tried Strunk and White, but they presume a more advanced reader) When she's tired of walking, Dear Alex will say "daddy pick you up? mommy pick you up?" - of course we pick her up without fail, but just exactly how does one explain the difference between "you" and "me"?
(cut to daddy gesturing - "I am you, you are me, when you are referring to yourself" - Dear Alex stares blankly, sucking her thumb. )
(cut to daddy gesturing - "you should be me when you mean you" - Dear Alex stares blankly, sucking her thumb. ) it goes on.

*Dear Alex now refers to computers (at least the ones in this house) as "apples" - for the never ending little grey (platinum?) apple with a bite out of it that she sees as she waits impatiently
for the pictures of Alex to appear.

Looking out

Sometime over the last few weeks or so, while I wasn't writing, but mired in work and the usual day-to-day of getting by, Dear Alex crossed some kind of oh-so-subtle line in her growing awareness of the world. I don't think there's a word or classification for it, but there's been a change that happened so slowly that there isn't one thing that I can point to and go "aha!"
It's another subtle shift in her intellect, her curiousity, and her take on the world. I have no idea if this is something that's codified as a growth stage, or if it's just something that I'm getting hung up on - the kid switched from inward-looking sponge to outward-looking person - I'm doing an awful job of explaining it, but it's like this:
Walking down the street used to be an exercise in her gesturing madly - "this?, this? this?" as you patiently explained that that was a "building, tree, flower, garbage truck," etc., ad infinitum, as there are a lot of things to name in the city. - Dear Alex suddenly seems to know she knows things, and is more than happy to point things out with glee, and tell you: " bus, truck, people walking on the sidewalk" and everything else - but this goes beyond that - the kid will look you in the eye, and tell you something, seriously - no matter that I can't understand what she's saying, it means something to her - and she's earnestly trying to share it. ( Beautiful Wife is actually much better at deciphering what she's saying than I am, much to my chagrin ) All I can do is smile and nod. But the sponge that was Dear Alex is finally over-saturated, and the knowledge is leaking out in words and phrases that I know she's taken great care to form and share. It's exciting, and (sorry) heart-warming because the all-absorbing-sponge is also starting to give back affection and interest in mommy and daddy. (as opposed to being aware of only Dear Alex) This is an incredibly lumpy post for a truly amazing on-going experience, but It kind of came to me as I came home from work tonight and ran into BW and Dear Alex outside, and the kid stopped what she was doing, and ran to me (in that funny bouncy toddler way) and gave me an expert hug. Welcome home.

Monday, June 11, 2007

We're okay, daddy's just lazy.

I want to assure anyone who happens to find this dusty back-water of the internet by accident or on purpose that Lil'screamie hasn't been abandoned - It just seems like the "daddy story" post, some ugly advertising business and spending almost all of my waking hours at a computer screen - not by choice but of necessity, has taken a lot of the fun out of sitting at this computer in the wee hours trying to think of something new to say. It turns out that it's easy to find things to say with Dear Alex and her amazing progress in the world, but how many ways can you say "She's so cute" and "she's so smart" without boring yourself and any reader to numbness?

Perhaps it's simply to write as I originally thought, about what it's like to have this incredible responsibility and love that simply overtakes everything in your life and teaches you humility and patience and how to be amazed again by little things. I wrote about "mindfulness" a while back and why it's important to keep track of the little things about her development (oh, such a clinical word for such a miraculous thing) and the things that Beautiful Wife and I do with her and for her amusement and delight, (and ours, too, as it turns out) and I didn't keep up with my own hopes for that - there will be some gaps, and I'm feeling as though if it's not written somewhere, it's lost in the ever-changing now. I want to make note of the sweet moments, and the odd stuff that we do to keep Dear Alex and ourselves entertained and educated, like this:

We came back from the country early on Sunday, mostly because Beautiful Wife and I were feeling guilty about taking Friday off and we wanted to get a head start on worrying about the week to come, so we had a bit of the afternoon to kill. BW suggested that we take Dear Alex to visit a firehouse so that Dear Alex could see a "firetruck" up close. It's an amazing thing to do with a kid. All our child knows of firetrucks is the loud siren and horn and lights as the great beasts roar up the avenue past our apartment, all thunder and light - she never fails to shout "firetruck!" and point as they pass - so, we put the kid in her stroller and set out to find our local station, and found it easily. Holding her up to the windows in the great red garage doors made her point and squeal with happiness - "two firetrucks in the garage". It only got better when one of the firemen invited us in - It stuck me that the fireman was more than happy that anyone took an interest in them and what they did, and he was more than happy to open a door for show and tell. (The NYFD guys are truly great, and I am in awe of their service and how genuinely nice they are.) Dear Alex was stunned speechless. Two sleeping giants in this great garage, up close and shiny and red and real. She loved it (and recovered her speech later - "two firetrucks in the garage!!") - this is one that she'll remember.
I'll remember it, too, because having a toddler with you can open doors and give you a point of view that you would never even think to think about - what other reason on earth would motivate anyone to visit a firehouse in New York City on a late Sunday afternoon, and feel so good about having done something so simple, yet so grounding?