His & Hers: Surprises await in the next parenting stage

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.

SHE SAID

It has occurred to me several times this week that I may be an unfit mother. Like the morning I discovered Dawson had escaped from the nursery through the baby gate, crawled into the bathroom, ingested who knows how much toilet paper and then scrubbed his mouth out with the toilet brush.

He was alone for about five minutes. That's all it took. Later that same day, he was playing happily at my feet with a ball while I loaded the dishwasher. With hitherto unsuspected speed, he'd overturned the cats' water bowl and was playing in the puddle. I was a foot away, with one eye trained on him the entire time and he still managed to make this mess. I guess he needed something to wash down the toilet paper.

Seriously, the more mobile he becomes, the scarier my world is. He'll be 1 -- yes, 1 year old -- in a week. I'm trying so hard to learn the balance between protecting him and letting him explore -- and failing pretty miserably. We've baby-proofed all areas of the house he has access to. His room is practically a fortress of padded fluffiness with no sharp corners and no exposed outlets. The idea was that he would have an ultrasafe place to play for at least a few minutes while I did the dishes or a load of laundry. And yet he still managed to hit his head after turning the Diaper Genie over and trying to crawl over it. I mean, the Diaper Genie! Those are supposed to be in babies' rooms, right? That's not some parental lapse. I guess I should move it the bathroom, though apparently he has mastered a way to storm the top-of-the-line, incredibly expensive baby gate and get into there, too.

I know we can't keep him in a bubble -- he's learning to walk now, and that will inevitably mean a few bumps along the way (though thankfully no bruises yet!). I just don't know how to keep from feeling like a bad parent every time it happens.

HE SAID

During the first few months of his life, Dawson was a fussy little guy, and he tested our parental patience. It's so hard to figure out what infants want. After you feed the baby, change the baby, cuddle the baby, rock the baby, sing to the baby and walk with the baby, you wonder why the baby is still crying. Now, Dawson is much easier to figure out.

He's become fairly predictable. He's developed his tired cry, his hungry cry and his bored cry. Truthfully, they start out as more whines than cries, so we're typically able to calm him down before the neighbors call the city to ask why the tornado sirens are going off on a sunny day.

Dawson's also developed an ornery streak. For instance, when crawling somewhere he isn't supposed to go, I will say "No, Dawson." Sometimes he will stop, turn around, smile at me and then crawl at breakneck speed toward his destination.

His biggest accomplishment recently is his ability to stand without help. Usually, he'll do this, get excited, flap his arms in excitement and fall back down.

For a little guy without enough coordination to put one foot in front of the other, he has developed tactics that would make silent ninjas proud. Instead of pulling out his pacifier, throwing it down and grabbing something to stuff in his mouth, he's learned to grab the item, bring it toward his mouth, spit out his pacifier and place said item in his mouth with one motion. He can do this in less time than it takes me to bend over. This makes ventures outside tricky.

As I write this, our little crawl rocket is driving his mother crazy by repeating the same no-no over and over again. A new stage, new parenting challenges. But I have to admit, we're having lots of fun.

Callie Clark Miller is the special publications managing editor for the Southeast Missourian and baby-chaser of the Miller house. Bob Miller is Southeast Missourian managing editor who's developing quicker reflexes. Reach them at cmiller@semissourian.com and bmiller@semissourian.com.

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