August 05, 2002
A friend of mine sent me the following. I didn't realize he was such a clever artist; I love the way he makes this look like a well known comic strip:
Sleep deprivation is nothing new to me (or Paulette), of course. I'm informed by my friends that the sleep deprivation that goes along with having kids usually tapers off after about, oh, twenty years or so.
This two-part essay about "Changes" is not, ultimately, about having a newborn in the house, but that *is* where the essay begins. I'm starting off with an illustration, as it were, of one kind of life changing event, but there will actually be some content here that is not baby-related.
Allow me to start off my illustration, however, with a few baby pictures, since visuals are always fun.
In addition to the pictures I posted here when Alexander was first born, I've been sending along photos to Alexander's paternal grandmother who has been posting these additional photos on her site. I particularly like the batch at the bottom of page three, which I had taken when Alexander was only one week old.
I haven't had as much time as I'd like to scale the full versions of the photos I have down to a manageable size on the web, so I've been kind enough to allow Alexander's grandmother to take care of that. However, I *am* taking photos, and I simply *must* call attention to a couple that I'd taken yesterday, the day after he turned two weeks old.
It's amazing how much can change in a mere two weeks. The changes in Alexander's appearance only capture part of it; there are changes in how he vocalizes, changes in how he sleeps, changes in how he interacts. Naturally, we're still figuring things out. When he's awake, he's a very alert baby; when he is not happy with the world situation, he's very vocal about it. Each day is different in terms of how awake, how happy, how upset, and how hungry he is.
Alexander's mood, like anyone's, is prone to changing frequently and often. In a newborn, however, those mood changes do not appear to be terribly subtle or sophisticated. As adults, our emotions might shift several times within an hour, but the shift is rarely profound enough to be noticeable to outside observers... or even to ourselves. For example, in the mail, Paulette and I receive a gift for the little one from a friend, and I am happy. In the same pile of mail, there's the new car payment bill. I'm concerned. I drop the mail onto the kitchen counter and realize I'm hungry.
Little Alexander's shifts are a little more abrupt. He is set down on a favorite couch, as in the photo above, and he is happy. He remembers that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off by several hundred points, as in the action shot below, and he is concerned.
This change took place within about ten seconds, in a photo shoot that lasted about, oh, thirty seconds.
When Paulette and I first started telling people that we were expecting, the most frequent response was "this will change your life forever." And of course, my most frequent thought about this response was, "Well, duh." Getting a puppy changes your life. Getting a driver's license changes your life. Forever! Anything that shifts your responsibilities and your capabilities has some profound effect on the quality and shape of your life.
Has Alexander changed my life? Certainly. But the whole idea that "having a kid changes your life" is trivial. It's a tautology.
Try this one on for size: life is all about change. Change *is* life. Once you stop changing, your life is ostensibly over.
*That* will be the focus of the second part of this essay.
...to be continued...
August 13, 2002
In response to Part I of this essay, my friend Tyrean notes that the changes that come with having a baby are more impactful than the changes that come with getting a driver's license, et al, because they affect your life 24 x 7. There is something to be said for this.
Once you have a baby (and choose to provide for its care), each aspect of your life changes. Your daily activities may or may not change, but they need to be planned for with a new element in mind. Your prior method of scheduling time goes right out the window, and basic tasks such as eating, working, and especially sleeping are profoundly altered by the requirements of your new responsibility.
When I had been told this kind of thing, as an expectant parent, my internal response was, "Yes, I know this." And I also knew that living it would be different from knowing it, and that has also proven to be true. Knowing beforehand that your daily routine is about to be altered forever has a different quality of experience from dealing with the reality when it happens.
All well and good. But the same profound shifts have occurred several times in my life, as I'm sure they have in your, dear Reader. When I went away for college, I left my home town and my parents' house. Everything in my life changed profoundly: planning meals, managing my time for even the simplest tasks, and even my sleep schedule were profoundly impacted *every day*. Gradually the newness wore off, of course, but I still eat-sleep-act-think without parental interference. (This, some may argue, may not be such a good thing, given the photographic evidence.)
Getting married profoundly affected my life, as it may have yours. I don't think I went through the emotional swings that many of my friends have described -- rather, I did all that before making the decision to commit. Still, all kinds of decision-making were impacted because most decisions I made/make would/will have the added dimension of how they affect this other person in my life.
Moving to Russia, moving back, working full-time for a small business, going to grad school, working full-time for a behemouth corporation, working full-time for a high-profile dot com, going to Clarion West, etc., all marked major changes in my life. Certainly, some have been more profound than others, and some have had more long-lasting effects than others.
My central thesis, however, is that *whatever* the nature of the change, any well-balanced person requires these profound changes from time to time. Some changes are thrust upon us (like when we are forced at gunpoint to attend kindergarden), are accidental outgrowths of our own decisions (like becoming a paraplegic because you chose to get behind the wheel one day while under the influence), or are planned and desired landmarks (like deciding to go to college, get married, get a job, have a baby, whatever).
There is also a necessity for our lives to experience *retrenchment*. A prolonged period of stability, where we deliberately reduce risks and expose ourselves to less likelihood for change. This is certainly a physiological necessity, although we all obviously have different thresholds for how long and how stable such periods must be before we feel ready to push ourselves toward change again. The point is, we cannot live effectively if everything always changes. But we nonetheless require periods of change in order to advance our lives.
[I have a theory about the interrelations between fear and ennui as biological imperatives to encourage change and, thereby, growth and advancement. Would you like to hear it?]
I admire my grandparents, who embraced change in their lives not only as they advanced throughout their careers and their family life, but also beyond retirement. They are constantly trying new things, expanding their horizons, and staying involved in their lives. I think it is their ability to embrace change that has helped to keep them alive and alert and active this long.
A friend of mine picked up stakes and headed for New Mexico and (shudder) grad school after a profitable career at a major software concern where he was able to work without having completed his undergraduate degree. He has left the known (with all the good and bad that it includes) deliberately and chosen to make a change. That change now involves major house reconstruction, dinosaur digs, and developing patentable radar technologies.
Change is not for everyone at all times; it's certainly not for *me* at all times. But profound change is necessary from time to time for those who want to grow; who want to participate in their own lives. Having babies or dropping your career to go to grad school or getting married or even moving out of your parents' house may not be something you, my kind Reader, are interested in doing. But if you find yourself feeling a little bit of ennui, if your life seems to be just futile, allow me to suggest that you make a change.
You may discover that the change you made needs to be refined a bit (read: mistakes will happen), but at least you'll be participating in your life.
August 22, 2002
Haven't written much lately, and I'm not just refering to ye olde web site. I haven't written an original scene for a story in a couple of weeks now... that's the horror story I'm writing about how sleep deprivation drives a father insane. I haven't been writing, but I guess I've been doing some, uh, field research.
Never fear, I'll resume posting pictures and writing more goofball essays soon enough. (I know this was a big worry of yours. :-)
In the meantime, Alexander has turned a month old (that was the 20th) and he doesn't look a day over four weeks. As I mentioned earlier, we've been making a point of bringing the little tyke with us to various events, and we have even had him baby-sat *twice* now so that Paulette and I could go do stuff out of the house. Okay, the first time was so that we could see a movie (Signs, which is about children in jeapordy. Ack!) and the second time was so that we could get our respective work done for a few hours in peace. But, the proof of concept is there.
The next big task for our little family is a road trip, which is coming up soon. We've already driven down half the state to meet up with good friends who flew in from across the country, but now we're talking about driving down half the country. Should be fun.
If I get around to it, I'll probably write to you tomorrow to tell you how/why I'm so morose about the prospects of building a successful writing career. Arrrrgh. In the meantime, I think I'll try to squeeze in my daily ration of four hours sleep.
August 24, 2002
Okay, my *next* entry will be an entry either about religion or writing (or both), and not about the kid. I promise.
But, for now, let me just wax philosophical on the fact that Alexander had his one month check-up this past Friday. The doctor (well, the doctor's non-nurse practitioner assistant, actually) takes all kinds of measurements to make sure that the kid is growing correctly by comparing the kid to other kids the same age.
Alexander is in the 90-95% range of height (or length) for a baby his age. This means that 90 to 95 percent of the babies his age are shorter (or, uh, less long) than he is. Thus, he is growing well. Now, when he was born, he was in the 70th percentile or so. He is growing *fast*. In fact, he's still averaging about an inch per week, as I'd noted a few weeks ago, which means he is still on target to be seven and a half feet tall by his first birthday.
His weight is in the 75th percentile, which is good, because that means he's not as fat as other kids as tall as he is. As we all know, looks are everything, and fat babies are doomed.
His skull is now in the 75th percentile. When he was born, he was in the 90 to 95% range. Thus, his head isn't growing as quickly as his height. Don't know what that means, but if he's anything like his daddy, he'll have a bigger head than the rest of the kids before too long.
Oh, wait. Nevermind.
* The volume of his screams is only at the 50th percentile, but the quality of harmonics (the "Piercing Factor") is closer to 70%.
* He is so white, they can't even measure it. All factors indicate he will eat Miracle Whip on white bread, watch Laverne and Shirley reruns, and listen to country music. He can't dance. If he plays sports, he'll either swim or play hockey.
* His flatulence is in the 45th percentile in quantity, but only 35% in quality.
* His cuteness is in the 95th percentile, but apparently so are the majority of other babies. Sounds statistically dubious to me.
Alexander Benjamin is healthy and happy, and doing okay for a one-month old. We hope his pleasant disposition will carry through for our road trip to ConJose, a science fiction writers' and fans' convention being held in San Jose this year.
...that's a long, long drive, even if the kid is in good spirits! :-)
August 29, 2002
Road trippin' from Seattle to San Jose, my first drive along the West Coast like this. Paulette, baby Alexander, and I makin' our way down I-5 through Washington State, Oregon, and Northern California.
Northern California is on fire.
We drive past a fire where some kind of large fuel tanks near the highway are blazing; many firemen and fire trucks are on the scene hosing down the flames. There are also several grass fires, and most of them appear to be deliberately set by officials who are on the scene. Traffic continues to drive through the smoke, and I am surprised to find that we can feel the brutal heat from one particular fire even inside our vehicle. Those fires are hot!
Paulette and I are guessing that these short patches of grass are being set now so as to contain any major fire that might head this way later... containment that should result from using up the fuel that could keep such a fire going. Nonetheless, with temperatures in the triple digits even without the aid of the fires, it's amazing to see California burn. Something we would have missed had we simply flown in.
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