My ambitions for Sebastian

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I have many unfulfilled goals – just like everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a rewarding life and I’ve gotten to do many things I would have never imagined. But there are also many things I’ve imagined that I’ve never done and probably never will. I still dream though. I have an active imagination.

But one big thing has changed recently. Before, when I’d imagine some awesome achievement and reward, I’d always picture myself. But now, sometimes I think of Sebastian instead.

That makes sense right? We’re finite. We’ll die someday. Some doors are already closed to us (just a few!) due to the choices we’ve already made.

But Sebastian – yes Sebastian – all doors are open to you. You’re born into the wealthiest and most dynamic country on Earth with a silver spoon in your mouth. You can do anything. I know you can’t even crawl yet, and you shit yourself multiple times a day, but you can do anything. I know it. Eventually.


We tend to see our children as extensions of ourselves. If we’re not careful, our unfulfilled ambitions can be a burden on them. We want to live vicariously through them, to play back history, but at a key moment, make them succeed where we stumbled. Even though that game is over. Even though people don’t even play that game anymore. Even though that moment’s long forgotten by everyone but ourselves.

And as a result, these burdened kids grow up with expectations, a plan, a formula. Some get depressed they can never live up to their parents wishes. Others rebel in various unproductive ways. And most finally grow out of their shackles and get to be their own person. But it is still a burden. Our dreams have become a burden.


How can I dream for Sebastian in a helpful way – without burdening him? I have no idea, but here are some possible things I can do:

His interests, not mine. The world will be vastly different in 20 years, and he’ll “get it” in some ways much better than me. I’ll need to respect that. He needs to choose his own fields to endeavor in. You can’t predict what will be important.

Introduce possibilities. To help him discover what he likes, I could show him a variety of places and things: zoos, aquariums, nature, labs, buildings, museums, books, the Internet, and historical bulls**t.

Provide resources, not orders. Within reason, provide him with all the resources I can afford for him to pursue his interests (assuming a reasonable rate of return). Don’t tell him what those interests are.

His fire, not mine. Obviously I do not want him to be on the couch smoking weed all day. Hopefully, if he can pursue his own interests, he won’t. But there’s no way I can order him to do things (beyond you-must-try-it-for-at-least-a-month I guess).

No outdated prejudices. You know how your moderately racist or homophobic parents or grandparents are kind of embarrassing and wrong? That’s going to be me about robosexuals and transracial people in 20 years. I can’t burden Sebastian with outdated thinking.

Any other suggestions?

 

 

 

Couple-time after the baby

He's asleep! Delta force: Go go go!
He’s asleep! Delta force: Go go go!

If you have a baby and still want to do date/couple things with your spouse, you need planning and opportunism.

When the baby is awake, you’re generally going to want to spend time with him. Especially if you work in an office away from home, the time you have with him is pretty precious.

However, you and your wife will still want to do adult things that babies cannot participate in. Some examples:

  • Baking something complex
  • Playing a co-op video game
  • God forbid, actually having sex

The natural time to do such things is when the baby is asleep. However, how many of you just waste the precious nap-time duration just laying around playing with your phone? Yep, guilty as charged. The antidote to this is planning and opportunism.

The first step is planning, and all this entails is keeping in mind a few things you’d like to do together with your spouse over the next few days. Yeah – it’s lame to plan. I get it. Spontaneity is way better. However, even lamer than planning is not-doing-anything. I think some planning is just required now…

The second step is opportunism. Once the baby goes down for a long nap (based on his daily routine and patterns), you and your spouse should waste no time, and jump into action.

Now don’t take me too literally – I’m not saying you must have planned activities all the time, nor am I saying that you must do couple things right every time the baby falls asleep. And obviously it’s still cool to lay around and play with your phone – it’s a great way to relax.

But if you’re finding you have no time for couple time, this is one strategy Mary and I have used sometimes to get our date-time achievement.

Taking Sebastian to the Park

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We took Sebastian to the park for the first time. This particular park had a tiny little pond with ducks and turtles. The park is awesome for small children because:

  • They get to be outside in the sun and get some Vitamin D.
  • If they’re big enough, they can roll around in the dirt. (We didn’t do this for Sebastian yet.)
  • They get to see some animals. Ducks are especially interesting, because they swim, walk, and fly.
  • They get to see some other kids.
  • There’s no time limit, usually free parking, and enough space to bring your stroller and all the baby gear.

And potentially most importantly:

  • Mommy and Daddy have an excuse to go outside and enjoy the day also.

And one more thing: it trains your children to enjoy going to the park as a recreational activity. Living in the city, entertainment generally becomes associated with exclusive things you pay to access. It takes conscious effort to avoid “the Disease that tricks people into thinking that the expensive and exclusive options are better than free or cheap ones” (Source).

If you’re paying taxes to your city you may as well enjoy its benefits.

The Hand Obsession

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Bash is now almost 3 months old and has entered a new phase of his life. He’s become obsessed with his hands. They are basically always in his mouth. Although he prefers his right, he keeps both of his hands coated with a generous layer of saliva at all times. As gross as it sounds, I like smelling his stinky spit-coated hands. This probably disgusts everyone else, but he is my child, so it seems reasonable.

This all started right after a feeding growth spurt. I wonder what finally clicked in his head. With this grossness has come new abilities:

  • He can now use his hand to push in the pacifier and keep it in his mouth. His technique is crude and imperfect, but it kind of works, and he’ll only get more proficient with time.
  • On the ghetto baby gym, he’s actually able to grab toys and pull. We have this one toy elephant where if the baby pulls it, it jiggles on the way back up. I saw Bash do this for the first time the other day!
  • He is now constantly touching things, especially after “priming” his hand with spit – especially Mommy and Daddy’s faces. Sounds pretty gross when I write it out – but it’s adorable.

Although this sounds like a very small milestone, watching him advance from laying there dumbly to manipulating things with his hands was a huge step for the two of us who have been paying very close attention.

Ghetto Wooden Baby Gym DIY

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There is nothing more awesome than seeing your baby (which you created) playing happily under a ghetto baby gym you also created.

First off, I did not invent this concept. There’s a billion variations of these ghetto baby gyms on the Internet, which is a wonderful thing. I followed the directions on this blog post Mary linked to me.

Total cost under $5 from Home Depot. Here are some abridged directions on how to make one:

  1. Have a drill and a saw. I guess you don’t even need the saw technically.
  2. Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s or something.
  3. Buy one 1 x 2 x 8 piece of wood. I think this was under $1. Saw it into quarters (2 ft length each). You can do this either with a saw they have in the store, or you can ask the person operating the wood cutting machine. They will do it for free, since it’s just 3 cuts.
  4. Buy one 3/4 x 3/4 x 48 inch dowel.
  5. Just have some twine around the house. Or string or something.
  6. Drill a 3/4 inch diameter hole at the top of every piece of wood.
  7. Drill a 1/8 inch diameter hole around the middle of every piece of wood.
  8. Assemble as shown in the picture.
  9. Friction holds the dowel in place, though you can hold it in place with an additional piece of dowel if you prefer. See the above blog post.

Total cost to make this was under $5, since it’s just some wood from Home Depot. This assumes, of course, that you already have a saw and a drill.

Five ways the baby makes you buff

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The after pic

Dad-bod has a bad rep, but personally, my rippedness has dramatically increased since Mary gave birth to Sebastian.

For a computer programmer who spends 8 hours a day (actually more) in front of a computer, I’m basically Hercules now. I attribute this to the following activities I now must undertake:

  1. Core strengthening – Holding the baby. He’s basically a squirming weight that slowly gets heavier.
  2. Cross training – Lifting the baby from any permutation of your position and his position. The more awkward the lift, the greater the pump.
  3. Pushing and pulling – Rearranging the bedroom furniture 3+ times because your wife can’t make up her mind.
  4. Arm training – Cloth diaper laundry using the bucket and plunger method. (Neighbors wouldn’t want our baby’s poop in the shared washer I’m sure.)
  5. Wearable weights – We have a baby carrier front-backpack thing. Major back strengthener.

The baby challenges our marriage

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The baby has definitely challenged our marriage. Now of course the baby has brought us profound joy. Of course it is a life-enriching and perspective-altering experience. Of course we love him and would never give him back. Nor do we regret having a child. But all of that notwithstanding, it has challenged our marriage in a number of ways.

  1. Less time. Now you can talk to me the power of love to expand your energy and so forth, but there’s only 24 hours in a day. Between changing diapers, breastfeeding, bottle pumping, laundry, loading in and out of car seats, pediatrician appointments, etc. – there is just straight-up less time for Mary and I to work on our relationship.
  2. Less energy. If I have a hard day at work now, and I come home, and I see Mary with her hair all messed up and actively cleaning poop as I walk in, I’m not going to start talking to her about my day. We each need the other’s support, but in that case, both parties are too drained to provide it.
  3. Decreased spontaneity. You know, both Mary and I are pretty much homebodies, but we still had our moments of spontaneously going out to eat, see a movie, grab coffee, hike on the weekends, etc. Nowadays, this might be the new normal:
    1. Let’s go out for dinner! It’s been a while!
    2. Should we wait until your sister is available for babysitting?
    3. If not, we need to pack some breastmilk in an insulated lunchbox for the road.
    4. Does he have a wet diaper, has he been changed recently?
    5. We have enough diapers in the car right?
    6. Oh maybe you should pump first before we go out.
    7. Alright, I’ll shower in the meantime, I forgot to shower this morning.
    8. Now it’s 10 PM and I’m tired, let’s try again tomorrow.
  4. Competition for intimacy. I’ll just say there was one day we went to bed, and Mary kissed Sebastian good night. I waited for mine, but it never came. Mary just went to bed. Hmmph.
  5. More junk in the apartment. This might just be specific to Mary, but when the apartment is cluttered, Mary gets into a foul mood. With all the extra baby junk, the apartment is a lot more cluttered than it used to be.

I realize I’m supposed to end these blog posts on a positive note, but I’m just in a complaining mood today.

Sleeping in Shifts

After much experimentation, this is the system that allows us to get the most sleep:

Shift 1: 9PM to ~3AM.

The baby and I sleep in the living room. Me on the fold-down futon, and he in a little bassinet. When he is hungry or needs a diaper, I take care of it. If he can’t fall asleep, I watch an episode of Parks and Recreation. That always puts him to sleep.

During this 6 hour period, I probably get about 3-4 hours of sleep, and Mary gets 5-6 hours of continuous sleep.

Any time the baby wakes up after 2AM, that means my shift is over, and I holler: “Mary!! Time to pump.”

Shift 2: ~3AM to 8AM.

I sleep like a baby (not an actual baby) in bed. Mary and the baby are either sleeping in the living room, or in the bedroom. I’m not conscious for this part, so I don’t care.

Having done my duty (and being quite tired), during this shift, I sleep guilt-free and continuously for 5 hours.

Mary actually doesn’t get a lot of sleep here. She is a lighter sleeper and wakes up as soon as the baby fidgets (is much more attentive than me), and the baby is more active in the morning-time.

How we arrived here – or, The Bad Old Days

For the first few days with the baby, we tried the “obvious” approach: We’d put the baby down in his bedroom crib, and both go to bed.

Lo’ and behold, in 2 or 3 hours, the baby would start fussing. Mary is a lighter sleeper, and by the time I woke up, she would already be taking care of it and reassure me: “It’s okay Tommy, I got this. Go back to sleep.”

By 3AM or so, Mary was very visibly tired – and cranky. And the next day she’d be useless too. By that time, I’d feel so guilty that I wouldn’t be able to sleep either. I’d get up to “help” her, but she didn’t really need my help, she just needed sleep.

Clearly that wasn’t working, and we had to switch to the shift system.

Cuddle time

In the shift system, we are nominally sleeping apart and don’t get cuddle time. Mary says she gets it anyways by sneaking back into the bedroom during second shift, “coming over” to my side, and I instinctively cuddle her.

I guess I am a baller unconscious husband.

Tummy Time Training

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Mary has been training the baby with “tummy time”. Like most babies, he spends most of his life on his back. However, for 30 minutes each day, Mary places him on his tummy and lets him struggle.

Mary moves from side to side with a rattle and encourages him to turn his head from side to side. It strengthens his core and neck.

The whole time, she is also talking to the baby and giving him verbal encouragement. He’s only 2 weeks old and already has his own personal trainer. He’s going to be so spoiled.

He is usually “over it” in about 5 minutes and starts to cry though, so Mary has to do it multiple times a day to reach the pediatrician-recommended 30 minutes.