On Labor Day, we went to visit my sister-in-law and her new baby, who was extracted (elective, non-medically-necessary elective C-section, remember?) last Thursday, September 3rd, around 1pm.  He’s very cute and looks way too much like my father-in-law, or at least his facial expressions do.  I see my Bianca’s nose, but no traces of the baby’s father in his features.  Looks like Bianca was able to achieve the immaculate conception and birth.  She really is superhuman.  Was discharged a day early (48 hours post C-section), but chose to stay on an extra day, just because.  Was sitting up watching the Eagles game her first night.  The way it was related to us, I expected nothing short of her playing in the Eagles game.  It would be apropo to her Eagles tramp stamp. 

So she and the perfect birth came home Sunday, and we visited Monday.  They’d pulled the bed downstairs into the living room because she’s not supposed to do stairs, but she has to go downstairs (2nd and 3rd floor apartment) to unlock/open the door anyway.  So much for discharge precautions.  We weren’t sure how it was going to be to see her as a mother.  We’d heard the baby’s father had done all the diapering so far, and that the reason we’d been called to come over at that time was to keep her company when the baby’s father had to run out to take his son to his mother.  To keep her company because she was afraid to be alone with the baby.  Well, thankfully that wasn’t entirely true.  She held him one-armed, cradled into a tuck like, appropriately, a football, and managed to change his diaper twice while we were there, muttering, “This wasn’t what I signed up for” and “How ’bout we just wait for your daddy?”  So she didn’t seem afraid of him exactly.  Just inconvenienced.  As she changed his diaper and bundled him back up, she remarked how perhaps Daddy was a better diaper-er, but she was the expert swaddler.  She did look like she knew what she was doing, rolling and tucking him this way and that, but my other SIL and I noticed something.  She swaddled him only up to his armpits, leaving his arms free to flail.  And flail he did.  I kept mum, but my other SIL asked, coyly, if there was a reason he wasn’t completely covered.

“Oh, he likes to have his arms free.”

Ah, the attribution of interests, desires, and preferences in a 4-day-old infant.  I held my tongue.  He flails his arms because they are free, not because he “likes” them that way.  In the womb, he was all tightly cozily curled up, and that same posture (mimicked by swaddling), can help him to “regulate” his sense of body feeling, to be warm and comfortable in your freezingly air-conditioned apartment.  He likes to have his arms free?  He doesn’t even know he has arms yet.  He’s months away from reaching for things, and purposefully sticking his hand/thumb/foot/mother’s earring in his mouth.  Yet I said nothing, because a) she wouldn’t buy it, b) I can’t explain it very well, and c) our relationship is rocky enough since Bianca didn’t receive her invitation to our wedding the exact same day as her sister, and therefore deduced we didn’t want her at our wedding.  (Truth?  Again,  I refrain from comment)

It can be hard to be the one who has taken classes on child development and understands things like reflexes.  It’s hard to be the one who works with young children.  It’s hard to watch parents ascribe movements or gestures to a child’s innate sense of self, or athletic inclinations.  Bianca is already sure her child is going to be  a “bruiser” who will protect his older “intellectual” half-brother. 

“He wants to be fed,” as he opens his mouth when someone brushes his cheek.  “No,” I don’t say, “that’s a rooting reflex that would help him find the breast if you had chosen to give him the best possible nutrition and immunity defenses by breast-feeding.”

“He  likes to pull off his hat,”  as his flailing arms reach his head and nudge the hat off his crown.  “No,” I don’t say, “he doesn’t know he has arms yet and is not making intentional movements.”

“He’ll be a bruiser.”  Huh?

He’ll be this, he’ll do that.  All we can do as parents is to introduce our children to things we think are valuable (in Bianca’s case, the Eagles, and bullying, apparently), and hope they find rewarding and interesting activities to pursue.  I know she’ll be horribly disappointed when he turns out like her brother, my husband: long, lanky, and theatre-loving.  But that’s the way of the world, karmically.  My FIL tried every sport under the sun for Mr. Apron, from football to tennis, to golf, to soccer, to Nascar.  In spite of all this, he loves theatre.  He loves Monty Python.  He used his golf clubs (as you may have read yesterday) to take out adolescent angst on his dresser.  We can’t force our interests on our spawn, especially not on our infant offspring. 

I know no one sits around in the hospital room talking excitedly about when little Johnny will roll over on his own, or the first time Felix will pee in the toilet and not in Mommy’s face or in his Pamper, or even the first steps little Eunique will take.  All these exciting landmarks, by and large, do not differentiate our children from the masses.  Sure, we all hope they’ll develop normally (well, exceptionally, and ahead of schedule, actually), eventually be potty-trained, and learn to talk, but what seems to excite people more is talking about their future careers (architect because he plays with blocks, engineer because she enjoys disassembling her toys, hair dresser because she gave Barbie a mohawk) and which varsity sport they’ll play in high school.  I accept that, even as I stared at the baby snoozing in my lap.  He is a little half-swaddled bundle of potential, one in whom Bianca has invested her hopes and dreams (“All I want is for him to be a star running back”). 

I only hope we’ll get to spend some time with him to show him the Dark Side of performing arts.  At least we can provide some balance in his life, even as he “watches” the Eagles game this weekend.  His visual acuity, Bianca?  He can only see about 8-15 inches.  But will I say anything?  Only on this blog.