The flu, a stomach bug, the ick, whatever you want to call it. I had it. Putrescence was coming out of both ends every time I stood up. Guess who didn’t give a hoot and decided tonight’s the night he’s going to wake up every two hours and cry until I give his 20-pound ass a bottle? My 4-month-old, that’s who. You know why? Because he’s an asshole. You know what I did? I whispered sternly in his face my latest favorite book quote, “Go the fuck to sleep.”
Why? Because I’m an asshole too. It was just one of many nights I spent in those four short months rocking him back to sleep, crying along with him, me from exhaustion, he from whatever it was. Who knows? His diaper was in a bunch? The white noise machine wasn’t loud enough? Regardless, on this night, I was forcing back dry heaves to console him and wearily wishing I could just be back in pre-baby days when I could sleep as long as I wanted. Who wishes their own child out of existence? I wondered. Assholes, that’s who.
We were all finally healed and pooping normally again when the baby suddenly decided that the only time he would not cry was when one of us held him upright on our laps so that he could bounce himself on his little sausage legs. You know how great a bouncing 20-pound 4-month-old is for building muscle tone in the arms? Maybe this time he was being considerate! A considerate asshole.
For three days, we passed him back and forth, holding him up under his armpits just high enough that he could bouncy-bouncy-bounce up and down until he was exhausted enough to be placed comfortably in his swing for a 20-minute nap. That’s right, the only place our little posterior will nap is in his swing. Thank God it was gifted to us by wise parents at our baby shower. Those folks are decidedly not assholes.
Anyway, with biceps that would shame a CrossFitter sufficiently sore and ready for a break, my husband and I decided it was time to invest in a Jumperoo. The Jumperoo choices are endless. Experienced parents in Target smiled knowingly at us as we stood before the bouncer display, carefully reading product specs to determine which one would provide the perfect mix of entertainment and exercise. We finally settled on one that plays our son’s favorite classical music. $100 dollars later we were all in the car driving home to set the thing up. My husband and I shared a relieved smile. This will be the gadget that will entertain him while we, you know, wash dishes, do laundry, or hide on the patio and drink beer until the shame of allowing the baby gadget industry to suck more money out of us subsided.
My handy man set up the Jumperoo, and we placed baby comfortably inside on his little padded seat, set just far enough off the ground to allow him to bounce himself on his little pudgy legs. You know what he did? He smiled for five seconds and then began screaming and flailing his arms angrily, smacking his little Michelin Man rolls into the sundry objects strategically placed for optimal infant entertainment until one of us picked him up and consoled him. Defeat! We left him to cry angrily for a few minutes because, you know, assholes.
There, there little asshole. It’s OK to hate that mean old Jumperoo. No biggie, son. We only bought it with money we don’t have because we’re spending a small fortune on formula and day care. Look at how mean you are, refusing to bounce you on our laps for hours on end while food rots in the sink and the dogs go feral. (Maybe when he gets his first job we can send him an invoice. Because we’re assholes who keep tabs on our spending like that.)
The next day I placed him in the jumperoo again. Babies have this asshole tendency to like something today that they loathed a day earlier. Parents, amirite? I held my breath hoping he would see the joy in his Jumperoo and delightedly bounce long enough for me to clean the whole house and take a nap. Nope. Try again, weary mother. He grabbed at the bright smiling sunflower closest to his left hand and pulled it furiously toward his little gaping mouth. It refused to budge. The smile on its little soft plastic sunflower face seemed to be taunting him. He let it go and swung an angry, fat little fist at it as if punching it would make it suddenly bendable. No dice, baby boy, punching things rarely makes them comply. Defeated, he grabbed the sunflower with both hands and screamed in its stupid smiling face. Because he’s an asshole.
What did I do? I laughed. I laughed and laughed. Not because I want my son to suffer or feel constantly frustrated, but because, well, you know where this is going. Mostly I laughed because this is one small disappointment, the first of many, many more he will surely experience in his life.
The years ahead of him will bring many unyielding smiley sunflowers who laugh in his face. Soon he will learn he can’t scream and kick and punch his way through life. I thought back to the night of nausea, my own frustration, my own need to scream at the powerlessness I had over the situation. The sight of my screaming little asshole getting his first lesson in how things don’t always go your way gave me a sense of relief. It’s OK to be frustrated, exhausted, worn out. We all experience those things. None of us are special, nor are we immune to the inevitable frustrations life will bring us. We can always try again tomorrow, or just let it go.
I picked him up and he wrapped his little arms around my neck and pressed his face to mine.
There, there, little asshole. Your mom’s an asshole too.
And we’re going to be OK.