What with Christmas and a baby in the family, there’ve been a lot of children on my mind. To a child, this is an axiom: The amount of love is constant, but the amount of candy is variable. It explains a lot. Margaret Atwood, as a young woman, wrote a short story about children making poison, and underlined its conclusion (just as important as mine about candy, but I won’t summarize, go read it, Making Poison) by saying “... and if you don’t understand that, you’ll never understand anything.” I’ve never had the courage to write anything that strong (and I wonder if, a few decades older, she’d be able to), but I feel that way about lots of things, mostly computing-related.
The Baby · In retrospect I found the boy’s first years kind of boring, up until he was four or so and I could actually talk to him. Either a lot of the good stuff was lost in the general parent-of-young-baby memory washout, or the little girl is more fun, or maybe I’m just less anxious and more receptive. She’s got a thousand-watt smile and is so delighted at learning things: how to grab one of my fingers with each of her hands so I can pull her up; how to enjoy peek-a-boo; how to play peek-a-boo, holding a towel up in front of her face (this is still pretty approximate).
I had the fun, with each kid, of helping them learn how to eat solids; the boy had a visible “A-ha!” moment while I was holding the spoon: “This gooey stuff on the piece of metal they’re sticking in my mouth is food, I swallow it and it goes in my stomach!” She picked it up slower but is hearty eater. This is serious business; the smile is stowed away and her mouth snaps open for the spoon like a piece of small delicate machinery.
By the way, here’s something to try someday; feed a little baby something with your fingers. I did this with some white rice the other day, since there wasn’t a small spoon handy. The tiny lips, no teeth behind them, are amazingly warm and soft and alive; it occurs to me that this is what it feels like to be a sea anemone’s meal.
I could write at length on the way she differs from my memory of her brother, and for added fun, could turn each observation into a generality explaining what little boys are like and what little girls are like; after all, I observe 100% correlation between their behavioral differences and their gender.
The Boy · Now seven, he’s blossoming into a real member of the family. We’ve been traveling a lot, heavily laden, over the year-end; Lauren and I each push a luggage cart and he pushes the baby stroller, maybe a little too exuberantly, but how much trouble can he get into going slightly too fast down an airport hallway?
He’s rambunctious and theatrical (more so than either Lauren and I ever remember being) and irritatingly over-the-top about the silliest everyday things; but you wouldn’t want a kid to be a carbon copy of yourself, would you?
At my brother’s place, the four of us all slept in a big basement room, him on a sofa. In the middle of the night Lauren woke me up and said “mumble mumble boy” so I went over there and a little voice came out of the darkness “I think I’m on the floor”.
Being Avuncular · You can read about Rob’s kids here; it turns out that the child he doesn’t write about much is a budding thirteen-year-old girl geek, in transition from Neo-Pets to DeviantArt. She’s scary-bright, pulls ultra-high marks with little effort. Says she wants to grow up and be a computer programmer so she can write games like Furcadia, and Lord knows our profession could use some smart young women.
So I started talking to her about HTML and CSS, and she’s got the idea that when you see a website you like, you can “View Source” and figure it out. Which, given the places she hangs out, had led her to use tables for everything.
So I showed her the CSS Zen Garden and explained
.class selectors and she spent the next couple of days glued to
the computer; she said
“I’m aligning things”.
Turns out she’s got a drop-dead cool online handle and I looked and the
domain names were free so I got her the
While I’ve given my share of advice over the years, I’ve never had this
sort of sensei feeling, and I like it. If she sticks with it, it’ll be
fun to help her with advice and computers and jobs.
Twenty-First Century Family Fun · We were hanging around talking about James Brown having died, Rob with our baby on his lap and a laptop propped on the arm of the sofa, and he said “Kids, look at this”, pulling up some of JB’s video. They liked it. So we all had fun picking extreme old videos to expand the kids’ minds; they saw We Ain’t Gonna Take It and the Aerosmith/DMC Walk This Way, and a few others, while we snickered and talked politics in the background. Hope we haven’t bent their minds.