One of the great recent turning points with Olive is the giggling. Babies are cute no matter what they are doing. But for a little while they just kind of stare. Then they smile at you and it rips your heart out and squishes it. Then after a little while they start making little noises when they get excited, little squeals that, if you are in another room, can sound exactly like the start of a cry. But now you get giggles. And it is awesome.
The issue is that no you know when baby is having a good time and when baby is not having a good time. And they don’t mind telling you. This means that you must be an entertainer, or at least a master of ceremonies, for your little baby patron. You don’t always need to be right in front of her, playing the court jester. But since she can’t move yet, you either need to move her to different spots, walk her around, or have a pitching rotation of about five different toys for her to play with. Reading a few books takes up some time, playing peek-a-boo does too. But you need to have a lot of arrows in your quiver. If you can keep her at one activity in one spot for 15-20 minutes, you win.
The end of the day is usually the toughest because she has already grown tired with some different activities; she needs new stuff. We have our nighttime routine pretty well down now. Olive gets picked up at daycare. We play with her for a while – which basically consists of sitting in front of her and handing her things to put in her mouth. To help development along we identify the things.
-Are you putting that rattle in your mouth?
-Does that slipper taste good?
-Ooooh, a remote control!
Then we usually walk around while Leanne or I make dinner. At this point she is probably starting to get hungry. So right as we start to eat, we have to work pretty hard to distract her from boredom AND hunger. If boredom creeps in, Olive realizes that she should be eating too.
After we shovel food in our mouths like it was our first day home from fat camp and pour a glass of wine down our throats we get Olive set up for dinner. Unfortunately, dinner requires you to have the baby motionless. So for a while she eats like a Viking. Chomping down unidentifiable, smooth, food-like substances. Then, she starts to get bored, and she finds other, more interesting ways to keep herself occupied. Last night she realized that she could reach the tray of the highchair with her mouth. So if I took too long to get more food on the spoon after a bite, she would snap down at the waist and start gnawing. (Still trying to figure out why babies do this. I spend 9 hours a day in front of a desk, never had I wondered what it tastes like). Then she saw a washcloth in my hand and decided that she wanted to play with that. This is when dinner time becomes much less efficient.
The next half hour or so usually goes pretty well. Bath time and getting her changed usually keeps her occupied. Then comes more playing, maybe some book “reading”, a final boob or bottle, and off to bed.
We have all the infant entertainment technology. We have the Exer-saucer (which one friend calls the Command Center and another calls the Circle of Neglect), we have the books, and the rattles, and she still likes chewing on measuring spoons. We have started to get some cause-and-effect toys. You know, the ones where you hit a button and something pops up or if you pull somewhere then music plays. But all those only buy you a limited amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, it is a blast playing with Olive. But you do get a little tired of identifying every item and asking questions that you know the answer too and that you don’t get responses for. It is a constant battle to entertain, and you have to mix it up. But every once and a while you stumble upon something that really gets her going.
Last night Leanne was out for a girl’s night to see a movie. I was an army of one in the boredom war. Olive had eaten and taken her bath and was starting to get grumpy but I didn’t want to put her to bed quite yet so I decided to change the scenery. I put her on her back on a bed upstairs. On a whim I rolled her over. From her back to her stomach and back onto her back. Like what you do when you roll down a grassy hill.
Then she looked up to me, smiled, and then cackled.
I mean laughed like a teenager laughs at fart jokes. Like a democrat laughs at Sarah Palin bumper stickers. So I rolled her over again. More laughing. You could almost her future self saying, “Again! Again, daddy!” We repeated this pattern for about 20 minutes. I rolled her over and rolled her back. She cracked up. I mixed up the routine. I rolled her from her back to her stomach and left her there. She paused on her tummy and then finished rolling by herself and laughed even harder.
It was great. Eventually I think she just started getting dizzy and the stomach full of oatmeal and bananas was telling her to stop rolling on the bed. So the laughter slowed down and I eventually calmed her down, fed her and put her to bed. But last night was a good night. Not only did I get a smile. Not only did I fend off the boredom. I kicked boredom’s ass. I had her laughing. I had her laughing so hard that she was out of breath when we stopped playing. But today is a new day. I may have won the battle, but the war continues.