Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tartar control

I've never watched a whole Western  movie in my life so bear with me, but you know that scene where the horse dealer pulls down the horse's lips, I guess to check its health or its age or something? You know what I'm talking about?

Good. Let's talk about my baby. It's bedtime, and your job is to get him to sleep. This is what happens:

You feed him. He looks on this not as a moment of relaxation, but as a meal to be consumed, calories to be absorbed. It is a regenerative act. He drinks, reclining. He pushes you away. He sits upright. He wants to play.

As the saying goes, resistance is futile. So while normal children would be drowsy now, rocking in your arms, he must be set free for five minutes of floor exploration. Look! The heat vent! Let's bang on it. He'll pull on your pants when he's ready for phase two of Operation: Sleep.

Phase two is short, and mainly because it's pointless. You try to get him to relax in your arms, on your chest, against your shoulder. He'll burrow in. He'll lure you into a false confidence. Then he'll sit up, smile, drum your chin, climb up out of your arms and over your shoulder. You catch him by the ankles as he dives for that heat vent.

Ooh, that heat vent. She's such a breathy temptress.

You enact phase three: the Stand, Sway, Bounce and Shush dance. It's a classic. But the baby has his counter-attack in position. As you hold him in your arms, he goes for your face. He bops you on the nose, bop bop bop. But your nose is not a whack-a-mole; nor does it squeak. He goes in deeper.

But you're a veteran. You know the only way out of this situation is straight through it. You remind yourself that you're stronger and have more patience. You do not, under any circumstances, think about what your two unsupervised children are doing. You carry on, like a good soldier.

He cries. He bucks. His eyes close, only a little. You keep the steady course. Stand sway bounce shush. Stand sway bounce shush. There was a time when he didn't need all this maneuvering, but that was before the teeth started marching forth. This was hard the first time you ran this strategy, when he was a newborn, eight pounds.

Damn teeth. They're thiiiis close to cutting through, you think. He's also thiiiis close to triple those eight pounds. Your back protests but you ignore it like the thought of the potential mayhem of your unsupervised children.

He needs to tuck in. His nose buries into your elbow. His lower hand takes in a fistful of your sweater. His upper hand clutches at your chin. He moves north, squeezing your whole mouth in his fingers. He goes in.

In. In your mouth. This is how he wants to fall asleep, now. Every night, he sticks his fingers in your mouth. Perhaps to learn the mysteries of teeth? He pulls your lower lip down, hangs his fist on it. His thumb cradles your mouth. His fingers scratch your gumline.

Your face is his lovey.

You stand and sway and bounce and shush and he scratches, squeezes, mauls, squeezes. And you don't sneeze, don't swallow, don't drool, don't move. You let him fall asleep hanging on your lower lip.

Maybe it's a bad analogy, see. Don't think I didn't notice its flaw: I made myself the horse. But after his eyes finally close and you lower him in the crib and retrieve your face, you think:

It's not such a bad system. He's keeping my dental bills low. And finally, he's sound asleep. Pin It