19 November 2007

The thrills of parenting

There seems to be very few fathers who write about their children and parenting. Blogs abound of mothers discussing everything from stock-piling breast milk to the Mozart effect on children. Except for Marc Parent, I've read very few father accounts of raising kids. Why is that?

Is it that it's phenotypic of the male genetic code - to hunt, bring home bacon, and ward off attacking beasts (and so have little time to reflect and blog about baby's poo pattern) while the woman feeds, changes diapers and nurtures the child (and so meditate on every little burp and hiccup)? Or it just the stereotype of modern man? I don't know. But I sure got a story to tell.

The past few days I've had the chance to explore what it feels to be both. Joan had been on night shift for a stretch and then came down with a mega-flu that left her spluttering and coughing like a badly maintained wreck of a car. We decided it's best she slept in another room - a kind of reverse isolation as well as sound-proofing the ever-so-sensitive slumbering baby. I now know a little bit of what it's been like for her.

At about 8pm every night, Ethan is put to sleep. Much easier said than done, believe me. First there's the exhaust-himself phase of letting him crawl, scream, climb, and tear at every possible object in sight. When his eyes are red and he starts scratching his head, it's time to hold him and bounce around like a human spring. That will last anything from 10 minutes to half an hour.

We are not to be fooled by him shutting his eyes. To prematurely put him down will be a folly to regret - with another hour of wakefulness at least. The art is to cradle him another 10-15 minutes till he's 'deepened' (to borrow an anesthetist's term). When his limbs fall limp and his head flops around, you have licence to put him on the bed.

The next trick is to keep him asleep for the next 10 hours... Akin to 'topping up the relaxant' what you need to do is to prepare a night's supply of milk ready to be mixed and delivered. Set your very quiet alarm to go off at intervals just before extreme hunger. Half an hour too soon and you'll wake him unnecessarily. Too late and he'll wake you wailing, not to be easily placated. If your timing is just right, you can pick him up, slide the teat into amenable lips and have him gobble down enough milk to induce post-prandial hyperglycemia. Hence you have succesfully preempted the painful ritual of having to put him back to sleep at 2 o'clock in the morning.

Today, after giving Ethan his dinner, I decided to go for a walk to the neighbourhood mamak and get my own dinner. So, here we were, father and son, walking down the street. Hey, this is the 21st century, I thought to myself. What do you need to go get some food? It's not like we need to clobber hungry bears or ward off jackals. Fatherhood has come a long way since the Peking man. A pram and a brolly in one hand should suffice, so I thought. I was dead wrong.

We did the father-son walk in the evening thing.. Stop to meow at cats. Wave to toothless grandmothers. Watch for oncoming traffic. Until I saw him. His eyes bore holes into mine as we locked stares. The moment he knew I knew what he was thinking he leapt through the open gate, bounded across the street, fangs shining, claws in the air, barking with a baby-devouring vengeance. That's when my caveman instincts kicked in. Man against dog. Seriously I don't know where it came from. I spun Ethan's pram around to face away, blocked him off, and raised my (ahem) umbrella at the mangy mutt shouting some gibberish I can't remember. He stopped in his tracks and barked. Then I waved the tip of the umbrella at him menacingly as though to say 'one move and I'll smash your canine skull into so many pieces you'll regret the day you whimpered mama'. (Ok it was nothing as articulate as that)

Thankfully, I didn't have to do anything as embarassing as wrestle a dog or attempt to impale it with an umbrella. A girl ran up, yanked the dog's chain, and tried to reassure me 'he doesn't bite..'. Somehow the saliva dripping from his fangs and the psychopathic carniverous look in his eyes wasn't as reassuring. I mumbled something stupid, and quickly strode off. But not until checking on Ethan.. 'Are you ok? Were you frightened?' He looked up at me, puzzled, oblivious, and grinned.. as though to say, 'What was that all about?' Ok.. I was the one puking my heart out. It took me the rest of the walk to the store and back to calm my fibrillating heart.

The thrills and spills of parenting. Of being father and mother. I wouldn't exchange anything in the world for it. Though my wife doubts I'll feel that way tomorrow morning at 4, bobbing and swaying zombie-like. Me the human spring. Evolution. Look where it's got us.

03 November 2007

Laudate Dominum

Was putting Ethan to sleep with some Mozart and came to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, Laudate Dominum (Latin for Praise the Lord). Was pleasantly surprised to find more than one version of it on YouTube and a perfect translation into English on another website. What a wonderful night of worship through music.

I'm putting up the video which features Rachel Harnisch backed by the Berlin Philharmonic, and conducted by von Karajan. Divine.

The translation can be found at Emmanuel Music and sheet music for it at Williams Students Online

Praise the Lord, all nations;
Praise Him, all people.
For His has bestowed
His mercy upon us,
And the truth of the Lord endures forever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever,
and for generations of generations. Amen

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