Week in Review: Tantrums Increasing Nationally, Decreasing Locally

The week began with the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in American history with a black man as president. I didn’t do much to celebrate other than watch a few of the reverend’s speeches on Youtube, including this clip, one of the most stirring expressions of defiant courage ever captured on tape.

We should all be so brave, but we aren’t, as became unmistakably clear this week in the wake of Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election. The wisdom of my “add-on resolution” to-among other things-try to stop thinking of politics as a team sport was borne out by the pathetic Democratic response to this development. It was clear almost immediately that not only had no Democrat in a position of leadership considered what to do if Coakley lost, but also that the rest of them actually seem to think that there is something inherently good about their remaining in office, even if they are never able to achieve anything important. (We’ll leave aside, for the moment, the obvious lunacy in their apparent belief that, first, voting almost unanimously to approve a health-insurance reform bill, and then letting it die, will somehow help them this fall.)

It’s not that I’m switching teams, because I see no signs that the Republican Party is interested in the effective functioning of government or in anything else save regaining power, whatever the cost for the nation. But the Democrats-or enough of them that the rest don’t matter-seem equally as intent on losing power, at least as long as some of them get to keep their jobs. What is it about national political office that attracts such mediocrities? I wonder if they know how many of us wouldn’t hesitate for a second to trade every last one of them for the passage of the Senate bill. As insufferable as I find the smug self-satisfaction of so many people who call themselves “Independents,” it is difficult imagining ever again doing anything with the words “I am a Democrat” except choking on them.

I suppose there is still a one or two percent chance that the House might still pass the Senate bill, so perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ll certainly be interested to see what Obama does with his timely access to a national, prime-time audience this Wednesday.

On the home front, I began to feel this week as if I were finally understanding Coen a little better. I’d been experiencing real trouble getting the boy to take a bottle during my daily afternoon-long sentence shift as a house-dad, while Amy works a half day. The problem, in case you’ve never considered it, is that with a four-month-old you never know why he’s fussing, and-as you try to respond-you have no good way to do what scientists call controlling for variables. In other words, when he finally does take the bottle, you don’t know whether the temperature, position, timing, or some other unknown factor was finally right, or if he is finally hungry but wasn’t before, or, really, anything else except that you have experienced defeat at the hands of someone who still poops in his pants and doesn’t even have a Facebook account yet.

What happened this week sounds simple but borders on an epiphany for me: I realized that Coen is hungry less often and sleepy more often than I had previously been in the habit of thinking. Sure, when offered the bottle, he’ll try a few sips, but-as in the case of his father-the mere fact that he is eating doesn’t tell you the first thing about whether he’s hungry or not. The whole experience is a good reminder that we see what we expect to see-the proportion of hungry to sleepy has essentially reversed itself from what I got used to early on-but I expect I probably won’t really learn from this experience, instead continuing to make similar mistakes in attempting to understand Coen for at least the next twenty years or so.

Speaking of Coen, we enrolled on his behalf in a so-called “Kiddo Care” course that was organized by a local parenting magazine called Mamalode. (In addition to offering a course in first aid and CPR aimed at parents of young children, Mamalode has the good sense to publish my writing; my essay “Mate Feeding” is currently scheduled to appear in their February issue, although I’m pretty sure the magazine’s content is only available on paper.)

We asked a colleague of Amy’s to babysit for us while we attended the Saturday morning class, but when she stopped by for “training” on Thursday, it quickly became clear that Coen is not really all that sittable right now. We decided to just take him along to the class (after asking the teacher), and it worked out pretty well. There was a twenty-minute interlude when I had to pop him in the stroller and go for a walk along scenic 39th Street (the course, taught by a paramedic, took place in the classroom of the city’s Fire Station Number Three at the bottom of Hillview Way), but overall he was very well-behaved, including when the instructor used him to demonstrate infant CPR.


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