A hamster’s thoughts on his first child


There is a thing called ‘sleep training’ that parents are ordered to go through after producing a child. It goes like this: for the first few months you just replicate the womb, but outside of your bodies. You sit in this grubby amniotic-apartment, and quiver over a tiny little fragment, a creature whose fragility is so intense you assume it must be eternal. In this window of time, babies, sometimes, die in their sleep, and no one really knows why. Unknowns birth superstition and arbitrary sacrifice, and so you sacrifice your most precious possessions, your sleep and sanity, to appease the god of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome). According to Wikipedia, the chief symptom of SIDS is “Death of a child less than one year of age.” That is the symptom.

After three months, the chance of this happening reduces, but, if you’re me, you still live in near-total fear, as the child-fragment becomes more of a child-slug: totally inept and useless, but quasi-independent. The womb becomes a normal room, albeit one with a baby in it. After 6 months, the slug evolves into something like a self-rolling log, and it is now safe to push it into another room while you sleep, and watch it roll around on what is called a ‘baby monitor’: a device that transforms a normal semi-bourgeois room into a lo-fi horror movie, replete with rustling sounds, haunting cries, chaotic artifacts, and glowing eyes. Bad film equipment conjures ghosts, and the ‘monitor’ conveniently positions these ghosts right around the cradle, where they belong. After a full year there is, thankfully, no danger of SIDs, because if a 366 day old baby dies in her sleep, they call it something else. (Unless it’s a leap year).

Six months into this process, you ‘sleep train’ a baby. From the womb to the room, to the chamber down the hall: you put it in a crib, sing it a Yiddish worker’s anthem, and let it cry itself to sleep while you watch it flail on the ghost machine. It is terrifying, but it is necessary, or so I am told.

I once thought that the necessary was the non-contingent. I now know this to be false: the necessary is what Google tells you to do. Montreal Lemmy, a.k.a. ‘Cube,’ has taught me the spiritual value of the path of least resistance. I once looked at people on this path with contempt, but I have joined their docile number, and willingly. Google determines the direction of this path, and so Google is, functionally speaking, the third parent in this home. When I am unsure which way to turn, I go to my laptop, enter my search terms, and submit to the results. I rarely get to the bottom of the results page before I have taken up my marching orders.

And so, sleep training. Here google and the doctor speak in a single voice, and the Cube has been exiled down the hall.

The difficulty is: it has not been so terrible. After a song or two, the little guy sleeps more soundly than I do, and clearly misses me far less than I miss him. Apparently, he didn’t need my comforts as much as I needed his, and he now sleeps without my fearful interruptions. I, of course, remain petrified, and wake up to every monitor hiss and crackle, staring at his night-vision-ghost body on a tiny digital screen, secure in the knowledge that I am marching on the road towards clingy, emotionally demanding, parenthood.



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