There are only two fundamental difficulties that we’ve encountered so far during Eric’s first eight weeks with us. One strikes at the body, and the other at the mind.

Some body damage is obvious and well-known even in non-spawning circles. They correlate with the circles under eyes of new parents, and consist of the chronic fatigue arising from the offspring’s shortened sleep/wake cycle. As the cycle thankfully extends over time, so does offspring’s peak scream volume, partially cancelling out the former’s benefit.

Other minor body damage relates to the weight of the protohuman, which unless he’s very sick, increases rapidly. Holding a mass up at one’s chest requires a biped to lean backward and/or strain those lower back muscles. That last bit leads to chronic back pain, which can start after just a few minutes of holding offspring. Bodybuilding is highly recommended.

The mind damage comes from feelings of utter frustration in trying to satisfy a little brat (and increasingly frequently over time, trying to decide when not to). At this stage, there are only five types of active things we can do for him:

  • feed
  • burp (make him burp; parental burping doesn’t count)
  • diaper change
  • holding
  • playing (letting him exercise like proto-crawling, -climbing)

We refer to these alternatives with the numbers 1-5 in the family, as in “Dremin, try #4”, or “Holy cow, is that the fifth #3 this hour?”. Oddly, putting him down to sleep lacks a code number, since it’s an act of desparation (see below), and so does medical attention, since he hasn’t needed any.

The aforementioned mind problem is that the brat, having the communicative ability of a rodent, fails to hold up a number flashcard identifying his current complaint. We have to guess, and guess what, five minutes later conditions may change, and we will have to guess again.

But what to do when none of #1-5 work? There you have a crying kid, gradually turning red and rageful, with no known remedy. It turns out that many of these times, there is no real satisfiable concern at all, and like many of us, he likes to get into a self-amplified vicious moping cycle. Sometimes this cycle can be interrupted with a brief toy encounter (#5) or a quick lifted romp around upstairs (#4), but other times it cannot. And during these times, a well-meaning offspring maker can feel rather powerless, stupid, and guilty. Over time, that damage leads to depression.

I try not to let it get that far. When a good-faith bargaining effort fails (including all of #1-5 in a reasonable time period), I am willing to give up, and back down to #0 – putting him down. (No, not like putting down a rabid dog.) Little brat can then entertain himself in his little room, with his vocal virtuosity. If he’s laid on his front side, he generally gives up the moping and falls asleep in a few minutes. On the politically correct back side, it takes longer. In either orientation, sometimes he instead keeps up a good ruckus, and you know what, the cold-hearted parent that I can be, I can accept that.