Wills of Steel

Jan. 5 - DAY ONE. Last night went better than expected. We're weaning Molli off night-time feedings, and we'd figured it would be a rough night.

Usually—and I use the term in the broadest, least significant sense—usually, Molli goes to sleep about 8pm, wakes up for a feeding around one or two in the morning, then wakes up for a snack at about four and breakfast around six or seven. Sometimes she doesn't need a four o'clock feeding; sometimes she wails for one every hour from three onward. Once in a while she makes it from eight to two and then from two to seven without any additional interruptions. (Those are rare, sweet nights.)

All of this has been easy on me to this point, because night-time feedings are provided by means of milk-producing mammary glands, of which I'm mercifully unequipped. My role has been that of sympathizer. I've learned to say "poor baby" and "I wish I could help" without even waking up.

No more. The plan is that from yesterday on, she'll be put to bed around 8pm and will not be fed until six at the earliest. Period. We were, obviously, prepared for a hellish night.

"Buy earplugs," friends and family advised. "Get her crib out of your room," others opined. We anticipated shrieking madness from two until six. We promised ourselves we would absolutely not cave into her demands any earlier than 2:30, and would then extend our mercilessness by half-hour increments every night until Molli had been conditioned to make it through the whole night. We reassured ourselves it was all for her benefit. We reminded ourselves we were good, loving parents—if not desirable neighbors.

At 12:53 am I awoke to a cry of hunger. Trine sat up immediately. I reminded her of the wisdom of the Very Wise People Who Know More Than We Do (the VWPs for short):

"Let her cry for a minute or two, then lean over the crib and tell her we're sorry she's hungry, we love her, but she needs to go back to sleep. You do it this time, and I'll do it next time."

We got through that order of business within about three minutes. It was 12:56 am and Molli had not been moved by our rhetoric.

By 1:12 am we'd persuaded ourselves that it would not violate the letter of the VWP's law if one of us were to lift Molli up and comfort her for a few minutes. I was nominated for this responsibility and I accepted it. No sooner had I hoisted the still sobbing girl out of her crib than Trine wondered aloud if we'd made a mistake.

"Maybe she'll cry for our attention all night now," she said.

Suddenly we couldn't remember what the VWP had said about providing comfort. It didn't seem important. What mattered was that Molli had quieted down and was nestling into my chest as I swayed her gently back and forth.

"Fuck it," I said. "She's falling asleep."

"Sh!" Trine exclaimed. "Don't wake her!"

"You sh!" I said.

Trine growled—unless it was my stomach, which it may well have been: we're eating a lot less since the holidays and my overstretched stomach was emptier than it had been in a long time.

"Sorry," I said, but I said it in such an ambiguous way that both Trine and my stomach might have thought I was addressing them specifically.

Molli squirmed a little in my arms, then gradually went limp as a few more minutes ticked by.

At about 1:16 am I laid her back in her crib. She looked angelic, sleeping sweetly and no doubt dreaming pretty little Molli dreams of edible cats and mobile telephones.

At about 1:16:15 am, she opened her eyes, kicked up her legs, and shrieked as though I'd just yanked off one of her limbs.

"Sweet Jesus," I said.

"What?" Trine said. But I couldn't hear her any better than she could hear me. I tried to cork Molli with the pacifier but she spat it out rebelliously, scowling fiercely. There is much pride in this one; the hunger is strong with her.

Trine and I held an emergency summit under our blankets as Molli continued to wail.

"I don't know how much more of this I can take," I said.

Trine concurred.

"Maybe we can just go to two o'clock tonight," I suggested.

Trine disagreed.

"Maybe we could carry the crib out into the living room," I suggested. The resolution failed to carry.

"Maybe we could take half-hour shifts with her, where one of us sleeps in the living room while the other one stays in here with her."

"Maybe," Trine said. I was about to nominate myself for the position of first sleeper when Molli suddenly rose her shrieks to such a pitch that we could hear our wineglasses shattering in the kitchen.

"Maybe we could trade her in for a dog," I offered. (Trine's known me for more than a decade now, so she knew I wasn't actually fool enough to consider trading our daughter for anything less than a Lexus.)

Instead Trine leaned over the crib and talked sweetly to Molli until her shrieks were reduced to gentle whimpers. It was 1:18 at this point.

By 1:20 I was at the crib, talking my own sweet nonsense to the shrieking demon child and trying to persuade her to pull her little blankie over her head and go to sleep like a good girl. She quieted again and actually shut her eyes. She was still squirmy, but she's a little squirmy by nature.

I laid myself back down in bed and told Trine I thought I might have bought us some time. The clock ticked to 1:21, 1:22, 1:23.

"Damn, I'm good," I said.

"Sh," Trine said.

1:24, 1:25, 1:26.

I may actually have fallen asleep, because I don't seem to remember 1:27 through 1:30. But I will never forget 1:31. That's the moment at which I thought every car-, smoke-, and fire-alarm in Scandinavia had been simultaneously activated in our bedroom.

We rushed to the cradle together. Molli stared up at us contemptuously, furious, venomous. We told her all the sweet things the VWP had told us to say. We cooed and coddled and smiled and probably scarred her for life with the disgusting obsequiousness of our performance.

By 1:38 she was calm again.

And so it went for another thirty minutes. At 2:18 I turned to Trine and said, "For God's sake, we'll never make it. Let's just give her a meal and try to do better tomorrow."

My wife has a will of steel. "Twelve more minutes," she said. "She can do it, I know she can do it."

* * *

I ought to mention that Molli was almost born nine weeks premature. The doctors had been very concerned about what appeared to be some heavy uterine bleeding and wanted to yank Molli out of the womb a full nine weeks before her due date. They gave Trine a shot of hormones or adrenaline or something to accellerate the development of Molli's lungs, "to improve her chances." Such words sent a chill of horror through Trine and myself. Her chances?

An hour or two after she'd received the shots, the doctor said she'd prepared an operating room and was ready to go.

Trine shook her head. "You said it takes 24 hours for those shots to be effective," Trine reminded her. "She can make it one more day. She needs one more day."

The doctor, sensing steel, relented. Trine made it one more day. And at the end of that day, she said, "She can make it two more days for the second round of shots." And the doctors deferred to her. And after two more days, Trine told the doctors Molli was not going to come out for another ten days, by which point she'd have developed enough that there wouldn't be any need for foolish talk of "chances."

And Trine held onto Molli until the first day of the thirty-fourth week of her pregnancy.

Will. Of. Steel.

* * *

I can't break down the next twelve minutes, because I myself broke down. I fell asleep. The next thing I knew it was 4:30 in the morning. Molli bleated a familiar little bleat—the one that means she's still asleep but her pacifier fell out of her mouth and would it be too much goddam trouble for one of us to replace it, thank you?

I leaped up from bed and gave her the pacifier, which settled her instantly, before I noticed the time.

"Oh my God," I said.

"Sh," Trine said.

"When did you feed her?" I asked.

"I didn't," Trine said.

Indeed she hadn't. Nor did she until six o'clock this morning.

I don't know who has more steel in her bones: Trine or Molli.

But I despair of ever getting my way in a house with these two magnificent women. No wonder the Vikings plundered so ruthlessly abroad—God have mercy on the poor little Viking man who came home with an empty plunder sack.

* * *

Heh—I said "plunder sack."

* * *

The main point of all this is that I'm back, but only sporadically until we're through this transition. (We're also weaning Molli, which complicates things further.)

* * *

The thirteenth of this month will mark the sixth anniversary of the Moron's Almanac. Six years of this drivel. What in the name of God have I been thinking? I don't get paid for it, I don't get enough hits to qualify for any of the cool fame meters, I haven't got a single opinion whose dissemination I consider important enough to justify such a body of work, and I'm a half-assed editor—meaning that, to this point, my legacy is a vast, editorially-challenged body of worthless literature out for the world to see. And it's all been archived to death, so I can't even cover my tracks by deleting the site.

If only I had committed some heinous crime, or established genital contact with a celebrity, or been the first to hear and report some shocking rumor about an important public figure. . . but I haven't been. I've just been plodding away at my own trivial life, tossing off idle thoughts of no particular value, and reminding the world of important things like holidays in Vanuatu and the Tready of Tordesillas. I have nothing new to say, and I'm not the kind of stylist that can make the ordinary seem extraordinary. I'm not an ideologue. I have no drum to beat, no soapbox to climb on, no narrative center. The world bewilders, annoys, and enthralls me, depending on my mood, and my mood is influenced by every piffling thing that comes along: a spicy meal, a strong drink, a long line.

In fact, that's my pathology in a nutshell: whenever I get to thinking about something, I can't see how it could possibly be anything else—for good or ill, things are what they are, we are who we are, and whatever happens was probably bound to happen anyway. Or, as a popular philosopher once put it, whatever will be, will be. The zeitgeist of the popular internet blogs seems to be whatever will be, will suck, unless you listen to my extraordinarily high-pitched, potty-mouthed rants and do exactly as I say.

I'm not a squeaky wheel but I can live without the grease.

The internet is so mainstream now, though, that having a website doesn't provide any "separation" or other marketing advantage for my writing. In fact it's detrimental to my writing, in that it eats up time that could be better spent on more profitable projects. Not only that, but these sites give me abundant opportunity to make an ass of myself and probably obliterate my chances of serious employment in this lifetime.

So I came within a hair's breadth of calling the whole thing off today.

But people have been remarkably generous with their money and, dare I say it, with their souls. I've made real-world friends through this useless chunk of internet property, which probably compensates for the real-world friends and relatives I've alienated. (Including my wife and daughter, who will both someday read this post and have me deported.) Given the number and excellence of the people I've met through the site, I just don't have the cojones to shut it down and cut myself off from the other excellent people I might someday meet due to their having somehow stumbled into my midst. (Yes, that's where you are now: in my midst. The moronic midst.)

So I'm going to keep going but I'm going to make some changes: the Almanac may not always be daily and MoronAbroad is going to be terminated. As for the Moronic Underground—well, it's out there, you're welcome to visit, but God only knows how often I'll check in. (If you're on my blogroll, fret not: I'm going to find a way to integrate my blogroll onto these regular Almanac pages.)

And so, in closing—and the VWP will tell you that you must always announce when you're closing lest people mistakenly believe you're merely winding down for a potty break—in conclusion. . .

I don't know. Whatever.

* * *

Today is the birthday of Marilyn Manson (1969), Pamela Sue Martin (1953), Diane Keaton (1946), Juan Carlos I, King of Spain (1938), Alvin Ailey (1931), Robert Duvall (1931), Walter Mondale (1928), George Reeves (1914), George Dolenz (1908), and Konrad Adenauer (1876).

Happy New Year!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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