Tuesday, May 15, 2007


We’ve reached a key parenting milestone: the last baby tooth. Last week I managed to get a glimpse inside Rowan’s laughing mouth and saw it: the top, left, two-year-old molar, half emerged. I thought he’d been little grumpy.

When he was eight months old and cutting his first tooth, waking screaming, inconsolable in the night, I remember my own panic and despair, at the thought of this helplessness multiplied by 20 teeth. According to my calculations, he’d never not be teething, never not be this unpredictable, screaming, drooling bundle with bright red cheeks. I’m pretty sure that’s when we became big advocates of the Children’s Advil, with interim doses of Tempra. And gin.

And, like pretty much everything else I’ve despaired over thus far with parenting, the teeth arrived more or less just fine. Some were cause for wakeful nights, multiple nursing sessions in the rocker. Some popped out like popcorn, two and three at a time, with barely a cranky moment to show for the effort. “Hey,” one of the other of us would say, “I think he’s got another one.” As he transitioned from the grab-everything-and-stick-it-in-my-mouth baby stage to the toddler who refused to open his mouth when we asked, it became a guessing game. “Can you tell?” “Nope, can’t see a thing.”

And now, we’re done. Just like we’re done worrying about whether we’ll ever sleep again (until, that is, this babe in utero is born; I keep telling myself that we’ll have more perspective this time around), read a novel again, see a movie again, feel well rested. Just like we’ll be done diapers, kindergarten, high school. (The gin was for us, just in case you were worried.)

Now that Rowan has 20 teeth, big kid that he is, he wants to use them. Fortunately, most of the time he wants to talk about using them, although we’ve both been nipped now, and some of the furniture is suffering. Yesterday morning, it was my turn to sleep in (another luxury that will disappear for a while once we have two), and as I lay in bed I could hear bits of conversation between Rowan Rachel downstairs:

“I want to bite Mommy.”

“No, no biting Mommy.”

“I bite other Mommy.”

“No Rowan, no biting other Mommy. Just kissing, not biting.” Pause. “Oh, thank you for my kiss. What a nice kiss. No biting couch.”

Later that evening, we were having one of those “Rowan is going to be a big brother” conversations. Currently, he thinks he’s going to have a sister, and her name is going to be Jack.

“When you’re a big brother,” Rachel asked him, “what are you going to do with the baby?”

We went through some of the options: big brothers play with the baby, read to the baby, pat the baby gently on the head, sing to the baby, show the baby trains.

“Bite the baby?” asked Rowan.

Our current anti-biting strategy is to sit him down firmly on his butt and tell him, “No biting!” before walking away. I’ll get back to you on whether it works. This, too, will pass. Until then, pass the Tempra.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


It takes several days and two mothers to cut Rowan’s hair. I begin the process in the bathtub, slicking down his hair with a wet washcloth and baby comb while he plays with Styrofoam Dora letters — “Oh! This one S!” he says. “For Tico!” “Yes,” I say, “Tico is a squirrel.”

The trick is not to let him know he’s getting a haircut, to hide the scissors quickly behind my back whenever he turns around. The trick is also, of course, not to draw blood while at the same time making it look as though a reasonable adult with a steady hand — and not, say, another two-year-old — gave him a trim. We’ve learned the secret of cutting up, not across, but that doesn’t work so well for getting things straight at the nape of his neck, the backs of his ears. Mostly, I cut relatively blind. “Well,” I say to Rachel, later that night in bed, “he has a lot less hair now.” We’ll see in the morning, when it dries, if there are any overly egregious bald spots or wavy lines.

I am mostly concerned with cutting before Rowan develops a full-on mullet, before the hair grows so thick at the sides of his head that he begins to resemble a football — what I now term wide head. Rachel is more concerned about his bangs growing over his eyes, so she takes over the next day while Rowan circles the coffee table with his toy trains. She manages several passes with the scissors before he runs away. And now we can see his eyes and his forehead again. His head is once again suitably, sweetly narrowed. I’m struck, as I always am whenever we give him a trim, of both how tiny and how grown up he is. The back of his neck is a bit of a hash: we’ll need to find a way to even up the hairline, get rid of the fine down — monkey hair, I call it — beneath it. A razor? Do we dare?

A little while ago, I was pondering a blog entry called “The day before you get a haircut”: when you’re so excited to finally get to your stylist, only to look in the mirror and realize that your hair looks fantastic and you don’t want to get it cut. With the new baby due in six weeks, Rowan suddenly became even sweeter, sunnier, more fun, and I found myself wishing we had more time with him alone before forever altering the dynamic.

Fortunately, however, things seem to have shifted. Our sunny toddler has become recently, rabidly passionate about most decisions: putting on a hat, sunscreen, his shoes, going inside. As I sat on the sidewalk yesterday, holding him in my lap while pinning down his arms so that Rachel could wrestle his (carefully chosen, 100% organic cotton) hat on his wailing head (only to have him rip it off repeatedly, yelling “No no no no no no no no no!”), I got a close-up view of the back of his sweaty, sunburned, messy little neck. We’ll need to fix it up one of these days.