The Five Dollar Baby

No, not a million dollar baby in a five-and-ten-cent store. A five dollar baby. The five dollar baby. Follow:

I mentioned here that The Boy and The Flower are both lawyers.

It’s not hard to figure out: They both learned quickly that they couldn’t get what they wanted through tantrums. An appeal to an authority called “The Parent Rules” dictated that, if a child had a tantrum, no matter how much a parent wanted to, there was just no way a child could get what he wanted.

This is an effective, if initially confusing, strategy. Because you say, “Oh no! Now I can’t give you the toy because you had a tantrum! I’m so sorry!” And the child becomes confused because he was sure you were the one keeping the toy from him, and yet here you are expressing regret that you can’t give him the toy.

But, you know, that’s really the truth. You want to give your kids what they want. It’s just good parenting that prevents you from doing it.

Anyway, this doesn’t work with The Barbarienne. The slightest refusal–and there are many in a three-year-old’s life–sends her into paroxysms of grief and/or anger. I haven’t quite figured it out. She doesn’t get what she wants from it. But there’s obviously some “reason” she does it anyway.

But it wasn’t always this way. Babies are funny things. There are things you can see on Day 1 that are there on Day 10,000. Essential characteristics. My sister started screaming the day she was born, and she’s still screaming. I was quiet; I’m still quiet.

Some babies cry a lot, some sleep easily, some fuss, some like to be held more than others, and so on. The Barbarienne seldom cried, and slept like a log. Nothing bothered her.

One summer weekend, when she was six months old, we went up to some friends who lived across from Magic Mountain. We barbecued, swam in the pool, and watched the fireworks go up from the park. In five hours, the Barbarienne didn’t cry, until the very end of the night when she was exhausted and needed to be changed. And as soon as she was changed, she went right to sleep.

My friends, who were debating whether or not to have children of their own, got into an argument. (Not a bad one; they’re the sort of couple that has cute arguments all the time.)

The wife said, “You see, babies aren’t that hard. They’re not much trouble.”
The husband replied, “This is perfect-baby. She never cries. Regular babies are difficult!”
And the wife responded, “Lots of babies are just like this!”
Finally, the husband said, “Five dollars! I’ll give you five dollars if you can find another baby like this!”

Hence, the Barbarienne became The Five Dollar Baby.

She was definitely rare, in my experience. I’d like to think it was the culmination of nearly 20 years of experience with the whole gestation/delivery/infant management process that made it possible, but it could just have been luck.

Anyway, at eighteen months, she completely changed and became The Barbarienne. “So, she’s going through terrible twos early,” I thought. My kids do that, so no big deal.

Er. Yeah. It’ll be two years of terrible twos pretty soon here. Why do I feel like this is going to be my life ten years from now?

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