Thursday, November 23, 2006

mi-iv: operation sweet pea

THE MISSION: 4:00 a.m., Thursday 23 November, Thanksgiving Day.
Two parental authorities with a certain package codenamed Sweet Pea arrived in Canton at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning after driving from their operations base in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. They had Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday night in Canton and planned to leave St. Lawrence County (codename God’s Country) the next day to consume another Thanksgiving dinner. By the end of Wednesday evening, completely wiped out, they went to bed early.

My mission, if I decided to accept it, was to go downstairs, wait in ambush, and take possession of Sweet Pea. In all likelihood, only one of the two parental authorities would accompany the package to the kitchen. I was to immobilize the P.A. and go to the predetermined rendezvous point to wait for the eventual handoff of the package to another agent, codename Grandma.

I accepted the mission.

I quietly went downstairs and waited, under cover, on the living room couch.

THE AMBUSH: 6:00 a.m., Thursday 23 November, Thanksgiving Day.
I awoke on the couch. There were sounds in the kitchen. I waited. Perfect timing is essential to any well-executed ambush. I went into the kitchen and there was one P.A. holding Sweet Pea. The P.A. was big, 6’2" and outweighed me by 30 pounds. Physical force was out of the question even though I had the element of surprise and he still may be drowsy from the previous evening’s turkey consumption. Still, it was too risky. I could not take any chance of the noise attracting the other P.A. No, a more subtle approach was needed.

Fortunately, my timing could not have been better. I approached the P.A. just as he had finished warming a bottle and said in a concerned, fatherly manner, “I’m up, why don’t you let me feed her and you can go back to bed.” Caught by surprise and still in a bit of a stupor, he readily agreed and was soon upstairs, immobilized. I took Sweet Pea to the rendezvous point in the living room and gave her the bottle. We waited.

THE WAIT: 6:05 a.m., Thursday 23 November, Thanksgiving Day.
Sweet Pea enjoyed the bottle and was happy. There seemed to be some action happening at the lower end of the package. However, I could not smell anything, so how bad could it be? Probably just gas. We could deal with it later.

I put Sweet Pea on the floor. She has started to crawl, sort of. It is more a cross between an inchworm-type crawl and a soldier’s belly crawl. I just toss a few of her toys around and she can go for what she wants. It seems she is a bit of an intellectual and prefers newspapers. She likes to crinkle the paper and then taste it. The True-Value flyer is better than the Watertown Daily Times but her overall favorite is the blue Best Buys advertising insert.

This was a great time mostly because there were no EXPERTS around. Experts are parents (P.A.’s) who even though they admit that we went through four babies of our own just fine, and have taken care of countless other babies and know quite a lot about babies in general, they have just a really hard time believing that we know much about their child. Of course, the most expert of the Experts (optimates parentus) are First Time Parents (FTPs). Their child is so unique and so special that we cannot be expected to know how to respond in the unique ways they have learned by trial and error. Only they know what works with their child.

Often FTPs just take the baby with the first indication of any fussiness. Occasionally, they do try to teach us. For example, an FTP might speak and explain slowly, “When she fusses in that particular way you must hold her at approximately a forty-five degree angle with your left arm while standing on one foot, preferably the right one, but be sure to hold your left ear between the thumb and index finger of your right hand, elbow either over or behind the head – never in front of your face -- while smacking your lips.” Given the subtleties of the different baby fusses and the detailed solutions offered for each one, it is no wonder the Experts have their doubts about our abilities to learn to care for their babies.

Sweet Pea is quite smart. Without a P.A. around, we get along quite fine. Once she realizes her parents are not there to respond to her, she quickly figures out not only has she not trained me, but that I am not disposed to be trained. Soon we both know that I am bigger than her and we quickly establish a good working relationship. The fun can begin.

THE MESS: 7:15 a.m., Thursday 23 November, Thanksgiving Day.
After having a great time playing, I thought I had better check the lower end of the package. After going through many layers of clothing and partially removing the diaper, I discovered that there was indeed a dirty diaper. It was much bigger and messier than I could have imagined -- the worst I had seen in over fourteen years. I grabbed a clean diaper and the package of wipes. However, there was no changing pad. I was not about to change her on top of my fleece blanket or even our carpet. So, I put a section of the newspaper under her. Hey, it works for parakeets and dogs. Since she is somewhere between the two in size, I figured it would work with her as well.

I opened a clean diaper, placed it under the dirty one, and finished opening the dirty one. It was not a pretty sight. I tried getting a diaper wipe out but they were all connected like paper towels. It looked like I had pulled out a three-foot long wipe. I quickly dropped her feet, tore off a smaller section of the extended wipe, then quickly grabbed her feet again before she could start kicking who knows what to who knows where.

What I wonder about is where did it all come from? Sweet Pea is tiny and I could not figure out where she stored the entire volume of the mess extruded. It seemed to violate certain well-established laws of physics. Is there some chemical reaction with air that makes baby poop expand after exiting the body?

Sweet Pea was patient with me, but the operation was not going well and taking far too long. Humming the Mission Impossible theme inspired me and seemed to entertain her a bit but after awhile she had had enough. The fussing began.

MISSION OVER: 7:20 a.m., Thursday 23 November, Thanksgiving Day.
I had just finished the diapering and was in the process of getting Sweet Pea’s clothes back on when the other P.A. appeared. She had come downstairs to sleep on the couch in the den. This was probably prompted by the noise the first P.A. makes at night when immobilized. The den also provided a base to launch a rapid deployment force in case she heard fussing. She took Sweet Pea away “to feed her” and my mission ended.

RENDEZVOUS ABORTED: 7:35 a.m., Thursday 23 November, Thanksgiving Day.
Grandma came down to the living room. There was no package to hand off. As I expected in such cases, there was no acknowledgement of the mission.

EPILOGUE:
I should have changed Sweet Pea’s diaper right after she had her bottle. She would not have been fussy then. I easily would have gained the extra fifteen minutes needed to rendezvous with Grandma and complete the handoff.

I see now that I was in denial about the dirty diaper. A good agent must deal with the reality of a situation. He cannot afford the luxury of being in denial.

The mission was not a complete failure. I did get some quality time with the package. The first P.A. did get some extra sleep. However, the second P.A. did not get as much extra sleep as needed.

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