I’ve always heard that your life changes when you have your first child. You are forced to grow up fast. Suddenly, it’s not all about you anymore.
Not having children of my own, I had taken these assertions at face value. I had no reason to believe otherwise. But I never experienced any of this personally, so the whole kid thing didn’t mean a whole lot to me. Until now.
This is not about nieces and nephews. I have eleven of those, at last count. Jonathan, Joey, Jessica, Jordan, Steven, Karena, Elliot, Shayna, Jacob, Rebecca and Isaac. Did I miss anyone?
Most of them are adults now, and they lived far away from me as kids. I didn’t see them often enough to affect my worldview. However, like parents who say that their grandchildren are so much fun that they should have had them first, it is my first grandniece who has caused me to see things differently.
We still have to deal with the distance problem. You have to take work where you can get it these days. Hayden, who was born in September, lives more than 600 miles away, at the other end of California.
We are undaunted. My wife and I know that we can make it in eleven hours flat if it doesn’t snow over the Grapevine and we don’t run into a traffic jam resulting from a wreck on the 5. Once there, we get to hold Hayden, talk to her, play with her. With all the advantages of grandparents, we get to hand her off to her mother or grandmother when she poops her diaper or begins to wail.
The living room of Hayden’s apartment looks like Toys R Us in miniature. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed that we are the guilty parties. At the merest suggestion of an item her mother thinks Hayden may want or need, we are usually online looking to order it and have it delivered.
And we are dreamers. I dream of Hayden going to college one day, and we set up her college fund when she was born. I can’t imagine how much tuition will cost in 2030.
When we can’t be there, my wife gets by with technology, an area in which I am seriously ignorant. She does something called Face Time, which enables Hayden and her to see each other on the laptop or smart phone. Meanwhile, we plan for the next trip. Let’s see… Easter in three weeks? Check. Fourth of July? Check. No, no, that’s too long in between. Can we squeeze in Memorial Day? Hmm, if I take vacation the day before and the day after . .
Hayden is fascinated by the colorful mobiles that hang down from her little seat, close enough for her to bat at and squeal with delight. The DVR is set up to record every episode of Sesame Street. This way, when she sits in front of the TV, she gets to watch something educational. Not that she is old enough to understand any of it. But perhaps exposure to all those lessons about letters, numbers and words sink in by some baby osmosis that science has yet to fully appreciate.
I must admit to having been amazed to discover that Sesame Street still exists, albeit with a few characters that I don’t remember from the old days. I mean, what TV show is still broadcasting new episodes after forty years?
I remember watching the earliest installments of Sesame Street with my youngest sister in 1969 and 1970. She was in first grade and was experiencing some difficulty catching on to the reading thing. I would pore over the madly colorful pages of Richard Scarry’s books with her, wondering how anyone could fit so many things on a two-page spread. And even though I was already in sixth grade, we were mesmerized by the antics of Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. Inevitably, while engaging in a spirited game of hide and seek one day, my sister climbed into one of our steel trash cans and put the lid on, just like our furry friend on TV. (I don’t think it was worth it, as my parents forced her to take a bath after that little escapade.)
My sisters and I were TV addicts, even though only a few channels were available on our black and white set. If we weren’t indulging in our insatiable appetite for cartoons, we spent hours watching children’s shows such as Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Electric Company, Romper Room and, of course, Sesame Street.
We’d sing along with the “Sunny Days” theme song and laugh til our sides split when Oscar the Grouch sang “I Love Trash.” It’s good to see much of the old gang still hanging out on Sesame Street. One of the residents with whom I was not familiar, however, is a pink fairy-in-training named Abby Cadabby. Forever three years old, she can “poof” in and out of scenes and turn things into pumpkins.
Looking up Abby online, I learned from The New York Times that she has only been around on the Street for a few years and is the star of an unaired episode about divorce. Now there’s a topic I can’t imagine on kids’ TV back in 1969. The Times describes how, when some of the cast are asked to describe the house in which they live, Abby draws two pictures, one of her Mommy’s place and one of her Daddy’s. Even fairies’ parents can’t get along anymore? Who knew?
With Hayden, I watched an episode in which a detective on vacation is forced back into action to solve a whodunit when his big bowl of raspberry raisin ravioli mysteriously disappears as he is about to dig in. It seems that rapscallion rascal, the letter R, is the guilty party.
Raspberry raisin ravioli? Hmm… maybe stuffed with mascarpone cheese, this could be a nouveau cuisine dessert. Hey, anything is possible.
I do hope Hayden eventually becomes fast friends with Abby Cadabby. As Abby likes to call her mommy on her wand cell phone, I don’t think it will be long until Hayden demands her very own iPhone. When we cave in and buy her one, I hope she calls her uncle once in a while. Or she can text me. Yeah, it would have to be texting. I guess phone calls are hopefully old-fashioned. Or maybe an email. Or a tweet. Or whatever they’ll have then. One thing’s for sure: this techno-klutz will be clueless as to how to use the technology. But for Hayden, I will learn.
Maybe I’ll even spring for a ring tone that chimes “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”