We went on vacation last week. It was Max’s first time at an American beach. It’s funny because when he was really little we took him to the Dominican Republic, but then, he couldn’t walk so he couldn’t do any real exploring alone. This time, my hope, was that he would see the beach, and get so excited that he ripped off his diaper and went running across the sand, little butt to the world, saying, this is freedom!! He did not. I don’t mind saying I was a little disappointed, that he, my son…was scared. Not of the ocean or anything on the beach, though I’m sure seeing the ocean for the first time as a human can be overwhelming, and looking out at that vastness must be a little like realizing, oh shit, that’s one big room that never ends, and then you have your first real existential thought, which will now haunt you. However it was not that, he didn’t like the way the sand felt on his feet. It freaked him out. Every time I put him down he would grab my legs and make me pick him back up. So we stayed on a blanket, Max on a beach chair and enjoyed the sun. The is the first time that I thought, “I wonder if my son will be a weird kid.” First, I love this boy, and I don’t think he’s weird. I can’t define exactly what I mean. A weird kid. Especially now when every kid seems to want to be weird. I mean I grew up in the south listening to punk rock and watching french movies. I always felt weird, like an outsider but this, what I was wondering now, was different. Would other people look at my son differently? Is this the guy who is obsessed with his scabs and picks them in public. Or is he OCD? Does he have to count every time he touches metal. Does texture just bother him? God forbid he’s an in public toenail clipper. Will he be the guy standing just on the edge of the sand while everyone else walks to the water? I’ve know people in my life who always struggle with that one thing, like food, blood, zits, dogs, germs, or Tonka trucks. They can never quite get over something, always end up watching other people, but never participate. I stared at him sitting under the umbrella and smiled. A dog down the beach was barking and he got excited. He loves dogs. I suppose that will never be a problem, a fear of dogs.
It was our last day and after while I felt we should do something more beachy than sitting on the beach.
“Let’s go to the boardwalk and get ice cream, we can give him some.” I said with a grin.
This was me setting myself up for disappointment again, wanting my boy to react a certain way, hoping that he would love ice cream so much that the joy would seep from his mouth through the cracks of his smile like the joy we all think we must have felt when we first had something sweet and wonderful. That I would be graced with a son who would always love his father because of the gift he gave him at 15 months old, ice cream.
Nicole, who always indulges my childhood whims, said of course and we walked back tot he house and the car.
When in the car Nicole said “How old is he supposed to be before we give him ice cream.”
“I don’t know, I said.
“Google it.” Was her reply.
Google it. So I did. Nicole looked at me and a said
“We are the first generation of Google parents.”
I stopped mid Google. Hm. We are, aren’t we. Then I finished typing on my iPhone,
“How old should children be before you give them..”
It finished the thought for me. I didn’t even have to type it. Those fancy algorithms that Google uses to predict the future helped me find my answer before I knew exactly what the question was. The answer was one. Because at that point you have introduced dairy. Just so you know. There was my answer. But I was suddenly I was concerned. So now there is an entire generation of people such as myself that don’t have to learn about what it means to be a parent. Don’t get me wrong, we have to learn, there is no other way to be a parent, but, now, there is no quest. The information is just there. No going to a relative because they did it a generation before you. No community with an old crone whose wise eyes squint with sun stained wrinkles when you walk in the door, whose whole life has always been about helping parents parent. It’s just there. Some place on a server. Waiting. Do I like this? Yes. I do. It’s very convenient and lets me have time that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Time to spend with my family or type this blog. Does it frighten me? Yes, it does. We do nothing for that knowledge, nor do I know anything about the person who wrote it. Nothing. I am trusting the health of my child to a stranger’s ideas about parenting. It’s not much different that picking a person on the street at random and asking their opinion. A book, now a book at least feels safer. At least with a book the information isn’t fluid. It stays the same. The internet is ever changing, it takes information and turns it to water, which, we then lap up and feed to others. I like it and it frightens me. It makes me less thirsty and parched.
We drove to the boardwalk, popped open the stroller, and headed to a self serve frozen yogurt place with colorful frogs on the walls. I figured frozen yogurt is better for me than Ice Cream anyway. (Ever since I found out I have high cholesterol I think about these things) Because it was before the real vacation season had started the place was empty. I promise you that in the heat of Summer you would have to buy a standing room ticket just to get a cup. We perused the flavors, everything from salted caramel pretzel to plain old sour yogurt. I love how food like sated caramel becomes a thing. Two years ago the idea of putting salt on caramel would only have occurred to a drunk college male, who found that those were the only two things he had in his kitchen. I decided on a mix of the salted caramel pretzel and vanilla. We then asked for some sample cups and went about trying all the flavors, at which point Nicole filled one with vanilla, looked at me, I nodded, looked at Max, who smiled(I imagined he gave me a thumbs up) and we gave him his first taste of Ice Cream(frozen yogurt) We waited. At first there was no reaction. Then, as if he had eaten something too hot his eyes opened very wide. He pushed his arms up, then down, and pointed at his mouth. He head shook back and forth. He was not enjoying this. I can’t say for sure what it was, he’s a baby, and can’t talk yet, so I can only surmise, that it was the cold, not the flavor that put him off. We tried it again later and he had the same reaction so either way, he was not going for the ice cream. Like I said, I set myself up
Afterwards we walked along the ocean and watched the people around us. Nicole unwrapped a Nibbly Finger, sort of a cookie made of fresh fruit that Max loves. He saw it and got so excited he smiles and waved his arms up and down. She handed it to him and he took it and immediately downed it. Then I looked down at my cup, full of frozen sweetness, all covered in caramel and chocolate sauce, yes I did that, and realized that my son is eating much better than I am. That my child has a better sense of nutrition that me. At that moment he taught me something about parenting, and for that, I didn’t even need Google.