Ah, parenthood, and all of its emotions. Things like love, joy, and then guilt, worry, and that sickening fear in the pit of your stomach that you're doing it all wrong, and your child is going to end up like a cross between Dennis the Menace and one of those 70s sitcom kids who ended up on the wrong side of the law. Minsun Park knows that no parent is perfect... and she proves it here in her column, Parental Discretion. Read on!
Pro wrestler in training
Yet unlike fake TV wrestling, the pain and the punishment is all too real. Jonah loves nothing better than to bite, slap, poke, scratch, head-butt, punch, pinch, kick, claw, pull hair, knee, swipe, jab, wrestle and bludgeon me at every opportunity. No wonder I have become the poster child for BMS -- and no, I'm not referring to bowel movements, but to Battered Mommy Syndrome.
If my son had a wrestling name, it would be The Vulcanizer because Jonah has a version of the Vulcan Nerve Pinch so fierce it would make Mr Spock weep with envy. Plus, I like the nice, sinister ring of the name. But instead of applying it to the neck, Jonah's variation mercilessly goes for the more tender vittles like my breasts, hair or the tender skin on the underside of my arm or face. And once he gets you in that vise-like death grip, you are down for the count.
As a brown belt in tae kwon do karate, I've done my fair share of sparring against male opponents twice my size and been knocked flat more times than I care to admit. Yet I've never experienced the kind of physical punishment that my baby boy can dish out. Although he's only a flyweight and can only crawl backwards, he still wins every round. He almost accomplished a TKO when he hit me over the head with a plastic Lamaze pyramid rattle so hard my knees buckled.
The baby books claim that banging and shaking toys are developmental milestones that illustrate curiosity about his environment. My son evidently skipped that chapter because he has developed his own very simple litmus test for a good toy. Good toy = fits in mouth or makes satisfying sound when hitting Mommy upside head -- the satisfying sound being the hollow resonance of the toy striking my skull, mingled with my howls of pain and anguish.
Bad toy = does not fit in mouth and leaves no visible welts or scars when hitting Mommy upside head. Although I've done my best to eliminate those "good toys" from the toy chest, it isn't easy. Even the most innocuous things like Dr. Seuss books are deadly weapons in my son's chubby hands. After almost losing an eye to a book corner, I handle "Green Eggs And Ham" like it's made of radioactive plutonium.
In fact, I've learned so many valuable fighting techniques from my son, the Grandmaster himself, that taking karate classes is a huge waste of time. Thanks to him, I am considering writing a Robert Fulghum-inspired tome tentatively titled, "All I Really Need to Know About Self-Defense I Learned From My Baby." I'll share a few excerpts.
1. Always catch your opponent off guard. The element of surprise is a crucial advantage, whether that means faking them out or lowering their defenses by appearing compliant or harmless. Babies have an unfair advantage in this respect. They lure you in closer and closer with their adorable coos and seductive smiles until you're in striking range.
Jonah is masterful at wielding his cuteness as a weapon. He waits until we're relaxing and doing something cuddly like breastfeeding. He'll stop and gaze up at me with a smile so sweet, I'll feel my heart melt like cotton candy in a sticky hand. I'll stick my tongue out and make a face. He'll gurgle and laugh, and then quicker than a cobra strike, he's got both hands on my tongue and yanks me close. This brings us to number two...
2. Get close to your opponent. Before I know what's happening, both chubby fists are entangled in my hair and he's gnawing at my face. Disoriented and in excruciating pain, I scream and flail through the house like Tippi Hedren from "The Birds." Except instead of a rabid seagull, I have a maniacally laughing baby attached to my head. Maybe it just runs in the family. My late father used to brag about how he ripped his own grandfather's beard clean off his face at the tender age of 11 months old. The poor man used to have a long, snowy white, Fu Manchu meets ZZ Top kind of beard for decades until he met my dad -- the human depilatory.
Although this sounds counter-intuitive, if you're out-sized by a much larger opponent, your best bet is to get in as close as possible. Not only does this allow you to punch and kick; this crowds the big brute so they can't extend their longer limbs to strike back. Don't be fooled by how cute and helpless your baby appears. Sure they're disarmingly hairless and toothless, but even though their fingernails are paper-thin, they are razor sharp. And although their gums are soft and pink, they are still capable of exerting 60 pounds per square inch. Ask any breastfeeding mother.
3. Keep Moving. If your first punch or kick doesn't connect, keep firing away and don't forget to bob and weave. Master Jonah's tiny fists of fury are such a blur of frenetic motion that I couldn't possibly block or parry every blow. I'm usually carrying him when he attacks so I really only have one hand free to defend myself. Yet another calculated strategy on his part.
4. Vocalize. In martial arts, saying "ki-yai" or yelling is a way of focusing your energy or "chi," intimidating your opponent and also alerting help. Needless to say, most babies are naturals at screaming at the top of their lungs and my son is no exception. There's nothing more disorienting than having a baby screaming in your ear while you are struggling to escape and run away -- far, far away.
5. Don't stop until your opponent is neutralized. And lastly, once your opponent is down, finish the job and make sure s/he is immobilized. Apparently, it's not enough that I'm writhing on the floor, prostrate with pain. Jonah likes to add insult to injury with one final assault by bodily fluids once I'm down. All that jostling and excitement usually induces him to either poo, pee, vomit, spit-up or drool on me. Sometimes he manages all five at once.
But so far, I've gotten off lucky. I know of someone who got his two front teeth knocked out when his baby head butted him. At least my bruises will fade, hair grows back and my scratches will heal. Unfortunately, I fear that the only lasting evidence is that all my home video footage will look like some bizarre excerpt from an exploitative reality show you'd see on Fox network titled "When Babies Attack." I don't know if it qualifies as Must-See TV, but at least I have Plan B if the book idea falls through.