Like many kids her age, Test Subject V really enjoys stuff that is illuminated and high-contrast. She’s positively in love with the Tiffany-style chandelier in our living room. So last week, I took her to our local museum, Salem’s own Peabody Essex Museum, and we visited Anila Quayyam Agha’s All The Flowers Are For Me, a piece that is basically a room filled with the light and shadows from a giant lamp.
It’s hard to tell from this picture, but as soon as we entered the room, Test Subject V’s eyes glazed over and she went into the sort of near-hypnotic state that infants sometimes enter at the slightest provocation.
We walked in circles around the room several times, and it occurred to me that what I was seeing was my daughter demonstrably being affected by a work of art. How cool is that? To be able to be there, to see it in her face. Stay at home dadding is hard sometimes, but stuff like that—wow. It’s such an awesome privilege.
I think I’ll take her back again soon. I wanna see it again.
A selection of pacifiers found in Test Subject V’s bassinet on a random evening. Dr. Wubnub can be seen in the bottom left.Test Subject V has a variety of pacifiers. Like, really—we’ve only had her for like two months, I’m not sure how she got so many. But it makes sense, because you never know which pacifiers will appeal to a newborn. They can’t tell you what they’re looking for in a binky, because they’re babies, and babies are little nonverbal idiots.
And you develop your own preferences, too. For example, I like the Nuk pacis, because they’re the first ones that V got good at holding in her mouth unassisted. My Colleague prefers the ones that the hospital gave us, which let you stick your finger inside the binky. I think she likes the intimacy and the haptic feedback.
At any rate, for our baby shower, one friend got us an elephant Wubbanub.Wubbanubs are plush toys that are attached to pacifiers. The idea is that when an infant’s hand-eye coordination might not be to the point yet of putting a pacifier back in their mouth, they can still hold onto the plush toy and thus keep the binky in their mouth. Below is an image of Test Subject V with hers:
When Test Subject V first started taking pacifiers, I once overheard My Colleague saying to her, while trying to give her the pacifier: “Here comes Mr. Wubb’nub!”
Which sort of set off an involuntary reaction in me: why is the pacifier gendered at all, but specifically gendered as male? Couldn’t it be a woman? Couldn’t the woman have another title—and one that isn’t “Princess”? What if it was Doctor Wubb’nub?
Test Subject V’s mother, My Colleague, works in academia, as I have from time to time. She has a father, a paternal grandmother, and a maternal grandfather all with PhD’s. Maybe instead of making her a medical doctor, Dr. Wubb’nub should be a professor, someone working in academia like mommy.
So in quick order, we began developing a bio for Dr. Wubb’nub, one that sounds half like a joke and half like a child’s lesson in academic politics and intersectional feminism. “Her doctorate should be in a STEM field!” “And elephants are from Asia and Africa—she should be African American, because there’s so much less representation of African American women in STEM!” So without further ado, lemme introduce Dr. Wubb’nub:
Dr. Zora Wubb’nub—yes, her parents named her after Zora Neale Hurston—was born in Atlanta. She received her PhD in engineering from Stanford, and managed to get a tenure track position at MIT. Dr. Wubb’nub kind of hates the winters, here. She misses California.
Dr. Wubb’nub’s teaching evaluations are excellent, but her lab is perpetually underfunded, and of course her department head doesn’t care about teaching evaluations. Because she’s basically the only Black woman in her department, she’s asked to be on a ridiculous number of committees.
Dr. Wubb’nub wonders if she would have more time to put out grant applications if she wasn’t teaching a 3-2 load, leading a lab team, and serving on so many committees she lost track.
Dr. Wubb’nub once tried to explain to her department head that committee assignments weren’t just “service opportunities,” but were unpaid work, and often involved a lot of emotional labor.
Dr. Wubb’nub doesn’t think her department head really understands what “emotional labor” means.
Oh, and just like all the other stuffed animals in this apartment, Dr. Wubb’nub loves Test Subject V very much.
My Colleague and I took Test Subject V to the Salem Public Library today for her first library storytime. On Wednesday mornings at 10am, the library holds a “Babies and Books” storytime, targeted at children 11 months and under.
When My Colleague was around 40 weeks and change pregnant, I dragged her out on a walk. We stopped at the library because when you’re that pregnant, you can’t go more than fifteen minutes without hitting a restroom. While we were there, we decided to check out the Childrens’ Room, where we saw a sign about the infant storytime.
I’d never heard of a library story time targeting infants, so I’ve been curious. With V’s increased sociability and engagement, we decided she might be ready to check it out. (Plus, the weather today was gorgeous—a high of 50° is ridiculous for New England in February.)
I had no idea what to expect from programming like this, but it ended up being a lot of fun. There was singing, some clapping games, two very short picture books were read, and toward the end, Miss Maura, the librarian, turned on a bubble machine, and all the little babies went APESHIT. It was all kinds of adorable.
Test Subject V wasn’t as mobile as a lot of the kids—there were a lot of kids crawling, toddling, and cruising. But she was super engaged, and loved staring at all the new faces.
After storytime proper ended, a lot of the parents stuck around and chatted—I have been looking for opportunities to meet other stay at home parents, so I really liked that part too. And Miss Maura gave us a goody bag with information about programming and resources for young children in Salem, which struck me as a great piece of outreach.
Overall, I really liked it, and V seemed to have a blast. We’ll definitely be going back again.
The last week or so has been an intense one for Test Subject V. My sister, her husband, and their two-year-old all came for an all-too-short visit, which meant lots of new people. My nephew was completely enamored with V, which was adorable, and it was her first prolonged exposure to a toddler.
(It was also the first prolonged exposure to a toddler that my wife and I have had in a good long while, and we’re now both somewhat slightly terrified of what’s to come.)
On top of that, she’s been entering what the book refers to “Wonder Week 8—The World of Patterns.” Essentially, this has manifested itself as a series of days where she is either sleepless and fussy, unable to calm herself unless she is in our arms or interacting with us, alternating with days where she’s more like a hibernating bear, occasionally waking for milk breaks.
In terms of her development, it’s another quantum leap in terms of her awareness of and interaction with the world around her. She’s grabbing things. She is fascinated with her own hands, to a level that I’m almost jealous of. She is suddenly playing with toys—see the above image.
I keep thinking about the malfunctioning robot in the 1986 Ally Sheedy/Steve Guttenberg film “Short Circuit.” After being electrocuted and having his memory wiped, robot number 5, who later dubs himself “Johnny 5,” ends up in Ally Sheedy’s house, seeking “input”—information. His appetite for new information is insatiable.
That’s what Test Subject V has been like. She wants MORE INPUT, constantly. She can’t even sleep because there’s so much world to take in. It’s fascinating and inspirational and terrifying to watch.