6.28.2013

Baby Button update: The importance of insulting a baby

Hi everyone. Sorry for the lack of updates on the baby. It's hard to focus when you get about three hours of sleep per night, thanks to all the crying (Most of the crying is from me, though, since I STILL haven't been able to see Star Trek: Into Darkness!)

Two weeks ago I reached a major milestone in my life: My first Father’s Day as a dad. The baby got me 8 bars of vegan chocolate, which is probably the best Father's Day present I've gotten so far. Much like the chocolate, the day was bittersweet, as it made me realize that I am growing older, and that heck, I could die at any moment from any number of things. So I spent most of Father’s Day thinking of my own death. That’s what children do for you: They make you think of death.

Button has been growing a lot. He's actually now kind of chubby, developing rolls and puffy cheeks. He's been smiling and talking more, sometimes being so adorable that I am amazed that Jameelah and I made this human all by ourselves. With no help from anyone at all.

He has gotten louder, having learned to scream, sometimes making this weird jackhammer-like sound, like this: "Waaaaaaaah, eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh! Waaaaaah, eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh!" We still have no sleep pattern. He sleeps whenever, and tosses and turns at night. He is always alert and playful at 5am, though, which is great, except that neither of his parents are morning people. Two weeks ago, in a desperate attempt to regain some sanity, we asked Button’s aunt to babysit so that we could go out with some friends. We had a great time clubbing at an awesome 30's-and-over club, and came home at 3am (don't judge!). A long, long time ago, we would just sleep in till noon the next day, then spend all day watching TV. Well, this time was different. We forgot to tell the baby that we needed him to sleep till noon. At 5am, like clockwork, he woke up, talking and being cute and wanting to play. Nursing a slight hangover, I tried to play peek-a-boo with him: "Peek a boo...ow, ow, don't laugh so loud, baby, Daddy's head hurts..."

He is certainly more assertive now, and this was confirmed by an astrologer, whose daughter moved in to the condo unit below ours. We've been getting lots of reactions from complete strangers. People really love babies, and random people will stop us just to say hi to the baby. "Aries," said the astrologer when she met him and we gave her his birthday, "his sun and moon signs are both Aries! He's a double Aries. He's all fire!" She asked for my birthday, and when I told her I was Pisces with a moon in Scorpio, she looked sympathetic. "You are all water. He's all fire. You two will conflict." Great; he’s probably going to grow up to be a hipster, a gluten-free one, I just know it. The next day, she brought over his chart, showing yet even more planets in Aries. "He's going to be strong-willed," she said.

The astrologer was convinced that the baby will grow up to be a leader. She was lavishing praise on him. Everyone has been. This kid may become arrogant. Thankfully, we have the Asian community to bring balance. The other week, I was taking Button to work. In the parking lot of my office, two elderly Vietnamese women happened to pass by. They stopped, their eyes lit up. "What a cute baby. He's so cute!" said one. The other quickly stepped in. "Don't say that," she said. Apparently, in Vietnamese culture, it is bad luck to compliment babies, afraid that spirits may be angry at the arrogance and make them hideous, or take them away, or worse, turn them into a social workers when they grows up or something. The proper thing to do is to insult babies, which makes them less tempting a target for these baby-stealing spirits.

So for 15 minutes the elderly women verbally abused my son. "You are such an ugly baby," they said, "yes you are, yes you are. You are much uglier than your dad. You're the ugliest baby in the world! Yes you are! Yessss you are! Who's ugly? Who's so ugly?” Of course, I wasn’t going to just stand there and not say anything. I mean, I was a father now, as was certified by the Father’s Day card I got with the chocolate. I had to defend my son.

But then again, I am an Asian father, and we have customs to maintain. “It's you,” I said to the baby, “you're ugly!"

(If you grew up with other crazy baby-related customs, it'd love to hear about it in the comments).

25 comments:

  1. LOL how funny! In my family we feel the same too but we don't do as far as insult the babies. We just don't give them to much praise and try to instill a sense of need for being humble. Every time my husband boasted about our son I said a silent prayer. For the first year of his life I lived in far something would go wrong. To date he's been find and continues to be a live wire but I still say my prayers :0)

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    1. I agree. It's important for babies not to get a big head. Especially since their heads are already pretty huge, compared to the rest of their tiny bodies.

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  2. I love being Viet. Happy belated Father's Day! and watch out for them spirits!

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    1. Thanks, JNguyen. Them spirits already turned one person in our family to social work. They won't succeed again!

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  3. I'm happy to see that the lil one is doing well.

    I come from a superstitious family and maybe culture:( I'm from the South and it has been said that we are the most superstitious region in the US). Anyways, I'm like that. Now, I will call babies cute, but when they are aware of the world, I tend to be more reservant about for the very reasons that Vietnamese woman you discussed did,but I will never insult my kids either. I would be afraid if I did that they will feel ugly about themselves in the long run.

    I also don't believe in bragging about people. Let's say that my hypothetical child comes home with a good report card.Now, I may tell them "Good job" ,tell them to keep it up and continue to encourage them to do well, but I'm not one of those people who goes out and brag to others or even to my kid "Oh ,my baby is going to be the next Colin Powell or Obama. Look at those A's!" My mom didn't do it with us and I don't do it.While it's not the worst thing to,I just dont believe in bragging because I've always felt that you'll end up being disappointed in the latter days.

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    1. M, that's a good point. It's better for a kid to learn that his success is due to his hard work, not because "you are so smart!" There are tons of lazy smart people who get nowhere.

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  4. Hi Huy!

    I read your posts, but this is my first time commenting - so happy the baby is doing well!!

    I'm from India and we use kajal (or eye liner) to draw a thumb-sized dot on babies' cheeks to ward off the evil eye or spiteful sprits. We also place a small amount of salt in our left hand before circling the hand around the baby's head 3 times. We then spit into the salt, before washing it away. Oh, and we don't talk at all while doing this ritual. :)

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    1. Siah, that's a fascinating custom. Thank you for sharing it. This makes we want to do further research and write a book about baby customs around the world. If only I weren't so lazy...

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  5. So glad to hear Button's doing well. How's your wife recovering from the birth?

    In my tribe, a birth is grounds for a huge celebration with lots of palm wine. If there was a death shortly before (or after), the baby is automatically blamed of course. Sometimes, if the death was a while before, the child is considered a reincarnation, and often named after whoever died.

    Either way, your mom-in-law is duty-bound to stay with you, cleaning the house and cooking the meals while your wife recovers. This can last for several months to a year. When she leaves, however, you're expected to send her back to her home with several pricey gifts.

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    1. Hi Ankhesen. Jameelah is doing well. In fact, she's been pretty awesome since day one; as soon as we took the baby home (four hours after he arrived), she started doing the laundry, against my protests. Three days later, we were walking around the neighborhood with the baby. My mother-in-law didn't stay with us, but she did visit every day for a month to help with the cleaning, with only a little drama. I could probably have used some palm wine when she was here.

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  6. Awwww, i want another picture of Button :-D !!! Wow, I want to know what it feels like to be a Mum....Must be weird.

    Nigerians like to guess the job the baby will have. Everyone tends to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. The fact i'm studying medicine though has nothing to do with that though...

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    1. Mary, we also have a custom of guessing the baby's profession. On his first birthday, a hold bunch of objects representing different jobs are placed in front of the baby. The first thing he picks up is a sign of what he'll be. A pen, for example, to represent being a writer; a calculator to represent accountant. It is somewhat rigged though, with many parents putting in two or three stethoscopes, lab coats, and syringes...

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  7. I was so hoping for Button pics, but of course we have to respect our little guy's privacy. Those first few months are really hard, especially with the first baby.

    I think it was really smart of you two to enlist Button's aunt to help out, so you can spend time together as a couple.

    I'm trying to think of any baby-related superstitions from my family but we tend to be extreme rationalists, so not too many there.

    I love Button updates!

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    1. Aw, you two. I'll try to put up more pictures. The baby has gotten quite cute. It just creeps me out, the idea that pictures of him are floating around the web. Oh well, I just added one to this post. This is him in his "calm, alert" state, vs. the "alert, screaming" state.

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    2. Picture!!! We got a picture!!! Oh, he's so adorable!

      But don't feel pressured, Huy. We are happy to respect the baby's privacy.

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  8. Congratulations Huy, your first born is the picture of perfect health =D I'm familiar with the superstition, though it's still jarring to hear someone intentionally insult a newborn in order to deflect the evil eye away. I do subscribe somewhat to the belief, so all I'll say is may the Heavens ensure your child always walk in the light, and may he bring pride & honor to you both. My regards to your wife. Cheers! =)

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    1. Thanks, Zydar. The insults are gentle ribbing, so it's not horrible. Thank you for the well wishes. If you can add "And may he sleep through the night soon," that would be much appreciated

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  9. I wouldn't say that I insult babies but if we are related I'll be real honest about their looks. Like my nephew had giant eye balls and just looked shocked all the time. I have a whole collection of photos of him looking shocked.

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    1. Babies look so cute when they look shocked. I imagine it's pretty shocking being a baby. You look around, minding your own business, and bam, these weird things come at you! Sure, they're just your own hands, but you don't know that!

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  10. OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGAAAAAAAAH the picture THAT BABY IS TOoooooOOOOO BEAUTIFUL, i don't believe he is getting insults....LIES ! He's perfect. Anyway, chubby babies are good....It's cause they are storing for extra energy needed for brain power. Chubby baby = Child prodidy.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. This is the best comment ever. I hope the spirits are not reading your comment.

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  11. I tried to think of any weird baby customs Jamaicans had, and I drew a blank. Well, apart from having a Bible opened to the 23rd Psalm above the baby's head as s/he sleeps, I drew a blank.

    If I ever do reproduce, and an old Vietnamese woman tells my offspring is hideous beyond belief, I'll remember to thank her.

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    1. Thanks, Leo Princess. Now I am going to go look up the 23rd Psalm.

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