January 05, 2007

Cradle and all

Recently, my kids unearthed an old videotape I had forgotten about. A friend had lent me her camcorder the week With-a-Why was born, saying, "Take some footage of him while he's a newborn. You know how fast they grow." I didn't know enough to take good close-ups, so With-a-Why mostly looks like a generic newborn, bundled in a receiving blanket, but the tape is a fascinating glimpse at what life in our household was like twelve years ago.

In one scene, you see Shaggy Hair Boy, a cute three-year-old with short hair and freckles, rollerblading in the kitchen with a neighbor kid. Our kitchen was tiny, but they just keep going back and forth, from the stove, past the refrigerator, and into the laundry room and back, both unsteady on their feet but moving as fast as they could. At some point, my daughter, who was all of eight years old, wanders into the scene, clutching a rag doll with one arm and gesturing with the other, oblivious to the boys speeding past her. When she stops to talk to the camera, you realize that the doll she is holding is actually a newborn baby.

In another scene, six-year-old Boy in Black and three-year-old Shaggy Hair are sitting on the living room floor playing with Power Rangers action figures. They begin hitting a shoe with the figures, shouting "Attack the shoe! Attack the shoe!" I don't remember what the shoe had done to offend them; in fact, I think I've blocked out this whole violent stage of their development. Minutes later, they are tossing a container of margerine around in the kitchen, just over the head of the sleeping baby.

Later in the tape, Boy in Black rushes into the living room, wearing a black cape and singing the Batman theme song. Shaggy Hair sits on the couch giggling at his brother. The camera focuses on Boy in Black, who whips out a plastic sword and begins swinging it wildly, and perhaps a bit dangerously. Suddenly, we hear a loud scream from the couch and a gasp from the person holding the camcorder.

The tape does include endearing shots of all the kids holding the baby. Well, they would be endearing if you didn't feel so afraid for the baby. Hey look, the three-year-old is in charge of the baby now. Watch him smack, I mean pat, that baby head. Then there is a famous clip of my daughter, bouncing the baby around so that his little head bobs on its weak baby neck as she sings the song, "Celebrate." (Twelve years later, my daughter could barely stand to watch this part: she says it looks way too much like those educational tapes about Shaken Baby Syndrome.)

In another scene, Boy in Black, who was a skinny little six-year-old at the time, is demonstrating some kind of martial arts moves that he is clearly just making up. He's yelling things like, "Heya" as he kicks and karate chops, his little arms and legs flailing. Every few minutes or so he tumbles onto the floor, rolling and kicking, before bouncing back onto his feet again. The camera pans out to show the baby lying on the floor next to him. I can remember reading somewhere once that the safest place to set a baby is on the floor, where he can't roll off anything, but clearly that advice was meant a quieter household than mine.

When I watched the tape, I kept thinking, "Where was I during this?" In fact, where was any responsible adult? The tape makes it look like this bunch of little kids are taking care of this newborn baby all on their own.

Then it occurred to me. I was the person holding the camcorder. Clearly, I was too sleep-deprived to notice minor details, like the way the kids were passing the baby back and forth. The camcorder we borrowed had a imprinted the date onto the film so there is no mistaking the age of the infant in these scenes.

He is one day old.

We are saving the tape for With-a-Why to bring to therapy some day.

23 comments:

Round is Funny said...

De-lurking to thank you for the huge laugh you just gave me.

I am a new mama (of only one so far), and the sleep deprivation factor makes it very easy to imagine not noticing any of these things.

You write beautifully!

ppb said...

I love that you had extras that early!

jo(e) said...

Round is funny: Thanks. And yeah, that sleep deprivation factor is the most difficult thing about parenting ....

PPB: I grew up in a household with extras so I don't know what life would be like without them ....

Miranda said...

Jo(e): Thanks for the hearty laugh and the trip back down memory lane for me. My oldest was also 8 when my baby was born and my daughter was 3. Plus my then 7 year old step-daughter came to visit from out of state while I was at the hospital delivering Brandon. It was so strange to go to the hospital with two children and return home with four.

I was such sleep-deprived fog that I still don't remember much of anything during my youngest son's first three years. My friends have to tell me all the good stories.

I love the stories you share about your family.

zartman said...

Great post. Put a smile on my face at the end of the week.

Anonymous said...

Yipes! It's a wonder he survived the day!

But I'm laughing.

Anonymous said...

I needed that belly laugh tonight. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Very funny!

Anonymous said...

Does having so many little helpers help? I can't imagine having such a full house.

Anonymous said...

Funny!!!

listmaker said...

Oh, funny! I regret not having any videos of my kids.

Anonymous said...

We have a newborn video of KayTar that is much of the same. KayTar is lying on the couch as BubTar bounces on the couch next to her, talking to the camera. He bounces EXTREMELY close to her head a few times, and as Josh and I watched, he said "OMG, he's going to hurt her." as if on cue BAM! He landed on her head, the camera is dropped, BubTar says "Ohno..I hurt KayTar...ohhhhh..." and then the camera gets shut off. Hindsight is 20/20, right? *lol*

Margo, darling said...

I love your tumbley-lovely household, Jo(e)! What a treat to read.

Jody said...

Oh my! This is the funniest story ever. Isn't it wild what you don't notice, or even embrace, when you're too sleep-deprived and surrounded by the craziness of small children to think clearly?!

Obviously the baby was fine, so you must have known what you were doing.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy!!! One day old and all that going on around him! I guess if my husband read this his reaction would be: see, that's why I only want two kids! (I did want more :(

Anyway... isn't it just fascinating to be given a glimpse at years gone by? I have a big pile of Super 8 rolls that I want to have made into DVD. These were filmed by my dad and my grandpa starting in 1972-3 (a year or so after I was born) and in subsequent years. I think the last ones are from a trip we did to Chile and Argentina when I was 7. I can't wait to be able to view them.

As usual, I love your descriptions of the video, very funny, if a bit scary on account of the baby -- but like Jody said, he's fine, he survived it!

OneTiredEma said...

Too funny! And makes me even more grateful that Miss M decided to snub AM's very existence for a good four weeks after his arrival.

Oh, and our kids' therapy fund gets bigger by the day.

(un)relaxeddad said...

One day old! Brilliant! For some reason"Cat Juggling!" in Steve Martin's The Jerk comes to mind.

Anyway, if there'd been any issues, the camcorder would have been filming floorboards and you'd have been right there...

Anonymous said...

Holy cow! Hysterical!

Anonymous said...

That is just too funny! After watching old 8mm movies of my Mom's Hubby bought me a video camera for Christams. We feel terrible that we didn't have one sooner, there is something more precious about watching the past in motion instead of just through photos.

With-a-why will be greatful, one day.

Anonymous said...

You may see chaos in that tape, but your kids are better for it. They were able to act like the kids they are! With a Why would only need therepy if the tape exposed a bunch of squeaky clean kids behaving themselves and keeping their manners.

Funny

Sarah Sometimes said...

I, too, laughed out loud....

swissmiss said...

Those video date stamps are always off, not to worry...with a why is probably two or three days old!

Scrivener said...

So your household has always been so much fun, huh?