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.