I had planned to write about how my dog, at this point, is smarter than my son. But then I started to feel guilty and think about how one day, Declan will be smarter and maybe he’ll even know how to read and if the internet isn’t totally antiquated by that point, might read that his dad once thought he was dumber than a golden retriever who licks his butt and eats dead birds, prompting a full-on rebellion that (shudder) could include liking country music. And then I thought… Watson isn’t really smarter anyway. Just better behaved. And then I thought, not exactly–he needs a leash, after all– perhaps better trained? And then I thought, “training” a seven-week-old sounds like something out of an Orwellian dystopia anyway, so maybe dogs and kids are apples and oranges and I should come up with a new topic. So for anyone hoping for a Buzzfeed-like “16 Ways Your Dog Is Smarter Than Your Child”… well, sorry, the ride ends here.

Instead, I’m going to talk about one way in which I think Declan is smarter– or maybe, wiser– than we are.

I should start out by saying he has not been the easiest to breastfeed, by which I mean he sometimes pulls when he should suck or bites when he should suck or falls asleep when he should suck and that, well, sucks. As such, feeding sessions are not 10 or 15 minute affairs. Oh no. They last approximately half a football game (or 5 Broncos touchdowns…whichever comes first), or how it feels when you watch 2 minutes of the show “2 Broke Girls.” Yeah, that long.

Our lactation consultant said we might want to get him checked out for a tongue tie… which occurs when the membrane connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth is thick and short and, thus, decreases the tongue’s mobility. So we had him checked out, and sure enough, put a bow on it…he had a little pretzel back there. On Monday, Colleen took him to the doctor and, behind closed doors, they went to work to free wet willy. I wasn’t there, but it sounded like a pretty traumatic event. For one, they don’t let parents go back for the procedure. So Colleen had to just hand him off and wait. Which is awful…but better than watching four adults hold Declan down while he screamed and squirmed and tried to figure out what was happening and how maybe he could get back to that warm, crowded womb for awhile. Hard to believe it took four adults to control one 10-pound kid, but it did. The doctor emerged afterward, handing a pale and worn out little boy back to his mom and telling Colleen, with some surprise in his voice, “He’s a strong one.” Hearing her describe what happened later, I couldn’t believe the range of emotions I felt: deep sadness and anxiety and helplessness that Declan was scared and in pain; anger at the doctors, even though they were doing their job and were ultimately helping Deck and us; pride that Declan was so strong and resilient; sympathy for Colleen for experiencing it in person.

Deck was lethargic when I got home from work, and that worried me. His eyes seemed less bright, his body weak. After a nap, a few diaper changes, and some fussing, we put him on his changing pad… and that’s when it happened. He opened his eyes wide and started kicking away, smiling big and toothless at me as if nothing had happened. The Declan I knew was back.

I think adults find babies confusing and frustrating sometimes because their moods can shift in an instant. From happy to serious to tears and screams and gnashing of non-existent teeth. We exert so much effort trying to stabilize them. To calm them. To even them out. But seeing Declan’s ability to fight, to cry, and then to emerge from a traumatic operation essentially unchanged reminded me again that children have a lot to teach us about living in the moment, and then, without regret or prejudice, letting it go and moving on to the next thing. When Declan locked eyes with me from the changing pad as he kicked his legs with abandon, I think he was telling me, “Don’t worry, Dad. I’m fine. We can play now. And, by the way, screw you. I’m totally smarter than the dog. I just can’t hold my head up yet.”

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