On having a boy

Our mornings can go one of two ways. Before this fall, our mornings were almost always a source of calm during what were otherwise frantic days. Coffee. The news. Everybody content. Once Nora started school, though - J takes her every morning - things changed. On good days mornings are serene, like they used to be. Good days. Days when, like, we lay out everybody's clothes the night before, and I get up in time to take a shower, and Mina doesn't decide to take advantage of the freedom we allow the dogs when we let them out the back door and into our unfenced back yard by trotting on out into the neighborhood streets to have some fun, without our knowledge.

Nora has to be at school at a fairly early hour and we simply have to be super organized if we want things to go smoothly.

So, you know, sometimes we aren't super organized.

This morning, for instance. We were at a disadvantage going in. Gabe and I have colds and neither of us had slept well, so I woke up and put a robe on and stumbled downstairs envisioning getting right back into bed once everyone was off and on their way, which is a really funny thing to envision when you have a baby to take care of. Really funny.

And then when I went in Nora's room to see if she was awake, she popped up in her bed and shouted, "I want a snack!" She has breakfast at school, but she often has a little something before. Her saying this is a terrible omen of things to come, because when she's in the "I want a snack" mood, every thing you have to do from there on out is not only going to be the normal level of annoying...brushing teeth...brushing hair....walking down the stairs...it's also going to be one more thing she has to do before she can have her bunch of grapes, or clementine or what have you.

So Nora's angry off the bat and Gabe's coughing up a storm and I look like I did that week I was doing my college essays and I refused to get out of my pajamas for five straight days and J is making coffee frantically because no matter how little time we have to do it, the coffee must be made. Otherwise we're no better than barbarians.

I was holding the baby and went to put him down on his back on the floor, but he wanted to sit up, a skill he's mastered very well, although his balance isn't yet 100 percent. Just as I let go of him, Nora called my attention to something, most likely the whereabouts of her snack, and Gabe toppled over and hit his head on the wooden part of our ottoman. I always try to keep him away from this particular piece of furniture for this very reason, but this wasn't one of our good mornings, and my parenting wasn't quite up to par.

He immediately began crying so I picked him up to comfort him and noticed that he had a cut on his eyelid and was bleeding. I had put my wobbly baby in a sitting position near a hard piece of furniture and he'd cut his eye and had what looked like a blossoming bruise across his nose.

I felt terrible about what had happened, but he settled down after a few minutes and I could see that the cut wasn't too deep.

Compare this incident to a similar one that occurred when Nora was about the same age. She rolled off the couch once when I had looked away for a second. No cut. No blood. Nothing like that. But I cried for about two hours, in the midst of which I called the doctor and deemed myself an unfit parent.

She was fine.

I knew this time around that Gabe was fine, too, despite the visual drama. But as we were planning on calling the doctor anyway about his relentless cold, we decided to add this latest injury to the mix and contact them sooner rather than later.

We got an appointment at 9:15 and J offered to meet me there after dropping Nora off since I wasn't feeling great. And looking like a homeless person. I mean, he didn't present that as a reason I might like a companion, but I know what's up.

The doctor's visit confirmed that the cut was no big deal, but that the cold was a bigger deal than we thought. He hadn't been presenting any of the typical symptoms, but the doctor discovered that Gabriel has an ear infection - a double one, in fact, as both ears are affected. "What a trooper!" we proclaimed, as he rolled around on the examining table, enjoying the sound of of the crinkly paper underneath him and babbling happily.

This behavior continued as we waited downstairs for his prescription. Bruised, beaten, in need of antibiotics, and charming everyone with his wide smile and array of baby noises.

I thought about the time Nora had fallen and skinned her knee, and proceeded to talk about it for three or four weeks. And about how I'd been wandering around like the living dead for the past couple days. About how J's day is basically ruined if he finds a hole in his sock.

I wondered if this carefree dismissal of pain and suffering in favor of good times would follow Gabe out of babyhood and, if so, where the hell that attitude came from.

I asked J if he thought maybe this child might differ from us in certain, crucial ways, and what strange and unfamiliar events could occur as a result.

"Is he going to be a quarterback?" I asked him. "Oh my God, is he going to be in a frat?"