February 3, 2015
My baby’s face is quickly becoming a vortex, something between a Dyson vacuum cleaner and super massive black hole. Suddenly everything that’s not nailed down is headed for her mouth. Where are my car keys? No, no, no, not the beer bottle! Your toes are safe, kid. That will come in handy when dad sends you off to Yoga Camp.
I’ve been lecturing about the good Doctor Freud for over 20 years. His phases of child development make a lot of sense. Birth to 2 years old is the Oral Phase. Cozy is coming up on 6 months and you can see her discover her mouth. It started with nursing and now it’s not just the boob she wants.
It think the turn was the moment she realized she could put the binky in her own damn cake hole. Since then everything has to be tried for tastiness. Last night she chewed on my belt for 20 minutes like a puppy. Hey, I was watching The Bachelor and wrapped up in Kelsey pimping her dead husband story. The kid’s fine.
But that’s the thing. Now you’ve gotta be Eagle Eye Cherry. At any moment some choking hazard could be going down your precious child’s gob and you better have had that baby choking class. The other day Cozy was napping in the crib. Or so I thought. She had quietly chewed the tag off of a stuffed animal and had it in bits in her mouth. Those two little teeth are like a super cute version of the wood chipper from Fargo.
So here is another thing to constantly worry about. I’ve finally stopped staring at her to make sure she was breathing. Now I worry she’s going to find a rubber band or an old Cheerio and it’s gonna be lodged in her larynx. It never ends. Do they make masks for little babies? Like ones for tiny Japanese people. Baby Gap must carry some kind of face filter.
The next stage should be even more fun. Freud believed the Anal Phase was from 2 to 4 years old. This is when toddlers get a rude awakening because “society” says there are rules to follow, the main one being pooping in a toilet. For Freud, potty training was the key act that shapes the personality. Oh, joy.
Third is the Phallic Phase, from 4 to 6, when kids discover their sex parts. Nobody wants to think of a 5-year-old masturbating, but it happens. Just keep your hands out of your pants, thank you. Feminists have had issues with Sigmund at this point because of his assertion that girls begin to develop “penis envy” here. (I saw a bumpersticker in a feminist bookstore that said, “War is Menstrual Envy.”) The “biology is destiny” bit is seriously problematic.
But Psychoanalytic Feminists (yes, they exist) think penis envy is just “patriarchy envy” and we shouldn’t write Freud’s theories of the unconscious off over a little dick. Freud argued that you need to make it through the three stages without becoming fixated. We all know people who are anally fixated. They are called “Virgos.”
But Cozy is a long way off from any phallic fixation, symbolic or otherwise, thank the psychological gods. I’m just trying to get her through this phase without choking on a pen cap or becoming orally fixated. Lord knows what that could lead to.
It’s always a balancing act with Freud. Not enough oral stimulation (mostly from nursing), the kid is neglected and will manipulate others to get something in her mouth. Too much stimulation and she stays in baby mode. So how we handle this phase could turn Cozy in to a manipulative nail biter or a sadistic homicidal maniac. Can a neurotic parent get a break?
The good news is Freud’s theory from 1905 has lots of modern critics. There’s no evidence that extended breastfeeding turns a kid into Bette Davis, chain-smoking her way into the grave. But Sigmund still has his supporters. And do I really want to risk it? Just get me to the Anal Phase in one piece, OK?