The baby just fell asleep after drinking an entire bottle of goatmilk straight—one shot, 원샷, as the Koreans say, referring to when an ajoshi downs a glass of soju victory gin in a single audible gulp, at any of the thousands of company dinners he will have to attend over the course of his lifetime of paid enslavement to his employers. Both my wife and I are happy that our son will be able to participate in this equitable system after sacrificing every second of his entire youth to attaining a perfect score on the Korean college entrance exam.
But most of you are reading this because you want to know about the baby, since only a handful of you ever come here when I don’t write about him (while I get a deluge of hits every time I do).
He is just over seven months old, but he has been walking, with our assistance, for about five months now, and can stand on his own for perhaps half a second, and frequently leans on other objects in order to support himself—especially the porthole of the washing machine. This is his favorite object in the entire apartment, second only to the vacuum cleaner, which he loves and fears like an especially mercurial aunt.
Left to his own devices the boy will force me to support him as he walks into our bedroom to confront this vacuum cleaner, which he will then embrace, until I turn it on, at which point he will start with fear, only to embrace it again. The pattern will repeat itself for five or ten minutes, until he yells at me to take him away; during this time I am alternately zoning out while also wondering what this vacuum cleaner surrogate parentage is doing to his psychology.
All the same time, he will probably never learn to crawl, not even as an adult, as he screams at us the moment we put him down on his belly, and despises the act of lying down in much the same way as we despise the act of getting up. Yesterday I was able to trick him into slithering about on his stomach after I left a whole pile of (carefully capped and examined) markers on the floor for him to chase after, but still, I think he will find it difficult to shimmy about on his chest on the battlefields of the future—he will have to charge into enemy fire head on, while standing up, and I doubt he will ever attain any rank higher than Cannon Fodder.
In some ways it seems so difficult to describe his character in comparison to other babies—you must entertain him for two or three hours, during which time he will hurl mountains of abuse at you, until at last he collapses from exhaustion, waking again usually less than an hour later—and yet all the same he seems so unique to us, and when you put him next to another baby of the same age the difference in character is striking.
The boy is aggressive, and demands constant attention, and will scream until his lungs bleed if he doesn’t get it. He is insatiably curious about everything, and will yell at you if you don’t allow him to examine every single object before him, usually by placing it inside his mouth before clapping it together in his hands. Eventually he will drop it or throw it away in disgust. New objects can excite him for thirty minutes, old ones will usually bore him in as many seconds. He adores people, especially because they always seem to adore him, wherever he goes, and will invariably charm everyone around him with smiles and laughter, although the moment he’s left alone with his parents he will resume his steady stream of reckless abuse—reckless because both of us have finally gotten used to it and now have the ability to ignore it for whole minutes at a time. He has been crying wolf for seven straight months, almost nonstop, and the entire village has packed up and left.
He spends forty hours a week at daycare, and the strain shows on the faces of the unfortunate women who have to babysit him; this same strain shows over the weekends at our apartment invariably has my wife and I nearly tearing each other’s eyeballs out. Others will certainly (silently) criticize us for not taking care of him ourselves around the clock forever, but we’re both working, and the boy himself appears to enjoy his time there, and it may even be said that being in the company of small children has accelerated his own development. Only children left on their own have no one to compete against, and sometimes get kind of lazy when it comes to attaining those all-important milestones, but our son seems to be progressing at a fairly normal pace.
And indeed, the most extraordinary thing about him is how normal he is.