Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lessons in Fatherhood - The Newborn Years

Lessons in Fatherhood

The author, about to do something
terrible to his own father.

There are things that no baby book can prepare you for as a new parent. You can read all you want, but it's like learning to drive a car by looking at the owner's manual. Nothing beats getting behind the wheel.

So, for the benefit of anyone who either is considering adding a tax deduction to the family or already has one but has no idea if it's normal, I've put together a couple of things they never tell you about having a baby in the house.

A baby has the ability to sense the exact moment when dinner hits the table, your wife gets that receptive look in her eye, or the five part murder mystery you have been watching for the past two months is about to end and explain who did it and why. It doesn't matter how fast asleep the baby is or how quiet you are, it knows when you are in danger of enjoying yourself. At that point, it will shriek like it is on fire, making you run upstairs in a way that would cause your insurer to cancel your policy. When you arrive, the little darling will be quietly smiling and looking at you like you've interrupted something important that they were doing.

A baby will not just spit up on your tie as you are heading out the door to an important business meeting. That is far too obvious and they know you are ready for it. Instead, a baby will fake you out with a small, cute drop of drool. Don't fall for it. It's only bait. If you do cautiously approach its slobbery face with a tissue, while your attention is focussed on the top end it will take the opportunity to silently whiz on your tie, shirt and shoes. You will not even feel it until it is too late. Then, while you're using a bath towel to dry yourself off, it will barf down your collar or up your sleeve. The first rule of infants is that they have an inexhaustible supply of revolting bodily fluids.

No method of calming down a baby will ever work twice. If you find the magic solution that makes him happy and puts him to sleep, the next night it will have the same calming effect as tying a large bat around its neck. Stuffed toys that previously delighted them will instantly have the same effect as garlic on a vampire.

Everyone with a baby near the same age as yours will instantly enter into competition with you. If yours sleeps for six hours, theirs sleeps for eight. If yours sleeps for eight, theirs is hibernating and will probably wake in time for college. By the time your baby has learned to roll over, the others are allegedly doing triple backflips into a full pike and sticking the landing. These are all lies, the proof of which is how their babies behave like rather large potatoes when you run into them at the park.

Mothers will insist that babies have to wear both socks and a dopey hat before they can be seen in public. Men as adults would just as soon do without either hats or socks, and don't understand why babies should be made to wear them. There just seems something terribly wrong about making anyone who can't defend themselves wear a floppy plaid hat. Regardless, it is a universal rule that socks that took fifteen minutes to put on a baby will be off and lost forever in less than thirty seconds.

So take heart. You are not alone.

And besides, they'll be teenagers in a blink and you'll be clueless once again. I think it comes with being a parent. Our own parents were just better at hiding it.

© Stephen Lautens 2002