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That's My Baby

by Stephen Lautens


January 4, 2002

We're down to the final stretch. We finally got tired of having all that free time and money, so we have a baby due to arrive early in the new year.

According to all our friends, having one will instantly cure both conditions.

I just wish they'd be a little less gleeful about it. It's not like we've been lording our childless bliss over them. We haven't exactly been flaunting our unencumbered lifestyle like Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, going to champagne breakfasts and then driving the Rolls into the pool.

I'm not sure anything we've done justifies everyone telling my wife and me that our lives are over. Our friends with children all seem to be in a hurry to tell us the same story. As far as I know, they've never got together to make sure they're telling the same one, although they might as well be.

The story they all tell for parents-to-be goes like this: As soon as you have children you will never sleep again. You will also never eat a hot meal, take a shower or see a movie. You cannot leave the house without fifty pounds of stuff, and when you do you will forget something essential and will have to return. You will lose all dignity, sense of personal hygiene, and forget about ever looking at your mate with animal lust in your heart ever again.

And after your well-meaning friends have you ready to slit your wrists and asking whether there's a good boarding school in Scotland that will take them at birth, your friends deliver the kicker. They'll say: "But when your child smiles at you, you'll realize it is all worthwhile."

I'm warning that baby right now, if true it had better be one heck of a smile.

One of the advantages of being an older parent is a certain lack of hysteria. Unfortunately, we know exactly what we've gotten ourselves into. We've already been aunt and uncle, godmother and godfather ­ and fairly popular ones at that. Of course, as relatives once removed we've always had the more pleasant tasks where children are concerned. We bring noisy presents and sticky candy, and then leave behind us hyper children playing the entire brass section of the 1812 Overture.

We also recognize when some of our friends are being a bit of a drama queen. Are we scared to death? Of course we are. You would have to be an idiot not to be. But we're determined to not going to be one of those couples who believes their child is the first one ever to be born into captivity. Brave words I will no doubt end up eating and become as neurotic as every first-time parent.

We'll probably even succumb to the baby monitor scam. Every parent I know has baby monitors throughout the house so you can listen to every burp, wheeze and yell from the little darling. To my untrained ear it all sounds like Shamu the Killer Whale doing its act at Marineland. I've known friends who will turn up the speaker to full, and for the night's entertainment will sit around guessing what the baby is up to in the next room.

My cousin Diana once told me to always keep in mind that you're inviting the baby to join your life, not the other way round.

We'll see what the baby has to say about that.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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