July 5, 2002
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
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.