October 18, 2002
When our baby arrived, I promised myself
that there were a few annoying things I would never do as a parent.
Of course I've been forced to eat my words and now find myself doing
most of them.
High on the list is eating the baby's food.
I don't know how many parents I have seen casually start finishing
the food their children left on their plates. It's one thing if your
children eat at Morton's and are leaving behind the thirty-two ounce
steak - but it's another if it's a medley of mushed bananas and
This is so far the only promise I've been
able to keep. It helps that nothing he puts in his mouth has been
remotely appealing to me. We must have the only baby who gags on
applesauce, but would quite happily eat a section of the newspaper
if you let him.
Another promise I made involves smelling the
baby - and I don't mean to enjoy that "new baby smell". I
have friends who routinely hoist the baby up and take a good whiff
as a shortcut to deciding whether little Nubbins is in desperate
need of changing. Frankly, I've never thought the whole smelling
test does much for the dignity of either the parent or the baby.
Although I'm cursed with bad sinuses and a
nose that couldn't smell a rose if my mattress was stuffed with
them, for some unfortunate reason I can tell from forty yards if the
baby needs changing. Given the challenges to maintaining my own
personal hygiene with an eight month old in the house, I have to
admit that I have resorted to the occasional quick smell to confirm
that it is him and not me.
Finally, I also promised that when I became
a parent I wouldn't do what everyone does - make people talk to the
baby on the phone. Don't get me wrong - I'm a proud parent and
believe my son will eventually be Rhodes Scholar material, but at
eight months even I have to admit his vocabulary is a little
limited. In truth it consists primarily of burps, gurgles, screams
and the occasional giggle. That might get you through Question
Period in the House of Commons, but it hardly makes for a riveting
My own promise never to put a non-speaking
baby on the phone is the result of countless occasions when I've
been forced to sit on the other end of the phone (usually paying
long distance) while friends and relatives put their own
uncommunicative children on the line. After being handed over to the
pre-schooler, the phone conversation usually goes like this:
"Hi, it's your uncle Stephen."
"Are you watching Elmo?"
"Do you like Elmo?"
"Could you put your daddy back on? This
is costing a fortune."
And so on for about twenty minutes. You can
only have an intelligent discussion about Elmo for so long with a
two year old.
These one-sided phone calls led me to swear
I would never inflict such treatment on anyone else. But sure
enough, last weekend I was talking to my mother on the phone and
heard myself say: "Hold on, the baby wants to say hi." I
had become my own worst nightmare.
From now on I promise not to put the baby on
the phone - unless it happens to be a call from a telemarketer.