“Oh, yeah, Baby!” I said last Saturday night as I successfully executed a just-mastered parental maneuver: The Burp.
“Braaaaaaaaaap!” said my son Evan, his eyes bulging.
“Whoa, that was a good one!” my wife Kara said, and I appreciated the recognition of a belch well coaxed. Sadly, a good burp has become both the pinnacle of achievement and the height of entertainment in our household. I can remember a time, not that long ago, when a good Saturday night was one in which the cops left the party without taking anyone with them. These days, the only functions that we attend come from our baby’s body.
Having an infant in the house forces you to prioritize your life; in our case, at least, maintaining any semblance of coolness appears to be the first casualty of parenthood. There must be other parents who manage to somehow stay cool while singing “This is the Song That Never Ends” and emptying the Diaper Genie, but it seems only a matter of time before Kara and I stop catching pop culture references and start wearing socks with sandals. I can already feel the hair growing faster out of the right side of my head in preparation for my forthcoming combover.
But as we lose touch with our real or imagined coolness, we’re gaining confidence in our fledgling baby-keeping-alive abilities. A few short months ago, I didn’t even know how to hold a baby. Whenever someone would try to hand their baby off to me, a bolt of fear would shoot through me as I tried to think of a plausible excuse. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, “I’d love to, but I’m wildly contagious right now,” is a tough excuse to beat.
It’s not just that I was scared about holding a baby incorrectly, with their big pumpkin heads flopping all over the place on their tiny little pipe-cleaner necks, it’s that you never want to be the one holding the baby when it starts to cry. When people start passing a baby around the room, it becomes a game of Hot Human, with the loser being the one holding the little tater when the wailing begins.
Plus, everyone knows that babies can smell fear. When you make a baby cry, which is exactly what you’ll do if you’re worried that you will, all you can really do is make the handoff to the parent as quickly as possible, and next time roll around in the yard first to mask the scent of your apprehension.
As my second and final week of paternity leave winds down, though, I’m finding that baby-handling isn’t nearly as difficult as I’d once imagined, even if it doesn’t come without the risk of bodily harm. Since I am the resident bottle giver (the position of resident breast pumper was already filled), I have spent exactly one third of my recent life holding a baby in one hand and an upturned bottle in the other, and not the kind of upturned bottle that might make sitting in the same chair all day more entertaining. When you lock your arms in the same position for a cumulative eight hours a day, it starts to take a toll on you. Clearly, our baby should have come with a more ergonomic design.
I’ve been trying to think if there’s a less cool injury in the world than getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from feeding a baby. I picture myself in the waiting room at the physical therapist’s office, sitting beside a guy who didn’t have spit-up stains on his shoulders.
He’d look at me and say, “I pulled my rotator cuff while pitching in the seventh inning of a no-hitter. What happened to you?”
“Oh, I, uh. Well,” I’d answer, trying to think of a response that sounded cool. “It involved a lot of nipples, is all I can say.”
You can pat Mike Todd on the back at firstname.lastname@example.org.