I don’t talk about The Baby on this site very often. Sure, I’ll refer to certain things that parenthood has exposed me to. I’ll opine on how having a kid gives me new perspectives on things. But for the most part, I don’t like talking about anything she actually does.
The reason is that, whoever you might be, I’m sure you do not give a shit. If being married means creating a series of endless in-jokes that no one else in the world will ever have a chance to be a part of, then that’s what being a parent is like, times a thousand.
Like, when you’re hanging with a friend that you’ve known for a little bit, and he’s hanging out with guys he knows from way back, and they spend the whole night reciting disembodied lines from episodes in their collective past. And they’re laughing their heads off while you think What the fuck are these idiots talking about? So they start explaining it to you, but the explanation has so much back story and footnotes to it that you’d prefer to remain in the dark.
Prime example: last Saturday, The Baby climbed into our bed while we were still trying to sleep. So I pretended I was still asleep with exaggerated, cartoony snoring sounds. The Baby thought this was funny, so she started to imitate it in a way that only a baby can imitate something she doesn’t understand. For a few days, every time I said “Go to sleep!”, she’d make a similar noise. But every time she did it, it was as if she was making a copy of her previous attempt, so after a few days of this, it sounded less like a snore and more like she was clearing her throat of phlegm.
I thought this was hysterical, so I tell her to “go to sleep” every time she’s been around friends in the past week. Of course, these people never heard the several days’ transition between Snore Noise and Weird Hacking Noise. They just hear her make a horrible sound and wonder if she’s feeling okay. There’s no way they could think this is funny, because they would literally have to have been with us the entire previous week in order to “get it”. The payoff is so small that it’s not worth the setup.
So I try to I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to The Baby. If you ask me how she’s doing, I will go on and on. But I won’t bring her up out of the blue. Because either you don’t have kids and you can’t relate, or you do have kids and you have enough of your own problems.
In return, I ask that you not bring up your cat. I think that’s a compromise we can all deal with. I’ve seriously had this happen, though: I’ll mention some crazy Baby Episode, and someone will say, “Oh, I totally know what that’s like. This one time my cat…”
[insert sound of needle pulled across record]
Look, Unnamed Person: I’m sure you love your cat. I’m not gonna diminish the affection you feel for your pet. But there is no god damn way in the holiest of holy hells that anything you do cat-related is in the same ballpark with being a parent. Don’t wanna pull rank, but it’s the truth.
Last time I checked, when cats don’t like their dinner, they don’t throw their food across the room and scream at the top of their lungs. They also take dumps in boxes of sand, as opposed to in their pants. Or in the bathtub. Or all over their crib, when their diapers come loose.
“Hey, Neil Armstrong! You know that story you’re telling about walking on the moon? I can totally relate to that. I once went to the beach at night, so I completely understand where you’re coming from.”
[Tangent: Have you noticed that pet owners are now referred to as “parents”? Who allowed that to happen? So caring for your flesh and blood, carrier of your genes, fruit of your loins = buying something at the pet store? Totally equivalent. Thanks, sudden meaninglessness of the English language! Hey, I’m gonna call myself a farmer ’cause I totally grew this bean plant in first grade! I’m sure a guy who works in the fields 18 hours a day wouldn’t find that the least bit demeaning and trivializing of his life’s work!]
My other silent request of the world is that you don’t give me parenting tips unless I ask for them. Case in point: last summer, we took a ride to the supermarket. On this trip, we decided to try out a little shopping cart play-thingy we got as a baby shower gift. It was a plush cushiony thing meant to line the little seat area by the shopping cart handles so The Baby has stuff to distract her and won’t get tetanus on the rusty metal slats.
Problem was, The Baby did not yet have great sitting-up skills. So after we spent 20 minutes installing the Super Fun Time Wow Machine and sat her down in it, she promptly fell to the side and clunked her head on the side of the shopping cart.
The Baby starts screaming, of course, so I pick her up and rock her back and forth. This calms her down so much that she vomits up her last bottle of formula. Then, she takes a deep breath and vomits up that afternoon’s lunch. She’d been holding on to it for just such an occasion.
When fretting about parental responsibility, you often think about having to handle poop and messy feedings and such. No one ever warns you about the intensity and suddenness with which babies yak. And the gap between when it becomes obvious that a baby will throw up and when they actually do can only be measured in nanoseconds. A major league batter can tell the difference between fastball and changeup in fractions of a second, but there’s no way even they would have enough time to avoid baby barf once the eruption is imminent.
Just as The Baby is puking all over my shoes, this woman passes by us, pushing a shopping cart through the parking lot. She shrieks at us in the Queens-iest of all Queens accents, “TILT HER FORWARD! SHE’S GONNA CHOKE” And then she keeps moving, like an extremely adenoidal ship passing us in the night.
Thank you, mysterious stranger! You have just done the least helpful thing possible! You could have asked us if we needed help, or you could have just minded your own business. Instead, you stopped, yelled at us, thus distracting us and upsetting The Baby even more, and then just went on your merry way.
Not to mention the fact that I was holding The Baby forward, thus rendering her Edith Bunker-esque advice completely unnecessary.
I also promise that I will help other parents I see in distress, but only to a point. Last year, I was at the 34th Street/Herald Square subway station, and there was a woman there all by herself, struggling to hoist a baby carriage up the stairs. I decided to assist her, and I grabbed the front of the carriage. That’s when I saw that the kid in this stroller was way, way too old to pushed around in anything on wheels. Kid had to be at least 9 years old. He looked like he was about three weeks away from shaving for chrissakes.
And he was reading a book. If he tried, he couldn’t have looked more like a selfish, spoiled little snot. Not a care in the world as his mother and a stranger trundle him up three flights of stairs.
At first, I felt bad for the woman, so I kept helping her despite my burning anger at this kid. To refuse to assist her at that point would’ve required Larry David levels of doucheosity that I simply can’t achieve.
But the more I thought about it, the more I hated the woman. This kid couldn’t act like the King of Siam if his mother didn’t let him. If I had tried something like this with my own mother, I can only imagine the swift and brutal punishment that would have awaited me.
Actually, she probably would’ve just laughed and said, “A stroller? Nuh uh. If we’re going into the city, your lazy ass is gonna walk.”
So now, for just such occasions, I carry around one of those height requirement stands from Six Flags: YOU MUST BE THIS SHORT TO DESERVE PRINCELY TREATMENT.