This week, Joel Warner gives us some insight as to what it's like to be a part-time stay-at-home dad and a full-time neurotic obessessive with fantasies of prehistoric predators eating his young. Read his feature about the baby products industry here.
Tuesday: Today I had to bring my four-month-old son along for a work assignment. I try not to do this too often; I prefer to keep my baby in our house, a place where I have full control over temperature, precipitation and casual observers. Sometimes, however, it can’t be helped – and those are the times when I’m very happy that my baby is better than your baby.
You want to know why my baby is better than your baby? Here’s why:
-My baby is disturbingly good looking. I’m not just saying this because he’s my son. Several people have told me he’s the best-looking infant they’ve ever seen. He came out with a full head of brown hair, perfectly coiffed. He uses his lake-blue eyes to stunning effect. Whenever there’s a camera around, he goes into his poses: “Here’s my Hallmark Card angelic face.” “Here’s my coyly cute-as-a-button face.” “Here’s my ‘blissful ignorance while I punch the cat in the face’ face.” Honestly, I’m not really sure he’s my son. He may be the bastard child of Brangelina. This makes me happy, since in this society, attractive people are always more successful than those who aren’t. Always. It’s only a matter of time until he’s bankrolling his ugly, destitute journalist of a father.
-My baby loves to get his diaper changed. Some parents say their kids hate getting their diapers changed. I have one thing to say to them: “Ha-ha.” My son approaches diaper changes like it’s his job. He could be wailing at the top of his lungs, but when it’s diaper-change time, all crying stops and he puts on his game face. Sometimes we trick him, replacing one clean diaper with another just to quiet him down. He even helps out, holding up his feet with his hands. It’s like he’s saying, “I’ve got these bothersome wiggling feet under control, you get to work on the mess.” If we neglected to clean him, he’d just stay there for 10, 20, 30 minutes – legs up in the air, ready for business.
-My baby is a happy baby. I’ve heard some babies cry a lot. I wouldn’t know. My baby is, for the most part, the silent type. Sure, he has a good set of lungs and knows how to use them, but he only does so when he’s tired, hungry, or needs his diaper changed. And these are problems I can handle. If he’s hungry, give him milk; any nipple-shaped dispenser will do. I’ve already described his enthusiasm when it comes to diaper changes. And when he’s tired, all he needs is a thorough bouncing — of which I am the hands-down master.
That’s right: I can’t give birth and I can’t lactate, but I can bounce like there’s no tomorrow. My ankles must be pre-programmed with my son’s biorhythms, that’s how good I am. Now I do it all the time. If my wife is bouncing our son to sleep, I bounce along with her. Sometimes, at work, while talking about a story, I find myself bouncing absent-mindedly, much to the chagrin of my editors. “But I need to bounce,” I tell them, wherever I may be. I am the lord of the bounce, says me.
That bounce pays off. A few weeks ago, my wife and I were both part of our friends’ wedding. As our friend stood by the altar, our son started crying in her arms – just as the bride was walking down the aisle. There was nothing she could do; he wouldn’t fall asleep. “Let me see what I can do,” I declared confidently, standing right behind her. She handed him over, and out came the bounce. Within moments, he was silent, a look of pure delight on his face. The audience was in awe, crying and cheering. I know some say it was for the wedding couple, but I’m pretty sure it was for my bounce.
That’s why I’m not too worried when I have to bring him along to a work meeting, like I did this afternoon. I know that since he’s so adorable, no one’s going to mind having him around. (If they do, I know they must be vampires, so I stake them in the heart). If he gets upset, I have two sure-fire tricks up my sleeve: I can change his diaper, or I can bounce the bejesus out of him. It worked like a charm today: for the first half of my meeting, everyone oh-ed and ah-ed over my son. Then, when he started to fuss, I expertly bounced him to sleep.
And don’t worry. I didn’t bring him along while investigating some nefarious subject. I was meeting with a bunch of good-natured local businesspeople. He’s not allowed to come along when I interview prostitutes or drug addicts. That goes double for Colorado Springs religious leaders.
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Actually, though, sometimes it’s not the obviously icky people I worry about when I take my son out into the world. Often it’s the nicest folks who give me the willies. For example, why do people think that a stranger’s baby is fair game for any amount of prodding and poking? This started before my son was even born. Random people would come up to my wife and touch her belly. This was only other women, mind you – if a dude did it I’d be in jail for assault. But still, it was downright weird – and it hasn’t stopped. Now passersby don’t think twice about touching my son’s head or holding his little hand. He seems to like it, but that’s because he believes any of these individuals could be milk dispensers. He doesn’t want to jeopardize a potential meal. I know better.
Sometimes it’s worse than a mere touch. Not too long ago, my family and I were dining at a restaurant in Lyons. My wife was struggling to finish her dinner while holding our son when a friendly woman from a nearby table offered to hold him so my wife could eat. It was such an unusual and kind request that we’d handed him over before we realized, what had we just done? We didn’t know this woman. If she asked to borrow our car or our wallets, we’d say no way. But we had just given her our only son, our progeny. Worse yet, she was from Lyons. You can never trust those dirty mountain folk.
I’m not taking any more chances. From now on, if anyone wants to come within a three-foot radius of my son, they have to get through me and my gauntlet. First, they have to pass a standard highway patrol drunk-driving test. Then I get to weigh their disembodied heart against the mass of a feather, like in the ancient Egyptian passage to the afterlife. After that, they must answer my riddles three. Finally, they have to don a biohazard suit.
Even then, I still won’t really trust them. See that cute teddy bear in my son’s hand? The one that’s beeping? That’s right. My baby comes equipped with LoJack. – Joel Warner