People no longer have children or raise children. They parent. This trend, which can be traced to the verbing of such nouns as lunch and bed, has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. alone, and threatens to replace completely the once popular sport of child rearing. We have decided to exploit the current popularity of this locution by inventing a singular form for the male progenitor. Here, then, is our guide to daddying.
This guide has no pretensions of being politically correct. On the contrary, we've gone out of our way to avoid even the appearance of political rectitude. The current fashion is to show great concern for the mother of a new baby. The mother, after all, has had to carry the child for nine months or so, and has had to undergo unspeakable horrors to deliver said child. Sure. That's fine.
But it's about time we acknowledged the invaluable contribution, not to mention the supreme sacrifices, made by the fathers. Who must now learn to speak with the subdued gentility of a librarian? Who must share his bed with a partner the size of a sport utility vehicle, who trots off to the bathroom on the quarter hour, and who may at any moment, without warning, develop an urgent need for a dairy product? Who must weather the emotional extremes of a hormonal monsoon? And who, throughout all of this, is expected to be loving, supportive, nurturing and egoless?
This guide sets the record straight.
People have babies for all sorts of reasons. If any of the following apply to you, you may wish to consider self-inflicted parenthood:
One of the reasons the arrival of a new baby is so traumatic is that parents fail to plan adequately for this change in their lives. They don't rearrange their homes and their lifestyles to suit the new role they'll be assuming as parents. To help in this effort, we provide a few simple exercises to help parents prepare for the utter tumult that awaits them.
For this exercise, you will need an empty paper towel tube, and a cup of milk. Yogurt may be substituted, if desired.
- Stand in the middle of the room.
- Hold the paper towel tube vertically, so the open ends face up and down.
- Pour the milk into the tube.
For best effect, this exercise should be repeated several times daily, preferably while wearing clean work clothes.
- Buy a 5 minute egg timer with a bell.
- Put it on your nightstand before bed, and set it.
- When it goes off, reset it.
- Repeat step 3.
Arrange to have your pay check direct-deposited to Toys-R-Us.
That covers what you need before the baby actually arrives. You can pick up the rest later. Some other optional items include:
Of course, the most important things any parent needs are patience, love and understanding. That and a good supply of tranquilizer darts.
The current wisdom is that parent-child relationships should be built on trust, bargaining, deal-making, etc. In fact, more and more parents are exploring the practice of a arranging a contract with their children. This is an ideal time to settle the terms of such an agreement. (Tip: Newborns have very little negotiating leverage.) Such a document, properly drawn up and approved, can give you tremendous peace of mind later in life. Imagine being able to say to your child: Sorry, but your room is in violation of the Cleanliness Clause, Section II, Paragraph 6, or to your teenager: Sorry, but your contract says you're to wash the car and fill it up whenever you take it out.
Call your local bar association for referrals for lawyers who are experienced in pre-natal agreements. There should always be a clause that reads:
The child agrees that delivery constitutes acceptance of the terms specified herein.
Fathers, this is where all that preparation, all the careful planning, assembling of cribs and changing tables, studying of books and magazines, copious note-taking during Lamaze classes, all the months of anticipating and rehearsing prove to be totally useless. Your first brush with reality will be the realization that everyone has neglected to tell the baby when he or she is due. Sure, you've known for months. The doctor whipped out one of those nifty circular slide rules and gave you the precise date and time and astrological sign. You've notified your employer of which days you'll be out of work, and you've arranged for your in-laws to help out. Your bags are packed and lined up in the hallway. Then, all of a sudden ... nothing!
Days go by. Your wife is in constant touch with the doctor, who smiles beatifically and says He'll come when he's ready. You start to remember everything you've heard about children not wanting to leave the nest, and you realize this kid's never coming out. After all, why should he? You ask the doctor about inducing, and are told to be patient. Meanwhile, your wife's abdomen has made the short list of sites for the next Olympic opening ceremonies.
Or, there's the alternative scenario. You're weeks away from the blessed date. You nonchalantly check items off your list. Diapers? Sure, we'll pick some up next week. Pack for the hospital? No problem. We know just what to bring. You lie down for what you whimsically think will be one of your last few peaceful nights for a while. Then ... whammo! It's Niagara Falls, and you're going over in a barrel. Your wife, who is being propelled around the room by a small downward geyser, is saying: Hospital! Now! and you're thinking No, I couldn't be satisfied with the fabric seats. I had to get the leather.
The maternity ward is an ultra high tech medical wonderland, filled with every contrivance, service, or facility that could possibly be rallied for the comfort of ... your wife. Yes, your wife will be given a special delivery bed, each square inch of whose mattress can be raised or lowered independently. Each coil is adjustable via remote control, as is the TV set, which tracks the movements of the bed's pillows to ensure the perfect viewing angle from all positions. God forbid she should miss any Magnum, P.I. reruns during labor.
You, on the other hand, will sleep on a chair in the corner, behind the bathroom door ... when you're allowed in the room at all. The rest of the time, you'll be checking in, dashing to the Ambulances only zone where you left your car, running for ice chips, or wondering what to do with the tennis balls in sweat socks that the Lamaze people told you to pack.
The sumptuous wood paneling houses cabinets full of state-of-the-art medical equipment. Your wife will be connected to about 47 tubes, 18 wires, 3 rolls of surgical tape and, at least during contractions, your forearm. She'll be wearing a monitor so that the hospital staff can check the kid's vital signs at a moment's notice. She may have epidural anesthesia administered through tubes in her back. She may have her bladder drained via catheter. She may have intravenous solution delivered through a tube in her hand or arm. She may also be getting petocin through another such tube. She will, with increasing frequency, experience a sensation akin to someone's trying to remove a bowling ball from your mouth. And you may notice a slight testiness in her ordinarily cheerful, airy demeanor.
The doctors and nurses move efficiently about, saying medical things like nine centimeters, and he's going to be a big one. All this is, of course, very soothing and reassuring.
Once your baby has been born, you cease to be patients, deserving of the most attentive and indulgent care the nurses can provide, and become parents. You're hastily moved from the airy, light-filled delivery room into a squalid cell opposite the nursery, where your wife tries anxiously to feed the baby while hordes of grandparents, co-workers and tourists tromp down the hall. After hours of giggling at their own offspring and relatives, they look at your baby and shake their heads before shuffling on to the elevator.
However, you needn't worry about uncomfortable conditions in neo-natal care. Current medical insurance policies in the U.S. dictate that you be discharged from the hospital within 15 minutes of your baby's birth.2
So, you've survived the delivery, and now you're at home with a newborn baby. Suddenly all the careful planning, the books you've read, even the cute fuzzy little lambs seem woefully inadequate. Suddenly, you're a father! You can't explain to the kid that you're new at this. Infants have very little sympathy for your lack of experience. Besides, you don't want to give them the upper hand.
The more you understand about babies, the easier it will be to deal with unexpected problems when they arise. And they will. There are many things you can't anticipate while you're standing in the hospital, holding that delicate bundle who grabs your finger and gazes into your eyes with a look that says: Daddy, someday you're going to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, at current inflation rates, to get me out of the house.
It is now fashionable to nurse, or breast feed newborn babies. The more alert among you guys will note that the previous sentence contains one of the special male attention-getting keywords. Your initial reaction will be Great! I'll come home and all my wife's friends will be strutting bare-breasted around the living room! Forget it. For one thing, there are few things less stimulating than the sight of a newborn baby contentedly nuzzling in places you spent most of your adolescence only dreaming about. For another, women possess an instinctive ability to raise their shirts, unhook a nursing bra, and place a squalling infant on the nipple without exposing a square millimeter of flesh.
Of course, many mothers elect not to nurse, for various reasons. If this is the case, your baby will be fed a substance so completely mysterious and indescribable that it is identified only as formula . What's in this formula? Does it contain any ingredients actually found in nature? No one knows. All we know is that it has been scientifically engineered by nutritionists and dietitians to ensure that it costs more than weapons-grade plutonium.
The digestive system is practically the first system to become functional in the newborn baby. Before they can focus their eyes, they can poop. It's helpful to think of the newborn baby as a tube. You load one end, and wipe off the other. New parents are often amazed at the frequency with which their baby eliminates, yet they continue putting food into the kid. This is not rocket science, folks. Remember also that a clean diaper to a baby is like a blank canvas to an artist.
As parents, you'll have to decide what kind of diapers to use. There are basically four options:
The first option holds a certain rustic charm for those who have never actually experienced a soiled diaper. It also has the advantage of being relatively harmless to the environment, although not as much as option 4.
The second option, using a diaper service, is somewhat more attractive, but it requires you to stockpile dirty diapers for the once-a-week pickup. Anyone who's experienced this knows that you should be entitled to a discount on your home owner's insurance, since this is a more effective burglary deterrent than a Doberman pinscher.
Fortunately, modern technology has developed methods of converting disposable diaper waste into all sorts of useful products, such as construction materials, clothing and fast food. This should eliminate any lingering doubts you may have about using disposables.
Ha! Forget it!
Babies get sick. In fact, it's what they do best. However, you do not need to worry constantly, since babies only get sick at certain times. For instance, babies never get sick while they're at the doctor's. They don't get sick during the day, and they especially don't get sick when your mother-in-law is watching them. They only get sick at night. Late at night.
Fortunately, you can always tell when the baby is sick. They vomit. Babies vomit when they've had too much to eat. They vomit when they play too roughly. They vomit when they're teething. They vomit when they have ear infections. And sometimes they vomit just for the sheer joy of it.
When babies vomit, they need fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated (like those vegetables the astronauts eat.) The best way to keep babies hydrated is to supply clear liquids. Follow this procedure:
If this procedure is repeated often enough, you may find yourself vomiting alongside your baby. This is known as bonding.
Although it's rarely acknowledged, the biggest difficulty most new parents encounter is other parents. You will receive advice, admonitions, dilapidated hand-me-downs, and the most probing of personal questions. For some reason, the presence of your child seems to give other people license to pry into your personal affairs. Total strangers will accost you in the mall and ask, How old is the little sprat? There's no correct answer to this question. Regardless of your reply, the other parent will parry with something like A year? Billy had finished writing his calculus book by then, or Six months? Sherry was captain of her gymnastics team at that age.
Parents like this are the main reason that children grow up to be the kind of people you find in the world today.
Of course, having other parents around can be a blessing too. The old saying that misery loves company has more than a hint of truth. In fact, misery is a regular Martha Stewart when it comes to company. Parents can spend countless hours regaling each other with tales of their young ones triumphs, and then go home saying, Well, at least my kid's not like that!
This short guide should help you through the first troublesome months of daddy-hood. You can now look forward to many years of fatherly bliss as you watch your child grow and develop into a mature and responsible person. Of course, there will be other challenges ahead. Our next guide will explain how to survive watching the same Sesame Street episode 400 times, how to play Pull my finger, how to remove strained peaches from your computer keyboard, and other valuable skills.
1 The state-of-the-art is gigantic, contoured nipples which bear no resemblance to any portion of human anatomy, but which are nonetheless called natural.
2 30 minutes for a Caesarean delivery.