It should be no surprise (at least not if you have read prior posts) to hear that My Wife and I like to be prepared. We research, read, inquire, analyze, poke, prod and experiment (and not always in that order). Personally, this methodology has served me well in life, and I was relatively certain it would work with child rearing. My plan was steadily bolstered as My Wife bought more books, found more web sites and otherwise dug up more information on all things baby. You see, I am an academic at heart, thus having reference materials available gives me a sense of comfort. The fact I am writing about this, however, obviously means this was a false sense of comfort (because, honestly, there is little humor to be had from “and the plan worked out perfectly”). The post hoc “obvious” reason for the failure of my plan is that no matter how much reading and preparing you do, raising a child is the epitome of “you have to actually do it to understand it.” Now, this is not because we are dealing with some esoteric art, bordering on ethereal knowledge, which is incapable of conveyance by something as clumsy and brutish as human language. No, the truth is ridiculously mundane: every baby is going to be just different enough from every other baby so as to awry (go with me here) the best laid plans of mice and men (yes, a tortured use of Burns’s poem and Steinbeck’s title was the pay-off; sue me). In short, apparently you learn to be a parent by being a parent.
Personally, this revelation, although very helpful, is a bit anticlimactic. More to the point, given that we are still so early on in our parenthood, the urge to romanticize the process still grips me. It is in this vein that I started thinking, what if there was a way to effectively study to be a parent? A baccalaureate in parenting program, if you will. What would the course work look like, knowing what I do now? Well, I am glad you (and by “you” I mean “I”) asked:
1) Milk/Formula Dynamics (Applied Chemistry). For at least the first 6 months of life, your child should only ingest two things: Breast Milk and/or Formula. In this class you learn how to store, handle and dispense these volatile substances. Topics covered: Hungry Child Thermodynamics (a bottle takes twice as long to warm up if the child is hungry, three times as long if he is screaming); Inverse Fluidity (flow through a bottle nipple will slow the closer it is to the child’s mouth, but accelerate near clothing, furniture or portions of the child’s face that is not the mouth); and Variable Stain Setting (staining potential of the fluids is directly proportional to the value of the item spilled on).
2) The Newborn Parent Mind (Abnormal Psychology). You now are 100% responsible for keeping an otherwise helpless human alive. This course will examine behavioral manifestations of this responsibility. Topics covered: Obsessive Hovering; Obsessive Breathing Checks; Obsessive Movement Checks; Obsessive Diaper Checks; Did He Just Cry Checks; and, No Seriously Is He Still Breathing Checks.
3) Baby Lifting (Phys. Ed). You will have to maneuver through certain activities holding a child from time to time, and this class teaches you the proper techniques. Topics covered: Mounting and dismounting the couch with a sleeping baby; preparing the bottle one handed; speed eating; cleaning up one handed; and proper holding of a child with soiled diaper (the advanced extended arm techniques).
4) Sleep Seminar (Classics). Much like Homer, Ovid, Virgil, Seneca and Boethius, sleep is now an artifact of the past. Topics covered: Remembering sleep; Just one hour … for the love of God; and I bet I can catch 10 minutes of sleep on that stool over there.
5) Expulsion Mechanics (Applied Physics). Fluids and solids of varying viscosity and density, respectively, will be expelled by your child at unpredictable speeds. Although prevention is an impossibility, containment and damage minimization is possible through a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the “blow-outs”. Topics Covered: Urine Pressure Differentials (pee flows faster the further from the diaper); Secondary Poop Blast (the initial poop’s contact with oxygen can cause an immediate second poop); Puke Vectors (puke will travel along whatever non-linear path necessary to reach your shirt); and Catastrophic Chain Blow-Out Dynamics (cleaning up any one expulsion and cause blow-outs in any other system).
Attendance is taken in all classes, with the exception of the Sleep Seminar, which gets cut with alarming regularity.