Monday, March 17, 2008

Hey, it wasn't me

I want to preface this post with the following: Before I had my son, I was barraged by “helpful” tips from parents. I swore I would never, ever inundate any expecting woman with parenting tips.

There, I’ve said it.

Last Saturday morning my husband Charles and I made the spontaneous decision to visit some friends and watch their town’s St Patty’s Day parade. We planned on being out of the house by 8 a.m. to make the 11 a.m. parade. Actual time of departure: 10:35 a.m. Number of bags for baby: 15. Number of bags for parents: two. Junior napped leisurely on the ride while Charles and I stopped for burnt bagels (can the Dunkin' Donuts chain please buy some decent toasters already?!) and coffee.

When we finally arrived, our single, childless friends were already lit. The parade was in full swing a few streets away but they were quite content fishing off their porch with a fishing reel and empty beer cans. When the beer cans fell off they used packs of cigarettes. Then they saw us.

They were nice about meeting the baby and all but come on, no drunk adult who is not tied down to a spouse or child wants to play with a baby in the midst of St. Patty’s Day debauchery. About the same time we finished arranging Junior’s 15 bags in the living room the porch grew very quiet. We went outside and were told by an inebriated straggler that the party had moved to a bar.

We packed up Junior and walked down to the parade, trying to locate a non-rowdy section (i.e., an adults-with-kids section). A radio station once played sound clips of a St. Patty’s Day parade in the adults section and the adults-with-kids section. In the plain old adults section people yelled, screamed, and laughed. They cheered on the parade marchers. Blasted horns. Fell over. In the adults-with-kids section, one sober soul clapped—not out of actual enjoyment but because they were trying to instill in their child some enthusiasm for the Shriners in their mini carts.

That was the section we found ourselves in thanks to our child. It was boring. So back to the house we headed to wait for our other friends, Jan and Eva, to arrive. Why weren’t they at the bar or parade? Because they were pregnant. Very, very pregnant.

We relocated Junior and his 15 bags to Eva’s quieter, more child-friendly home. Remembering my vow, I kept my mouth shut while they waxed idealistic about breastfeeding and pumping for the first five years. I didn’t even laugh out loud when they mentioned the natural, drug-free water birth and birthing plan (not even when Eva’s husband, Rick, commented on my son’s “big fat head” and the fact that he is more attractive than me and Charles combined).

Nope. Not a word. In fact for the rest of the day I didn’t have to worry about saying anything…because Charles would not shut up.

“You guys have to get a swaddler. Do you have a swaddler? Not just a regular swaddler but one with Velcro. What about the Amby bed—have you read about that? And rice cereal. Don’t be afraid to try some rice cereal. Have you interviewed pediatricians? Did you get a breast pump? And what about one of those backpacks—what are they called, honey?”

My darling husband fired more tips at those pregnant woman than the whole series of “What to Expect.” Until that point I hadn’t realized just how much of the parenting experience he had ingested. Ingested and digested and sent merrily through every cavern of his sweet fatherly body. I kept wanting to reign him in—their lids were growing heavy—but I was so impressed by the knowledge he had amassed. It was if the man had given birth himself.

On the ride home I told him about my promise to myself. And do you know what he said?

“I bet they really appreciated that. They seem a little overwhelmed with the whole parenting thing.”

I told him it must have been Junior’s 15 bags.

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