Sometimes All You Need is Breast Milk, Published in the Savannah Morning News, May 2010
Elliot is nearing 5 months old, and as I type this, he’s launched into his regular nap-time protest. Nothing makes you feel more crap-tastic than your child crying from behind his prison, I mean crib, bars. As his heartbreaking whimper climbs and falls, I remind myself, “You’re doing alright.”
I am becoming a problem solver. I recall a day early on when Elliot started getting a little discharge from one of his eyes. What was I thinking taking him out in the yard? He probably got a big chunk of dirt in there or something. No need to panic. A reference book suggested putting a few drops of breast milk in his eye to prevent infection. Talk about your awkward application.
A few days later Elliot’s pop found a white film over a scratch on his forehead. “What?” I said. “It works.”
The curative properties of breast milk make me want to lactate for years. Elliot is now on formula, but I’d like to keep production going for first aid purposes. Elliot could scuff himself up playing high school football, and I’d come rushing down the bleachers, like Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, cursing a stubborn bra clasp.
People go a little overboard in their desire to achieve. Does becoming a parent end that? Nope.
I was changing Elliot’s diaper a few weeks in and decided to give his undercarriage a little baby powder. Well, too much came out and his package looked like a beignet at the Cafe du Monde. (Over by the toy box I could see his stuffed pig, Frig, giving me the stink eye.)
These little mishaps are between you and your little one. No harm, right? Then you start wondering. What stupid stuff is the other parent in the house doing? Is it more stupid than your stupid? Could it be dangerously stupid? Yes.
One day I placed Elliot in his car seat for a trip to the ATM. His dad had moved his car seat into my car before leaving for work. As I locked Elliot in, I smiled at myself in the rearview mirror. Only awesome parents buy car seats that snazzy. Of course Elliot’s awesome parents each assumed the other had belted the seat down. We only discovered our less than awesomeness that evening.
No matter how badly you question your partner’s parenting skills, I must advise against starting conversations with, “Hey, idiot.” It just sets the wrong tone.
“Did you feed the baby? Did he finish the bottle? Was he sitting up? Did he burp?” All valid questions, but try not to launch them like steak knives. Throw a “Have you seen the remote?” in there to break it up a bit. Offering a glass of wine or Apple Pucker Schnapps is also helpful for keeping the mood light.
Occasionally, there is the parent who seems perfect. I assure you it is not the case. Stronger interrogation techniques may be required. Remember that scene in “Marathon Man” where the guy breaks out the dental instruments and keeps asking Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?” It’s a good technique for finding out whether your partner is checking the temperature of the bath water or using the child-proofing lock on the hopper.
Nothing chaps a tookus like living with a mom or dad who won’t reveal flaws. Social gatherings are a good place to observe other parents working out their frustration. A “Whatever you say, Dr. Spock,” and a “Up yours, Judge-Me Barbie,” are clear signs of a dynamic duo wading through the healing waters of sarcasm. What would pith be without constructive criticism. “He spit up because you’re holding his legs up like that,” is a common line. There is always an unspoken, “jackass,” tacked on the end, too.
At the end of the day, most of the stupid things that new parents do are not dangerous. Nobody ever went to the ER from parents singing “Lady Marmalade” again and again. “The Love Boat” and “Three’s Company” themes performed lounge style are nontoxic. At our house, they are common occurrences.
Don’t tell Elliot, but we’re working on a Styx number with robot choreography.