PREPARING FOR BABY
Webster’s Dictionary defines prepare as “to put in proper condition or readiness.”
Readiness? I didn’t even know that readiness was a word. But who am I to argue with Webster? What I can say with complete confidence, though, is that saying that you can be “ready” for a baby is like saying that you can be “ready” for a natural disaster. We know that things are going to get shaken up, we know we’ll be out of our element and there are supplies to be had. But really, how the hell does one “prepare” for his life to be turned completely upside down?
I wasn’t ready for my son to be born three months premature. To be honest, I wasn’t ready for him at all. I was a lout. I was a loudmouthed know-it-all who always had to have things go my way. The thought of me being in charge of another human being’s welfare was laughable. Well, it would have been laughable if it didn’t happen to me at four-thirty in the afternoon that fall day. What had once been laughable became instantly terrifying. I had no idea how to be a father. I had no idea how to do laundry or how to mix formula or how to install a car seat. I was clueless about how to change a diaper. I didn’t know how to soothe a grown-up, let alone a baby. I couldn’t even find the remote. Parenthood is probably best described by the old expression “If you want God to laugh, make plans.” I quickly learned that when it comes to parenthood there should be a change in that expression: “If you want God to laugh, have expectations.”
I’m not sure what I expected when I became a father but I do know that every day for the next seven years, my expectations and hopes would be blown out of the water daily. I am sure that if you are a parent and reading this, you are solemnly nodding your head in agreement. Having kids is like Murphy’s law taking place every day inside your heart. If you want your son to be an athlete, he will become a total spaz. If you want your daughter to be a beauty queen, she will be cross-eyed. If your wish is for your daughter to go out into the world and get a great education, she will be as dumb as a bag of hair. Parents make big plans and God laughs. Every day. You go to sleep at night and think up a big plan to take your daughter to the beach. You can hardly sleep because of how excited you are that you thought of something so cool for your kid. You reflect back on all the times you wish your parents had taken you to the beach, and you lie in the dark and silently gloat that you are going to be a better parent than your parents ever were. Then you wake up in the morning and tell your daughter the big, huge, wonderful beach news and she looks you in the eye and says, “I don’t want to go to the beach.” You stand there stunned while holding towels and wearing white shit on your nose. You think, Who the fuck doesn’t want to go to the beach? Your child doesn’t want to go to the beach because you planned a day at the beach. Welcome aboard.
So we’ve established that the moment Jackie was released from the womb, I realized—in a moment of simultaneous bliss and sheer terror—that I could never be mentally prepared for the event. But let’s call a spade a spade (where did that expression come from anyway?): my lack of “readiness” for my child began months before his birth . . . when I realized that I had to literally and physically prepare for his arrival. For the slow audience and the cheap seats, this means that I had to blow my entire life savings to buy a bunch of things that I’d never even heard of before but now “needed.”
One of the first things that I “needed” to do was “baby-proof” the house. This is a smart idea for all parents—not only morons like me who buy bachelor pads with lots of stairs and decks and then decide to raise a child in them. I actually had a baby-proofing company come to my home to give me an estimate. The man who showed up told me that I should move. Cute.
The baby-proofing company either saw me coming or I lived in the world’s most dangerous house. Aside from the stuff I could think of on my own, like putting a shield in front of the fireplace and locks on the cabinets, these guys bled me dry. When they were finished putting gates in front of the stairs and latches on closet doors they handed me a bill for 823 dollars! I said, “I asked you to baby-proof my house, not put up new fucking siding!”
The man calmly walked me out onto one of my decks and said, “You have four decks. All of them are pretty large. You needed three hundred and forty square feet of Plexiglas.”
Now, believe me when I tell you I don’t want my kid to fall from a deck, but 340 square feet of Plexiglas? Let me put that in perspective for you. That is precisely 110 feet more Plexiglas than Joan Rivers has in her face. My house looks like the whale tank at Sea World now. I wondered if I could just as easily have soldered all the doors to the patio and decks and saved myself a couple of hundred bucks. I obviously couldn’t do that, though, and my home now has the most beautiful and expansive collection of Plexiglas panels imaginable. One afternoon, after a particularly violent storm had passed, I walked out onto one of my decks and saw that three of the panels had been blown out and disappeared. Not wanting to be bludgeoned again by the baby-proofing company, I looked out between the rungs of the railing on the deck and down at the land below. I thought to myself, It’s only a couple hundred feet. There is plenty of grass and shrubbery down there, and don’t babies bounce? To their credit, the baby-proofers came back to my house and replaced the missing Plexiglas panels for “free.” When the highway robbers reemerged in my home, the guy handed me a tiny container and said, “I’m doing the Plexiglas for free because last time we were here I forgot to give you this and I could lose my job because of it.”
“Oh, that’s great. What is it?” I asked.
“It’s called ipecac. One drop and anyone will immediately vomit.”
Wow. Was this guy nuts? You don’t give a comic a vial of instant puke! I immediately searched my brain for the perfect victim. Who had crossed me and how would I distract them away from their Diet Pepsi long enough to spike it with some good old-fashioned ipecac? Maybe I could invite one of my enemies over to bury the hatchet? The bottle of ipecac still sits in the cupboard in my kitchen and I lie in wait for someone to come over and piss me off.
Once the house has been baby-proofed, the next order of business is to fill our Plexiglas cages with the many new things to buy for a baby, things we have never shopped for before—bouncy swings, rocking chairs, pacifiers, plastic bathtubs, mobiles, strollers, diaper genies, sleep sacks, changing tables, gliders, blankets, and footies, to name a few.
That’s right, there’s more than that. You will also need an SUV or a minivan to haul all this shit home from the store.
If I ever decide to open a business later on in life, I will open a store that sells only baby furniture and retire to the Caribbean after two years with billions. Cribs, daybeds, and baby-changing stations are more expensive and more valuable to a new parent than all the diamonds in South Africa.
Shortly before Jackie was born, I went shopping for all the furnishings of my soon-to-be-son’s nursery. Strict adherents to many religions will not buy baby products or open any baby shower gifts until after the child is born. They consider this an act of arrogance against God’s impending gift. But I decided to go shopping because I didn’t want my kid to be sleeping on the dining room table.
I went to a classy baby furniture boutique on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. I shopped for less than one hour. I left with three pieces of furniture and all of their accessories and was quickly and pleasantly charged . . . seven thousand dollars.
Seven grand! What the hell just happened?! All I wanted was a freaking crib, and I wound up having to book an extra couple of gigs just to pay for it! I thought I was merely buying a crib. When I picked out the crib I wanted, the saleslady asked, “Do you have bumpers?”
No, I didn’t have bumpers. Not only did I not have bumpers, I didn’t even know what they were. Up until that moment, the only time I had heard the word bumpers used in a sentence was in reference to bumper cars, bowling alley bumpers, or the rear bumper that some jerk dented while I was in traffic on the 405. My house wasn’t nearly large enough for a bowling alley or bumper cars, so I was forced to do what all men hate to do in the presence of a woman. I had to ask, “Wha?”
A bumper, it turns out, is the padded pillow that runs along the side of your baby’s crib so his arm doesn’t fall between the bars and snap off. Common sense would dictate that bumpers be sold with the actual crib, but I guess when it comes to baby supplies, common sense be damned.
I needed bumpers, so I bought bumpers. It turned out that I “needed” a lot of things that day, and I bought one of each of them. I “needed” a humidifier for a perfectly moist nursery, so I bought a humidifier. I “needed” a rocking chair to sit in while feeding the baby, so I bought a rocking chair to sit in while feeding the baby. I “needed” a daybed in case we wanted to sleep in the nursery with the baby, so I bought a daybed, which “needed” a trundle to accompany it.
Wait a second. What the hell is a trundle? A trundle is the bottom part of a daybed that slides out in case two people need to sleep in the baby’s nursery. Gotcha. Trundle, check.
Shopping for my baby was like dealing with the mob. Every time I thought I was finished buying what I came in for, something else was “suggested” to me. Trust me, you don’t want to be perceived as a cheapskate when it comes to your baby’s nursery, so you wind up buying half the store. Jackie is too big for his crib now, but for three grand he had better crawl out of it the morning he wakes up to leave for college.
Aside from digging a giant, thirty-five-thousand-dollar hole for all of my kid’s living expenses before he was even born, I found that shopping for baby-related items has an enormous upside: women LOVE would-be fathers. If you think a wedding ring makes you more attractive to the opposite sex, try shopping for baby food and diapers. Holy smokes! It seems that the moment you enter into this phase of consumerism, women rappel from the ceiling to offer help.
My theory on this subject is that women find commitment alluring. A woman may be arguing with her boyfriend about when they will get married and why can’t he take out the trash and in you walk with an arm full of formula and a basket filled with Huggies number two, and the woman immediately makes a couple of assumptions that may or may not be true:
1. He is responsible! Ha. If they only knew how many times I forgot to put a dirty diaper in the outside trash cans and then watched in horror as my dog took five days to fully shit it out.
2. He is committed! Well, I should be committed . . .
But the moment I begin shopping for baby stuff, the chicks come out of the woodwork. They always lean just a little too close to tell you something, and they brush up against you as they talk. Thanks a lot, ladies. I was single for twenty-five years and had to buy enough booze for a generation of pirates. Where the hell were you then?
Here are some of the more baffling—and often disturbing—items on the baby shopping list.
The most bizarre purchase I made due to impending fatherhood was a breast pump. Simply put, the breast pump is a medieval torture device that forcibly sucks milk from a woman’s nipples and drops what it extracts into tiny plastic bags to be refrigerated and used as food later. Even though my friends tell me it tastes like half-and-half, its technical name is “expressed milk.”
Every woman who has ever had to use a breast pump has my deepest sympathy. These contraptions look like something the Nazis designed to make couples never want to see each other naked again. It’s truly humiliating for a woman to be hooked up to one of these things. The nipples get pulled a good four inches from the breasts and then sucked dry. I can imagine it hurts like a bitch—maybe even as extreme as a swift kick in the nuts.
Also, the sound the breast pump makes is a frightening series of slurps and whooshes accompanied by the constant droning of the breast pump engine, which never seems to tire of its torture. It’s safe to say that if men ever had to be subjected to the breast pump, babies around the world would be fed strictly formula for their entire lives. Either that, or beer. Maybe Gatorade.
The rule of thumb when shopping for baby products is that if it takes more than five minutes to figure out what it is or how it might be used, then you don’t need it. The one exception to this rule is diapers. Just having the word diapers on your list is an adjustment to your psyche. What was once a trip for chips, beer, and turkey patties is now a trip for formula, baby diapers, and A&D ointment. And though diapers are a very tricky purchase, you definitely need them.
Buying diapers isn’t like buying a can of soup or finding the deodorant that oozes from little holes. The margin of error is smaller than with other products. If you come home with the wrong olive oil, for example, you will probably hear something like “Oh, this isn’t the extra-virgin I usually use, but I’ll make do.”
Not with diapers. If you come home with the wrong type of diapers, I assure you that you will immediately be dispatched to the supermarket to correct the damage. Who knew the world of diapers was so vast and expansive? I sure didn’t.
Once Jackie was home, I was promptly sent out for diapers, so off I went. Little did I know that there are as many different types of diapers as there are babies. The first time I went to buy diapers, I was sweating as I perused the diaper section. I realized that I didn’t even know what they came in. Do they sell diapers in a jar? Do diapers come bound up like firewood? Are they in the frozen department? Who knows? They’re in an aisle that I’ve likely never even walked through before! And this is one of the astonishing things—there is an entire diaper aisle! Not a row or a shelf. Aisle three is all diapers! There are way too many choices! Huggies number one, Huggies number two, Huggies overnights, and of course, Huggies with wings (in case your kid is gay).
A few times I came home with the wrong diapers because I thought the baby on the package had to match the baby I had at home, like Garanimals. I would walk back and forth and mutter, “All these kids are Asian or black. Aren’t there any white baby diapers?”
What I know now is that every baby is a different size and shape, and the diaper companies put out every conceivable size and shape of diaper to accommodate them. I once saw a bag of diapers that read “Holds up to fifty pounds.” Holy mother of God! If your son goes to the bathroom and unloads fifty pounds, he doesn’t need a diaper, he needs a job. Maybe some manual labor down at the docks is more suitable for your monster-dump baby! Do you have a high school senior at home walking around in Huggies twenty-twos? Do society a favor and potty-train that guy. No one wants the star quarterback in high school to have a full diaper in the huddle.
The bigger the baby, the higher the corresponding diaper number for his bottom. Jackie wore diapers until he was three. Huggies number six. I was concerned about this because they don’t make anything higher than six. What was my next choice if I didn’t get him potty-trained in time? Adult diapers? Hefty bags?
Adult diapers are mixed in with the baby diapers at most supermarkets. What I find interesting is how many times I have stopped and stared at them and thought in all sincerity, It’s not a bad idea.
We have all been stuck in rush hour traffic on the way to work after having that extra cup of coffee and bran muffin. Halfway through your commute your belly starts rumbling and you get the dump sweats. Forget the bus, exit-only, or carpool lanes, there should be an “I’m about to shit my pants!” lane. No one would have road rage anymore. Instead we would have road compassion. If you got cut off by some lady wedging her way into the “I’m about to shit my pants!” lane, you would think to yourself, Aww, poor gal, let me let her in. Those are cloth seats.
I have personally driven from Los Angeles to Las Vegas at least one hundred times. About 15 percent of that time, I have been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the desert thinking that I should have worn a diaper.
What is hilarious is that the more you have to take a dump on the way to work, the lower your standards drop as to where you would crap. You’re switching lanes like a maniac with dump sweat running into your eyes and you’re thinking, Oh good, miniature golf. Let me get over and I’ll drop a deuce in the windmill. No one will ever know.
With adult diapers, we’d all drive to work carefree. We’d all behave like our children and let loose in our diapers. Hopefully, our parents would be at work waiting to change and powder us. Either them or an understanding colleague.
Nik and I have had long discussions about how bizarre being a child must be. One night we got punch drunk and kept laughing at why kids are so averse to potty training. They want to be like grown-ups in every single aspect of life with the sole exception of peeing in a bathroom, on an actual toilet bowl. Kids try to dress like us. Kids try to speak like us. Kids copy our mannerisms while talking on the phone. From a very young age, kids want to be exactly like us—except for the pissing and shitting part. Pissing and shitting in their pants is a behavior that a lot of children have an amazingly difficult time putting away.
Nik once said, “Is it because it feels good to shit in their pants? It can’t feel good to stand there in your own piss. Don’t get me wrong, it would be incredibly convenient to not have to pull the car over or leave a Broadway show or work meeting just to pee.”
And she was right. We continued talking about the merits of everyone wearing diapers. We made a huge list of things that would run more smoothly if grown-ups were wearing diapers. Factories could double their output if employees could just stay seated at their stations and pee in a pair of adult Huggies. College students would never have to leave lecture halls. All car trips would have an immediate fifteen minutes shaved off their arrival time. And sleep! Imagine how much more sleep we would all get if we wore diapers under our pajamas! We would sleep ten hours straight and go to work completely invigorated.
At some point during this diaper discussion, my bride asked me if I had ever actually worn an adult diaper. I told her I hadn’t and she told me she hadn’t, either. Big surprise on both counts, right? But still, we both knew at that exact moment what had to happen next. We had to immediately go to the grocery store, buy adult diapers, race home, and try them on.
Well, when you are new parents, this becomes a fun night. Between the giggling on the way to the store and the giggling in the store and the giggling at the checkout counter, we no doubt looked like Cheech and Chong. When we got home, we tore into the diaper package like kids on Christmas morning. We wedged our bodies into our new toys. Just the act of putting your legs through the holes of an adult diaper is a very strange sensation. We then put our regular clothing on top of our diapers. We were now laughing like two people who had graduated from marijuana to mushrooms. We decided that if anyone in the world saw us at this moment, we would be committed to Bellevue. Once in Bellevue, we would think about the reason for being committed and laughing about it all over again would ensure that we would subsequently never be released. We then laughed some more, realizing that at Bellevue, we would no longer be the only adults in diapers. The laughter continued. So, we are finally in our regular clothes wearing our secrets underneath. Now it was just a waiting game. In hindsight, we should have drank a lot of water before we left for the store. Neither one of us had to pee right away, so we just walked around the house, giggling.
Eventually, I said to Nik, “The funniest part about this is that we are hysterically laughing and it is only a joke for two people.”
She walked toward me and replied, “No, the funniest part about all of this is that you . . . don’t . . . know . . . that . . . I . . . am . . . peeing . . . right . . . now!”
She was right.
The laughing and giggling reached dangerous levels. I was laughing the kind of laughs where you have to walk out of the room and concentrate on not laughing because you feel like if you keep laughing, you will die.
Suddenly I was jealous. Nik had experienced the sublime pleasure of pissing in a diaper and I had not. I stood still and leaned against one of the walls of the house, trying to will out a stream. When I finally was able to pee, it was euphoric. No wonder Jackie didn’t want to be potty-trained! Peeing in a diaper is freaking awesome! To my surprise, it wasn’t wet and disgusting like I had anticipated. The adult diapers were impressively absorbent and whatever came out of me magically vanished.
I’ll be honest with you (hell, we’ve gone this far)—I could easily wear an adult diaper every day. I want to wear one on airplanes and I want to wear one every time I drive to Vegas. I could make it to Vegas in two hours if I didn’t have to pull over to urinate. In all seriousness, Nik and I learned a very valuable lesson that night. We learned what it was like to be three years old. We learned that Jackie was hesitant to come out of his diapers because they were incredibly convenient. With our stupid, laughter-filled adult diaper night, we were better able to understand our child. I am not suggesting you go out and wear a diaper to get to know your kid better. However, I do suggest that you wear a diaper to know how great it feels to piss in your car. I also suggest that if you do go out and pee in an adult diaper for fun, don’t tell anybody about it. I just told you and now you think I’m a freak.
Incidentally, I meet a lot of men who like to brag about never having had to change a diaper. I’m not one of them. I don’t get grossed out by poop and I don’t see wiping my kid’s ass as some terrible job. In fact, I feel bad for those guys. Many of my most tender and private moments with Jackie have taken place while I was powdering his bottom. I have learned a lot about myself and my son while changing his diaper.
For starters, he seems to get an erection whenever I spray powder on his privates. I was confused when this first happened because I didn’t think erections were something that happened until later in life. I was wrong. At three years old, my kid gets wood every once in a while and I try not to make a big deal out of it. The problem (or not) is that my kid is hung like a mule. I know I should keep everything cool and calm and act like it’s completely normal, because after all, it is. I also know that when I first saw his erection, I should not have yelled, “Holy moly! Jesus, my man, have you got a rod on you!” This reaction was followed by a few days of “Daddy, what does rod mean?”
BABY (AND NANNY) MONITORS
I find it strange to think of a time when parents didn’t use baby monitors. These days we all use them and even take them for granted. Back when you and I were kids, our parents laid us down in a room and closed the door. Then our folks would go about their business and simply assume that the baby in the room was fine. Even if we weren’t. We could be upstairs in a crib, crying our eyes out with an overflowing diaper. Without the use of any monitors, our parents were oblivious to it all. As we freaked out, they were downstairs, playing cards with the neighbors. They had no idea that while they were sitting on a straight flush, we were accruing emotional scars for life. This is unheard-of and downright unsafe these days. I personally cannot imagine not using a baby monitor.
The monitors are incredibly low-tech little gadgets and very inexpensive, compared to how important they are. You can pick them up pretty much anywhere, and unlike every other piece of electronic equipment in my home, these are so easy that I can even set them up. The basic baby monitor looks like a walkie-talkie. It is the same size as a walkie-talkie, too. Hell, it’s basically a one-sided walkie-talkie. You plug one of the monitors into the wall in the baby’s room and then plug the other monitor into the wall in your bedroom. That’s it. Simple. The difficult stuff happens after you have plugged the monitors in and have decided to settle down to sleep for the night. When you bought your baby monitors you did so with the express purpose of being able to hear your daughter if she should need you in the night.
Your baby might begin to cry because she is wet or your baby might call out because she is hungry. What no parent is ever prepared for is that not only do you hear your baby cry out but you are also treated to sounds you never knew your baby could make. Some nights in my house it sounded like Jackie had set up a goddamn petting zoo in his nursery. I would be woken up by the sounds coming from the monitor. The sounds weren’t the usual wailing or sobbing or squealing a normal baby does. No. What I heard through that baby monitor was a pig snorting and a horse rooting around. I heard chickens clucking and I heard a cow mooing and chewing cud. Naturally, I was alarmed to hear these sounds, so I would run into his bedroom only to find him sleeping peacefully under his tiny blankets. On my way out I would check the carpet for hoofprints or hay. This is truly one of the more bizarre experiences in parenthood. Night after night, Jackie would make these barnyard sounds through the monitor, yet every time I went into his room he was as quiet as a mouse pissing on cotton.
Some nights, though, Jackie would make regular sleeping sounds. I would hear him shift his weight in his crib or sigh deeply. Those sounds are still fresh in my ears and forever in my heart. Some nights the monitor would, without warning, squelch static at an incredibly high decibel level, making our ears bleed. Luckily, there are volume knobs on the monitors and this is when they come in handy. You can turn the volume on a baby monitor all the way down to zero and there are still red dotted lights on the monitor that will jump up if there is sound coming from the baby. So, with the sound off, you can intermittently look up across the room to see if the monitor is redlining or if everything is mellow. Without the use of a baby monitor I would never have known that when Jackie turns his body completely around in his crib he sounds like a wild boar running through the woods. Much more important, without a baby monitor, my son would be alone in his nursery for four hours every morning while I slept like a baby myself. With a monitor on your nightstand, a child calling out “Daddy!” sounds as if he is on your pillow. It works out very well. The least you can do as a parent is wake up when your child does. (Unless, of course, you want to sleep late. Then just unplug the baby monitor and put it in a drawer for the night. When you walk into the nursery at noon, just act like everything is completely normal. This is a huge benefit of kids’ not knowing how to tell time.)
A baby monitor’s silence can also scare the shit out of you. You will be lying in bed reading and realize that your child has not made a sound in hours. You put your book down and listen very carefully for any sounds of life coming from the baby’s room. After you take in a few minutes of absolute silence you rush into the nursery. At this point you are absolutely certain that something horrible has happened to your child. But, time after time, you walk nervously into the nursery and you see a baby lying in a crib, sound asleep. That baby does not have a single care in the world. This is his world—a room with a bed and a blanket and a parent who desperately wants to make sure he is safe.
You may also want to pick up a few nanny cams for the house. This seems like something you should buy at a spy shop, and let me tell you, they are incredible. You get a camera that is stuffed inside some teddy bear’s belly and you can watch when the nanny is in your kid’s room. You can also put them throughout the house and see who the fuck has been eating your Chips Ahoy. An odd phenomenon of a nanny cam is that when your baby is taking a nap, you find yourself in your bedroom watching the baby sleep on the nanny cam channel. You should be sleeping yourself but you can’t. You are completely transfixed by the baby sleeping in the next room. She looks so beautiful and peaceful lying there. You study all of her motions and watch as she sucks on her bottom lip as she sleeps. Then you realize that if you walk fifteen feet, you can actually watch the baby sleep in person.
Parents are weirdos. All we have to do is walk in the nursery and watch perfection personified sleep. Instead we lie in our own beds, wide awake, watching the nanny channel.
One of the most horrible jobs a parent has when a baby is on the way is naming it. This will seem like an easy and fun task when you first get started but as the months drag on you will feel the pressure increase around you. Whatever name you choose for your baby is a name he will have to live with for the rest of his life. You should also make peace with the fact that no matter what name you choose, your child will most likely hate it their entire lives. (Do you like yours?)
The process of choosing a name for a person who does not yet have a personality seems arbitrary but is serious business. With rare exceptions, we really do grow into our names. If you name your daughter Porsche or Paris, she will most likely blossom into a gifted stripper. With girls you pretty much want to stay away from a name that is a vehicle or a snobby city. This includes names like Honda, Kawasaki, Tokyo, and Istanbul. No good can come from these names. Few people with these names will become positive members of society. Rarely, if ever, has anyone ever heard “Escalade, your witness.” Or, “Is Doctor Lexus Mohr here?” Try to keep it as mainstream as possible when naming the little ladies. Don’t get too hippy-dippy with your girl’s name, either. If your daughter’s name is Luna, that is an awesome name for a baby and a less awesome name for an actual person. At around the age of twelve, Luna is going to start focusing only on her chi and live her adult life teaching tantric sex and giving colonics.
Boy names are tricky but not as hard as girl names. Any boy name that you think sounds bad is bad. Not to defend Adolf Hitler, but his parents had to know that by naming their baby boy “Adolf” he would wind up one of the most evil men to walk the earth. Sure, as a baby, “Adolf” probably sounded cute as he slept in his crib in his footsies and little mustache. But as I said earlier, we grow into our names. Look around your kid’s preschool class. Do you see any “Idi”s? Ever bump into a Genghis out on the playground? No, of course not. Those names were so horrible that only two sets of parents made the mistake of customizing their children’s names for genocide. Obviously, every once in a while a Jim or a Jeffrey will slip through the cracks. There is no absolute formula for giving your child a name that will keep him from murdering and eating people.
The growing-into-our-names routine isn’t only for bad people with bad names. Good people are born and named and they too grow into their names. Fred Rogers is the name of a baby who could only grow up to bring people joy. Shel Silverstein was never going to hurt anyone. The moment his folks named him Shel, the world was a safer place. If they had named him Saddam Silverstein, then maybe we would have had some serious problems. John Wooden is a name made for kindness and compassion. So is Vin Scully. These are gentle names for gentle men. Nik and I have to be extra careful. My last name is Mohr and her last name is Cox. Put our names together and say them out loud. Not good. Our poor kids are doomed no matter what we name them. It could be worse, I suppose. My last name could be Less. Seriously, what’s worse for a kid, Mohr-Cox or Less-Cox? I have no idea; I just know to stay away from the car names for girls and the madmen names for boys. However, I have to admit, Idi is starting to grow on me. Idi Cox Mohr. Nice.
The bottom line is that nothing prepares any of us for parenthood. We are all completely unprepared and useless when faced with the drama, the sadness, the meltdowns, the disappointments. Fortunately, it all gets canceled out by the majesty, the laughter, the love, the magic. We are all equally unprepared when these wonderful moments happen. It is impossible to explain to a childless person what parenthood is like. You didn’t know what love was until that baby was born. You find yourself answering “How is your son?” questions with quick, short answers like “He’s good, thanks” or “Fine.” You don’t have enough time to tell that person that you know what God looks like because He sleeps in a bassinet next to your bed. To become a parent is to become awakened. Usually at five o’clock in the morning.
© Giraffe Productions