Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bringing Up Baby

I have noticed that just as heroes, cowards, and religious zealots are made in a foxhole, every man's mettle and faith is tested when he is asked to hold a baby. Perhaps it is good that none of us remember being crowd-surfed for kisses. After all, I am sure we have all been exposed to our fair share of danger at the hands of smelly or frightening relatives who have no children and referred to us as "it"--largely in the context of: "it needs to be changed," "it spit up on me," or "it started crying, you'd better take it back."

Perhaps older generations have more excuses. Propriety demanded our grandfathers and great-grandfathers shun any and all knowledge on pregnancy and childbirth--an ignorance that would put today's six-year-olds to shame.

While American men are not nearly as blissfully unaware as their forefathers, thanks, in part, to tasteful and educational movies like "Junior" and "Knocked Up", the single, sub-30, male relative of a new arrival may have no better idea how to hold a baby than how to make a quiche.

Baby-holding pre-dates the wheel and fire--but single guys still haven't gotten it right. Was it a deeply rooted fear of a tiny wailing thing that sent the men off to hunt wolly mammoths instead of indulging in berry picking? I mean, what man doesn't relish every opportunity to sit near a food source and eat?

Truly, little has changed since the homo sapiens walked the earth. Men from pre-history to the apocalypse still try to smash something that doesn't work and they fall into three main categories when they are asked to hold a child for the first time:

The 007: This man is too suave. He's never picked up a child in his life but he's suddenly asking burping and feeding like a pro--showing his mad skillz off to any hot chick who will watch. You hate this man. He would never be unruffled at 3am with the third feeding of the night or ever get his shirt stained with applesauce reflux.

The Hail Mary: This guy thinks it's fun to throw a baby up in the air 12 feet and catch him/her one-handed. If you voice any concern, you're likely to be told he's "got 'em" and to "quit being so'll never raise an first-round pick Falcon that way!"

The Wuss: He won't buy tampons at the store or even want to be in the same room as a breast pump. If you give him a baby, he'll hold it at arms' length and be quick to pawn it off on someone else. For him, babies are a contaminant, oozing out "commitment" germs wherever they touch or grab.

While 007 has his game on, you may be doing your cousin Sandy a favor by giving the baby something that smells particularly bad when it comes out the other way.

As for Hail Mary, you can rescue your child by asking him to explain the Falcons third-quarter play the other night (assuming this is football season, feel free to use basketball, or baseball alternatives as necessary). Put an appopriately innocent expression on your face and take the baby from him once he starts talking. Hail Mary won't notice the baby's gone becaus he'll be too busy gesturing with his hands about how so-and-so rushed center and Joe Bob fumbled at the 10 yard line...or whatever.

Finally for Wuss, the easiest option is to go out for the night and leave the baby in his care. Pretend like you had understood he'd agreed to babysit, not just come visit. He'll call around 9:30 and beg you to come home, during which time you are free to request any favor you actually need.

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