Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Does this diaper bag look too much like a purse?

I've noticed that the ushering in of new generations occurs in bunches, and right now, it's happening at my workplace. Over the past year, three new babies have been born and two more are on the way in my department alone.
I would never be so presumptuous as to evaluate pregnancy and childbirth; the issue is a slope lubricated with Otter Pops, so I won't even tackle the trials and tribulations of the expectant mother. What I can offer is a perspective unique to the neophyte male—the clueless dude who lives in denial up to and through the birth of a child.
I think the first true moment of recognition occurred as my wife, who was about six months pregnant with our first daughter, and I, exited the Kia dealership parking lot in a brand new 1995 Kia sedan. We had just traded in my two-seat Honda CRX, which was the most awesome toy I had ever owned. It was like replacing your Xbox with a the Game of Life. This car was so bland and stripped down, it didn't even have intermittant windshield wipers. It alone fostered a case of carpel-tunnel syndrome from flipping that wiper arm up every fifteen seconds.
Still, my lifestyle didn't change much until the baby was actually born, and then the hammer really dropped three months after the birth, as Terri returned to her job. I was riding the initial wave of the new Family Leave Act, so I stared down the barrel of ninety days at home with a sparkly, new baby. I vividly remember Terri leaving for work that first Monday at about 7am, and thinking,"Okay, here I am with this baby, who really doesn't do much except spew things. I've got about ten hours today to figure out what to do, and then ten hours tomorrow, and the next day..."
It didn't take long to develop some routines. The mornings were basically spent feeding, wiping, sweeping, changing and washing, with a smattering of reading or banging things together. Midday was usually devoted to a particular outside destination, like the park or a mall or any other large, open, stroller-friendly area. People-watching is interesting when you're pushing a stroller, as those who smile at your little bundle are 97% female. Most males, especially within my demographic, ignored my baby as much as they ignored my beautiful, grey Kia. And I'm here to say, there's nothing cooler than loading up a diaper bag to the point where it tips over a stroller (with baby inside) in the middle of Seward Park. Picture the Flintsone's car after the waitress delivered the dinosaur ribs.
People in passing would sometimes say, "Oh, so you're being Mr. Mom today, huh?" I grew to despise that term; it seemed so dated and ignorant. "No," I wanted to say, "I'm just being a dad, and I just happen to know how to make formula and put on Desitin cream and burp a kid (which can be very rewarding).
I look back at those days, and remember how hard I tried, how frustrating it occasionally was, and how each little developmental stage is magnified when you're with a new person 24/7. I wouldn't trade those times for anything, but I would like my Honda CRX back.

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