If you read this column with any regularity, you know I use this space once every few months to blow off some steam. If you’re single or would rather just read about problems in our city, the pessimistic publisher will return next week.
Today, though, I’m offering some excerpts from my new parenting book, which you can purchase at stores that sell square hula hoops.
More than three years ago – 43.36 months or 1,319 days, to be exact – my wife and I welcomed home our first son, Hank (not that we’re keeping track of the hours or anything – 31,656). We had so much fun in Hank’s first three years of life that we paid our insurance carrier for a second, precious boy named Cal, who has not stopped smiling in the first eight months of his life.
Here are those promised excerpts:
Chapter 4: You have brains and a second child?
I imagine all parents eventually ask this question: Isn’t one of them really enough?
For Meghan and I, we couldn’t have asked for a better child than our first-born, Hank. He ate well, slept well and then, after a year of memorable videos, someone taught the boy how to walk and talk. Then he learned how to open Sharpie markers and redecorate his face. Then he learned how to hurl spaghetti into the fireplace.
In a blink, that first year of perfection is gone. And that’s when the instincts of mom usually kick into Hormone Heaven and she longs for two things:
1. Cuddling with a baby
2. Maternity Leave
It’s more than that, though.
We keep a monitor in the baby’s room because we are not horrible parents, and each morning around 6:30, young Cal begins a routine of spasmodic half-rolls around his crib. At that point, either Meghan or I walk upstairs. First, we unlock Hank from his bedroom prison, then we open Cal’s door to pleasantly welcome him to another day.
And this is why people with brains have a second child. When our 43-month-old Hank awakes each morning, he comes with a list of demands. He needs juice, now. What are we feeding him for breakfast? Do not take off my pajamas, even though they kind of smell like urine. Kindly tune the flat-screen to PJ Mask, a cartoon series that has effectively turned our oldest son into a gecko.
When we walk into Cal’s room, he completes his last roll of the morning, sees us standing there, and offers us a smile that lights up the entire day. He has no demands. He’s just happy we didn’t forget him.
And that is why smart people have a second child. Shoot, for the value of that smile each morning, I’m shocked we don’t all have 10 of them.
Chapter 76: You just think you’re raising your children
The greatest hoax ever pulled on the modern world, at least since circa 1440 when Gutenberg invented the printing press, is the massive industry that is Books on Parenting.
You can find hundreds of thousands of millions of books on how to raise children, and if this book ever goes to press, it will join the long list of con jobs pulled on naïve consumers.
Why are Books on Parenting a hoax? Because it’s a lie. Parents don’t raise children, children raise children.
Here’s what I mean: Remember how clueless you felt when your first-born little boy turned into a screaming sci-fi character who wouldn’t calm down? Remember the first time that little girl made a No. 2 and the flimsy diaper didn’t cover enough square footage?
When you’re a first-time parent, no one tells you how to handle evil screams and blow-outs. There isn’t a book that tells you how to gracefully remove a onesie that happens to be covered in twosie.
The first year of being a parent, no matter how much counsel you’ve sought from the medical, legal and pastoral communities, you’re really just winging it. If the baby survives without amputations or loss of organ functionality, you have championed the art of parenting.
But that’s the only chance you get, because once a second child comes along, you are a parent in title only. The oldest child assumes, without question, the role of chief advisor to the youngest.
Cal, our second born, makes shrieking noises to communicate. My wife and I do not shriek. Hank, however, has a language all his own that he has passed to his younger brother. Effectively, Hank will be the one who teaches Cal how to talk.
Remember those precious mornings I mentioned? When Hank wakes up, he crawls – “Like a gecko” – into Cal’s crib and lays down next to him. To the ignorant ear, you’d think Hank is just saying good morning to his little brother. To the trained ear, I’m pretty sure he’s telling his brother that he should demand to be fed bananas as soon as his diaper is changed.
And here’s the kicker: Hank ate the purest of the organic foods in his first year of life. The other day, I sat Cal down next to his older brother, who happened to be eating an ice cream sandwich. It took about 11 seconds for Cal to also have a bite of ice cream sandwich, against the advice of the medical, legal and pastoral communities.
That’s the beauty of it. A lot of people contend the second- and third-born children have an easier time through life than the first-born, and now we know why. It’s because all subsequent children are raised by other children, and they apparently know what they’re doing. Which means all parenting books are a hoax.