It’s funny what the brain remembers, especially as we get older. I often struggle to remember why I walked into a room or where I put my keys, but there are still some memories from years ago that I can visualize like they happened yesterday. One of those moments was when we brought our first-born home from the hospital back in 2003.
I remember a couple of nursing students tending to the baby right after she was born because it sort of annoyed me that my first born was being handled by rookies. I know they have to learn somehow, but find a second or third born to practice on! She had swallowed some fluid that you’re not supposed to or something like that on her way out of the birthing chamber. Her own feces maybe? I’m not sure, but it was disgusting sounding and it delayed our getting to see her and hold her, so it was an unexpected aggravation.
I remember my brother, Dario, bringing a good-sized cooler of Natural Light to the room and not being razzed by the nurses on the floor about drinking like a bunch of white trash hoosiers in the room while my wife and newborn adjusted to all the newness a first-born brings. Just take the empties with you so they don’t stink up the room! That was the only rule and I thought it was fair enough.
I remember many more subtle details nearly ten years later, such as all of her birth numbers and a couple of great nurses who I meant to write nice letters about, but never did (sorry nurse Kimberly).
I also remember that the hospital staff was very demanding about making sure we had a car seat properly installed in our vehicle before they’d let us take the baby home. I had taken the car to a fire station because apparently, firemen are car seat installation experts? Even though we lived in the City, I took the car to a suburban fire station in Mehlville because the City firemen actually get a lot of calls, whereas the Mehlville folks seemingly have more free time to help soccer moms and Donnie Res with car seat issues. Anyway, a couple of them were kind enough to wake up and check the seat for me. I was fairly confident that installing a car seat wasn’t that difficult, and that I’d done a fine job, but to appease the wife, I let the firemen check it out.
It was obviously loosely strapped in as they shook the crap out of it and asked me if I let a retarded monkey install the seat. They said it couldn’t possibly be more unsafely installed. Geez, it’s not like I had it upside down! I laughed and assured them I knew no retarded monkeys and proceeded to lie that my third trimester pregnant wife installed the seat incorrectly and that I’d deal with her when I got home!
I was certain the seat was fine, and that a little jiggling was to be expected, but I’ll be darned if a 300 plus pound firefighter didn’t nestle himself in that seat while another one pulled the crap out of my seatbelt and buckled it in so that the seat wouldn’t budge an inch. It was impressive and I couldn’t wait to lie to a nurse at the hospital that I had installed the seat myself!
As promised, a nurse pushed my wife and baby to the exit in a wheelchair (why does everyone have to leave in a wheelchair?) and demanded that I pull the car up to the door so she could see the car seat. Apparently, the immovable car seat did not impress the nurse as much as it did me because she made me unbuckle it so that she could cram some colorful swim noodle contraptions under the seat so the baby wouldn’t be uneven or some such nonsense.
After more inspection and delaying our eagerly awaited departure another 15 minutes, the nurse had appeased herself that the baby wouldn’t somehow escape her seat and bounce out the window of my moving vehicle and finally told us we could go. Really? Who made you the we’re ok to go home with our baby boss? What if we hadn’t brought a car seat with us? Do they have a stash of $200 car seats that they’d have installed for us? Do they keep the baby indefinitely? In hindsight, the whole thing seems ridiculous and semi-aggravating. However ridiculous, that nurse may have been the last person with any sense who has tried to make sure that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing with respect to raising our kids correctly.
After the nurse went back inside, I remember sitting in the Xterra (which I had to sell my F150 to purchase since, apparently, a non-extended cab pickup wasn’t family friendly) and asking the wife, “now what do we do?” The moment was surreal…we had this new person in the backseat of our car (probably wondering herself what the fuck was going on) and the three of us needed some guidance! We sat in silence for a bit until I finally made a command decision. Like any responsible new parents, we took our 3 day old baby to Rich and Charlies for lunch because we were starving! It wasn’t totally irresponsible in that it was on the way home anyway, and it was the end of July, so it’s not like we brought her there during the height of cold and flu season.
I guess that makes me a bit of a hypocrite, because before I had kids I worked at Grant’s Farm during the summers of my college years. I used to think people who brought their week old babies into the Bauernhof area during late July and August, where it was often well over 100 degrees and filled with beer swilling sweathogs eager to trample each other to be first in the free beer sample line, were total idiots. Look at my new baby! Uh, ma’am, I’m no doctor or parent but that doesn’t look like a healthy shade of red for a tiny baby and her crying indicates to me that she’s not having as much fun as you and your fat-assed boyfriend Cletus are. But, to each their own I guess.
Part of the problem is that there’s no instruction manual on how to raise a child properly, so we’re stuck with our instincts and what we’ve learned up to that point in life to figure it out. This is why stupid people mostly raise stupid children. Stupid is all they know to pass on to the next generation. Stupid people seem to breed with other stupid people instead of finding smarter people so the chain of stupidity continues on and on.
I was 30 when Addi was born and the wife and I were both college educated, but we still find it amazing at how difficult this child rearing is. It’s physically and mentally draining sometimes. There is no one size fits all for kids and we’ve learned in our little family that boys are different from girls, and our two boys are completely different from each other. It’s total insanity and nobody has any correct answers as to how to do it right.
The very hospital that made sure I purchased a $200 car seat and that it was properly installed could have, at the very least, given me a pamphlet with instructions on what to do in certain situations and how to best not raise a future sociopath. When can they eat M&M’s? Am I not supposed to put Frank’s Red Hot on their tongues to see how they like it? Can my 1 month old have Kool-Aid? How long can the baby lay next to me while I drink cocktails in the hot Florida sun on the beach? There are all sorts of future unanswered questions that come home with these kids, and you have nothing but your own collection of what passes as common sense and the internet to help get you through it.
I suppose, if you didn’t mind doing a half-assed job of raising kids, that it’d be ok to just wing it and hope it doesn’t affect your life too much. That seems to be how trashy people do it, but that’s risky and the wife insists on some effort being made at raising decent human beings.
If you don’t mind one day being the parent of a malcontent who climbs a bell tower with a 12 pack and an assault rifle to finally address life’s little ass-rammings, which he’ll blame on you, then parenting may not be that difficult. If you could give two shits whether or not your kids grow up to have a better life than you, or at least have the same opportunities as you because you’d rather watch Oprah and drink Milwaukee’s Best in your underpants instead of help your kids with homework, then it might be doable with very little stress.
Unfortunately, the work of parents who’d like to see their kids grow up to be productive members of society is a little bit more difficult. Even though I’m not above drinking beer in my underpants, I like to believe that the wife and I fall into this latter category of parents. I know my wife does all she can to see that it happens. I assume she read a lot of literature about babies while she was pregnant and on maternity leave, because she knew and still knows lots of things that I’d have never considered. Were it up to me alone, these kids would have missed out on lots of things in life already, like vaccinations and preschool.
The wife found a pediatrician and she’s gotten the first two into school on time and she makes sure they all brush their teeth and knew when they could eat regular food and all this crazy stuff that I would no doubt have bumbled by myself. Once they get past their first year, which is where we are with all three, you can sort of treat them like regular people so it’s nice. Aside from the little man, who insists on yelling and screaming and babbling, but for a couple of coherent words, it’s nice to be able to have conversations with the kids.
It’ll be interesting to see how they all turn out. How three kids, from the same two parents, raised in the same environment, can all turn out so differently, is stupefying to me. It’d be boring were they all the same I guess, and I’m glad for their unique differences, both good and bad.