When done playing, switch baby to OFF position

We’ve made it to a new year. Good riddance to all those garbage years we had to slog through to get to this shiny, fabulous year. I can’t believe we even put up with those old years, when there was such year as this new one waiting around the corner.

This is my son’s fourth new year. It blows my mind to think that we’ve kept him safe and healthy for this long. It just didn’t seem like it was something we were capable of, way back when some irresponsible hospital worker handed him over to us as if we had the first clue what to do with him.

Sure, we went to classes before he was born, but those classes were all about other people’s babies. They were pictures on a screen, films of strange people who had a stage director and a sound man to tell them what to do with a helpless child. At their most real, those classes were about how to care for a lifelike doll. Granted, I didn’t have a lot of experience playing with dolls, but I learned quickly enough that when you were done playing with the doll, you handed it back to the lady and she put it away in a closet. Fun, yes, but hardly translatable to that first day of actual parenthood.

Our other great accomplishment in class was to collect a fat folder full of hand-outs. We had pages and pages of flow charts, checklists, helpful hints, and other documentation crucial to the success of maintaining the fiction of our preparedness. It was a veritable owner’s manual for the care and maintenance of the human infant, and it went right into the same black hole that hides the owner’s manuals for every other appliance we own.

In spite of the fact that we showed up for delivery lacking all of our props and diagrams, the hospital person handed this screaming, live, human baby to a us. Needless to say, we were a couple of confused folks, having been thoroughly trained on how to care for a relatively sedate, plastic child. Thus began the madness.

I can still remember the cruelty of the hospital staff as they, who knew secrets about handling infants, watched in amusement while we made fools of ourselves. I recall gritting my teeth and thinking, “I’d show you which end of this baby is which, if only I had my blueprints with me.” Alas, my set of instructions was at home, jammed into a drawer with the toaster warrantee.

As soon as they determined we were bright enough not to put the child away in the closet when we were done playing with him, they made us take the baby home. Since our home was a frightening place, devoid of outside supervision, I questioned that decision as potentially negligent. We never did retrieve our manual, but we figured out that if we used the same techniques as we used to preserve our stereo—keep him in a cool, dry place, and not stack too much crap on top of him—he’d last a while.

That was 2008. As we welcome 2012, I’m still amazed at how well everything worked out, in spite of our ignorance. Now, we’re getting ready to do it all again. The only thing I know for sure is that at the crucial moment, I will draw a blank and remember nothing. I’m not even going to try to locate my tip sheet this time. It’s frolicking in the ether with a long-expired warrantee somewhere far away. Let it have its fun and I’ll have mine, learning the ropes all over again.

May 2012 be a fun one for you too.