Stay-at-Home Nerd: Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few [Top 5]
a blogumn by Josh Pullin
For some new parents it’s tempting to try and be perfect. Don’t. I believe that when it comes to being a stay at home dad, good enough is good enough. No matter how hard I try, I find myself doing something wrong at least once a week, if not once a day. My inner dialogue goes something like this: Do you want peas? No, you don’t want peas. ‘crying’ Okay, okay I’ll give you more peas. Time for a nap! ‘more crying’ Oops, I mean walk, time for a walk. No way can he reach that plant. ‘crash’ Shite. However, not all mistakes are created equal. While listening to your baby is an art developed over time, the following “mistakes” are avoidable. Well, at least avoidable by everyone but me, since I’m the one who made them.
Josh Pullin’s Top 5 Biggest Baby Related Mistakes (in particular order)
1. Measure Twice, Assemble Once: Jesus was a carpenter. I don’t know if that statement’s true, but it rings familiar from my short-lived Catholic school days. I do know that the first rule of carpentry is measure twice, cut once. Well, despite what HGTV would have you believe, there are no more carpenters. At least none that I meet. Thanks to IKEA, today’s carpenter is anybody that can turn an Allen Wrench. And, the first thing any new dad can expect to do is “build” nursery furniture. I don’t mind the funny, yet lifelike, drawings of Swedes assembling furniture. In fact I find them easy to follow and take some satisfaction in a job well done. That said there is almost nothing worse than assembling a crib in the living room that doesn’t fit through the doorway into the nursery. I may have posted about this before, but it is worth repeating. I constructed the Leksvik crib in my living room only to discover that it wouldn’t even make it down the hall way. Since you too will no doubt be putting together furniture as nauseam I urge you to do what I did not and Measure Twice, Assemble Once.
2. Read the Directions: The easy joke is that babies don’t come with directions and that’s true. Each new baby is a beautiful snowflake and all that, but everything you buy for your baby will come with directions – directions and a hazard warning. When putting together exersaucers, or high chairs, or strollers it’s important to read and perhaps even reread all the directions. I learned this by skimming the directions on the car seat. How hard can it be to install a car seat? I picture my mom driving home from the hospital with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a cigarette as I bounce around the passenger seat with the windows rolled tight. No this didn’t really happen, but the point is there were tougher times to be a parent. I should be able to install a car seat and I did. I just did it wrong. For instance, those level bubbles on the side should actually be level. Apparently, they can be adjusted with the push of a button. And, once the kid weighs like 10 pounds some of the padding should be removed. It’s a good thing my wife read the instructions or my very own son could one day be telling his story of being bound into his tiny car seat while bouncing around in his uneven seat.
3. Buckling for Two: I don’t know what you’re thinking, but it might be, “What is it with this guy and car seats?” I don’t have a good answer, but I do have an excuse… of sorts. My wife went back to work after the baby turned three-months-old. As much fun as it is to be home alone with a living, breathing paperweight it is also fun to get out of the house. In the fourth month of life this is relatively easy. Babies can’t crawl, they can’t sit up and they’re not even rolling over yet. Basically, you can put them anywhere and they will be safe. I put mine in the stroller all the time. We’d go for long walks and the fresh air did the baby and me a lot of good. We happened to have a stroller that doubled as a car seat. Click a button and presto your kid is now safely in the car. That’s assuming, of course, that you buckled him into the stroller. Now, here’s where the story gets fuzzy. The facts of the case are that, yes, I put my baby in his car seat and drove to Trader Joe’s. I parked, unlocked his door and pulled the whole car seat out. That’s when I noticed the tiny tike slipping out of the car seat. There’s not much you can do when a baby starts to fall. There are many times when I’ve had to decide between dropping a phone, or a book, or even a cup over the baby. They bend funny, they throw their weight around and sometimes it seems like they just want to jump out of your arms. It happened so fast that I don’t remember making the choice. The baby was slipping and it didn’t make any sense. How is he falling out of his car seat when he’s strapped in? That’s what I was thinking as I braced my knee under the car seat and caught junior in my arms. A quick inspection revealed that I had not in fact secured my baby to his car seat. I turned around fully expecting the police to arrest me on the spot. When no one seemed to notice I relaxed, put the baby in the seat, buckled the belts and put him in a shopping cart so I could get some groceries.
4. Changing the Diaper Changes the Man: My father never changed a diaper. I have many friends whose fathers also never changed diapers. It’s funny to think about now, but it must have been annoying as hell to women in the seventies. I change diapers all the time and I resent the way it’s portrayed in movies like Three Men and a Baby and Mr. Mom. It takes about 3 minutes to learn how to change a diaper and by the third day of having a newborn any man should be able to change a diaper in less than two minutes. Yes, even if there’s poop in there! When I say I change diapers all the time I mean it feels like it. My wife generally does it when she comes home from work and most of the time on the weekends. The truth is most of the diapers I’ve changed have blended together in my memory as one perfect change and it’s so routine that it doesn’t even bother me. However, like any good fishing story, this is about the one that got away. There are very few steps to changing a diaper. First, you remove the clothes necessary to have access to the soiled diaper. Second, you remove the soiled diaper by untaping the ends and pulling it off. Third, you wipe away any debris. Fourth, you apply Vaseline or ointment as need be. Fifth, you put on the new diaper making sure the front is in the front and the back is in the back. Finally, you refasten the clothes and you are on your way. It’s the fifth step I once forgot. I refastened the clothes and carried the little guy out of the room only to discover a warm, wet feeling on my shirt. I was fortunate that it was number one and not number two. I quickly repeated all six steps before I put on a clean shirt and vowed I would never tell anybody about this.
5. Licking the Tomato: I like to eat. It’s one of my defining characteristics. There is almost nothing I’d rather be doing than participating in the ritual of breaking bread with friends and family. It doesn’t matter if its happy hour appetizers, Thanksgiving get togethers, celebratory dinners, business lunches, post softball wings and beer, or homemade grilled cheese. The consumption of food is an important part of my life and it’s sometimes frustrating not to be able to share this with my son. Don’t get me wrong; it’s really cool to be giving him pears and carrots out of a jar. It’s just that I often find myself wanting to share my food with him, especially since he seems to take such an interest in me eating. To date, I’ve been able to resist the urge to hand him half of my Porto’s potato ball, a bite of my pizza, or even a sip of my soup. I wasn’t, however, able to resist the urge to let him lick one of my tomato slices. Tomatoes are my favorite fruit (they’re not sweet, but they have seeds) and I have fond memories of my grandfather teaching me how to make a tomato sandwich with bread, mayonnaise, Lawry’s seasoned salt and of course, a well sliced beefsteak. It happened innocently enough. I had a tomato slice in my hand and he wanted it. Instead of giving it to him, I let him lick it. He made a sourpuss face and cringed. I thought this was funny and let him lick it again. He made the same face. Since I wasn’t making a You Tube video I stopped. That’s when I remembered the real reason for not sharing food with your baby: allergies! Turns out tomatoes, along with strawberries and several other foods, should be withheld until later in life in order to prevent allergies. Fortunately, he didn’t have an allergic reaction. And, fortunately the Finnish are doing new studies on babies and allergies. Until they come out, though, I must be vigilante. And, so must you.