Stay-at-Home Nerd: Smarter than Monkeys
a blogumn by Josh Pullin
A long time ago in a galaxy close, close by (this one) I traveled to Costa Rica. It was there I discovered a universal truth. After a couple weeks in Montezuma and a couple days in Quepos I headed to the national park in Manuel Antonio. For those of you who haven’t been there it is absolutely gorgeous. White sand beaches with tiny island views are backed by rainforest, wildlife galore, and the spider monkeys play among the people. One such set of people was your typical “American family abroad”. What makes them typical? Pasty white skin, a dad without a shirt, chubby kids and enough beach gear to storm Normandy.
I myself had little more than swim trunks, a book and a towel. Turns out I needed even less. You see the first thing this family did when arriving at the beach was to unload their cooler full of food. Young, poor, and hungry I admit to a bit of jealousy at their spread. However, my jealousy soon turned to laughter as they left their food unattended and entered the water. As soon as they were wet the monkeys descended upon their food en masse. The dad charged out of the water shouting obscenities at the monkeys that are unfit to print. The monkeys scattered and I stopped laughing. That would be the end of the story had the dad not returned to the warm embrace of the water and his welcoming family while the monkeys returned to finish what they started. The universal truth I discovered: you have to be smarter than the monkeys; otherwise what’s the point.
I’d like to make it clear that I’m in no way inferring that my son is a monkey. That said, I have to be smarter than him to get stuff done. Stuff like showering. I have no doubt that one day my boy will surpass all of my achievements. But for now, he mostly coos, drools, and chews when he’s not sleeping or pooping. Because of this, it is hard to get anything done in a timely fashion. Checking email can take a half hour. Doing the dishes can take a half hour. Getting the mail can take, you guessed it, a half hour. That’s why I was happy to discover two front teeth in my kid’s mouth.
Teething has its pros and cons. The pros are, I guess, teeth. Chewing maybe. Biting for sure. They certainly don’t help me none, but I’m sure they’ll be very useful to my son someday. The con is singular: teething! Yikes. Turns out it hurts little babies to have all those teeth poking through their gums. They sleep worse. They get fussy. And they need to be soothed. That’s when I had an idea.
I washed off a can of soda from the fridge and gave it to the boy on the floor. He loved it. He tried to bite it and it rolled away. He crawled, creeped, and rolled after it always trying to shove it in his mouth. This fun and games lasted a good half hour. Plenty of time to get stuff done. So, the next day, when I wanted to shower I put him in his playpen and gave him a fresh, clean, cold can of Coke Zero. Again, he loved it. I showered, he played and everyone came out a winner. It worked the next day and the day after that. As far as I was concerned I had discovered the secret to getting sh*t done with a baby. Have a coke and a smile and I forget the rest.
Eventually though he tired of the can. It’s as if he knew it was a trick. I’d give it to him and he’d half heartedly paw at it and look at me like “what’s the point?” I’d shake my head and think “I don’t know, I though you’d like it.” This exchange is soon followed by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Before I move to self-pity, however, I always think back to that overweight family on the beach getting outmaneuvered by spider monkeys and smile. I don’t have to know everything; I just have to be smarter than the monkey, so to speak!