So I mentioned earlier that I have had very little actual experience with kids. I’ve sort of watched some 6 and 7 year olds (mostly as an observer while my wife was babysitting) but that’s pretty simple. You just roughhouse with them a little, flip them upside down, make corny jokes, and they’ll love you. I’ve never spent any time with an infant without some supervisory aid. Lately, that’s changed a bit.
Our neighbors here are a really nice couple from Canada. They have two kids, a 4 year old and a (I believe at the time of this writing) 10 month old. Over the last couple of months, I have spent more time with this child alone (a little over 4 hours) then I have with any other sub-one year old in my entire life combined. Can I tell you how ridiculously nervous I was?
The first time I had him was maybe about 10 to 15 minutes while my neighbor (names will be omitted to protect the innocent) had to run and get her older child from the school bus, or to drop him off (I can’t recall exactly). So here I was, holding a baby, and every neuron in my brain was firing off signals of, “PANIC, PANIC, PANIC!” and that was for only 10 minutes! Later on, I was left with the child again, this time for 30 minutes. I have no idea how to entertain a child I can’t talk to or make stupid jokes with, so I was left just sort of staring at him for a while. You ever just look at a baby? I mean, just sit there and watch an infant? Admittedly… it’s kind of boring. I know everybody says how precious and adorable babies are, but I was just sort of staring at him and thought, “Ok… are you gonna do anything?” Don’t get me wrong, the child was very cute, and for a lot of people, that’s a wonderful thing, but the only thing that was crossing my mind at the time was, “Good grief, if I feel this way about this kid, how is it going to be when it’s my own?”
Therein lies the reason why I worry about what kind of father I’ll be. I’ve never felt any specific wonder at a baby. For the most part, they always just struck me as a mouth to feed, and a mess to clean up after. Everyone so far has told me that when it’s my own child, it will be different. I’m pretty introspective though, and I think that for the most part, I’m pretty non-excitable. Let me clarify for those people who know me well and are laughing at that last statement. I can get pretty emotional, and when I get angry, at least not actually angry, people have a good laugh because I’m getting excitable. However, when it comes to “life changing events,” I may as well be in a coma. Some people call it being level-headed, or cool under pressure, which can be really good for pressure situations, but when it comes to things like moments where most people are all “WHOO HOO!”, I just tend to lean more towards, “meh.”
Anyway, the 30 minutes spent with my neighbor’s child was still pretty short and sweet, and I got through it alright. The next time though… I had to watch this kid for two hours. TWO HOURS! Ten minutes, no sweat. Thirty minutes, I could stem the tide for that long until his mom came back. But two hours? The progression of time has made me believe that my wife and my neighbor are conspiring against me to expose me to more baby time in order to prepare me for when my kid gets here. Two hours… sheesh. Most of you with kids out there are going, “HA! Two hours is NOTHING.” The problem for me is that two hours can lead to problems like what if the kid starts to cry and I don’t know how to quiet him down? What if I take my eye off him for a minute because I need to use the bathroom and he sticks his fingers into an electrical outlet? What if I have to change a diaper? That last one is still a horrifying prospect for me, because I’ve never done it, and I’m not looking forward to it. I know I’ll have to, but I always preferred to wait until it was my own child, and what do you know? That day is fast approaching.
I never knew how much mischief a 10 month old can get into. Despite only being able to crawl, this kid could motor around the apartment. Mind you, it’s not a big apartment, so there’s not many places he could have went, but even when I tried to barricade his way with my feet, he just squirmed his way around me. This particular infant has this weird obsession with going for the garbage cans, so whenever I turned my back, there he was, trying to reach into and take apart my little waste bins. When I was able to pull him away from that, he ran over to my windowsill and started pulling the plants down. When I got him away from there, he was pulling the books out of the shelves. And this was only 15 minutes! What the heck was I going to do for the remainder of the time?
I eventually figured out some ways of distracting him (involving cleaning out a waste bin so let him take it apart without ending up in a pile of garbage) and was able to keep him somewhat stationary for some time. Around an hour and a half into it, he started to get cranky. This is where all the sirens in my head went off. I had NO idea how to stop him from crying. He was scrunching up his face, and making whiny sounds, and I started to lock up. I picked him up, tried to walk around with him, but that just caused him to squirm, kick, and cry. I feared that I was going to have to learn REAL fast how to change a diaper, but fortunately that wasn’t the case
It did however, call for me to do something I was trying to avoid. It was pretty cold outside (as it usually is during winter) and I hate going out in the cold, but I was told that this was normally the best way to quiet him down and get him to fall asleep, and it was right around that time for him to take his nap. So there I was, trying to get dressed quickly, and trying to put his little coat on him so he wouldn’t freeze, and that’s always fun trying to put clothes on a squirming infant. Then I had to strap him into this five point harness that strapped the child to my front so I wouldn’t have to walk with him in my arms the entire time and risk dropping him while walking outside, except I couldn’t get the stupid locks in the back to close because I couldn’t find them after I had the kid strapped to my front. So here I am, walking down the stairs with this child strapped to my front while struggling to hold the harness onto myself because the back straps wouldn’t lock together, and about five minutes after stepping out from the apartment… he falls asleep. It took me longer to get dressed and get him into the harness.
All I could think was, “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST DO THIS UPSTAIRS!” At this point though, I was just happy to have quieted him down, and continued to walk around with him until I figured his mom returned home. After about 20 minutes, I returned to my neighbor’s apartment, and she wasn’t yet back. As I’m detaching the harness and laying the kid down on his futon to finish off his nap, I run into a little dilemma… he still has his coat on, and it tends to be warmer inside than out. So there I am, trying to delicately remove his coat without trying to wake him up, and his mother comes home, and I let out the loudest, silent sigh of relief (I’d rather not wake the kid up right when his mother gets home). I explain to her how my day goes, and she gives me the sympathetic “awwww” look that most mothers give to people who have never dealt with a child, but that also has that hint of, “Yeah… that sounds like my usual day.”
That was probably my most nerve-wracking time with a child to date, and I’ve got plenty more to look forward to. So far though, I’ve been able to cope, and these little “trial periods” with the next door neighbor’s child has helped. I’m hoping this means that I’ll fare better once it’s my own kid, instead of being a complete bumbling idiot the first time I’m alone with her. I’m sure everyone will get a good laugh out of that story though.