Sunday, March 01, 2009

Taking care of the practice baby

A couple of years ago, my wife Kara and I couldn’t even consider the possibility of having a child, in no small part because we’d accidentally moved into our current house before selling our old one, a chest-clutching deviation from the original gameplan.

If you are among the 13 million people who have watched the post-anesthetization observations of the small boy in the YouTube clip titled “David After Dentist,” you might be familiar with some of his questions, which could well have been asked by someone paying two mortgages every month, namely: “Why is this happening to me?” and “Is this going to be forever?”

It wasn’t forever for us, but for the six long months that we owned a vacant house, the thought of adding a baby to our family was out of the question. We were practicing birth control via real estate, a mode of contraception that, thanks to the moribund housing market, continues to grow in popularity.

When we finally sold the house, all four of parents were surely thinking, “Here comes our first grandchild!”

But Kara and I were thinking, “Here comes our first rectangular TV!”

Actually, we were really thinking that we needed a practice baby, a way to get our feet used to the water before diving in. Our puppy Memphis has been invaluable in this regard.

For the first eight weeks, Memphis taught us what it was like to wake up every couple of hours. Eventually, she woke us up less and less, until she just naturally started sleeping through the night. Though the entire process took two whole months, Kara and I have great confidence that a baby will settle in much faster. A few weeks of reduced sleep might even be fun, like a slumber party that keeps on going.

Having a puppy also gets you used to the idea of being tethered to your house. You can’t just run out without first making sure that your dog’s needs are taken care of. Of course, we understand that there are probably differences here between puppies and babies, especially in regard to how long you can leave them crated. Most veterinarians say six hours is the absolute maximum for a dog, so I expect a pediatrician would say something in the same ballpark for a baby. Perhaps, though, you can get a couple more hours out of a baby if you leave the TV on for them. Tuned to PBS, of course. You want your child to learn while you’re at the ballgame.

Of course I know you can’t really crate a baby, which is why people bring screaming ones into whichever movie theater I’m in, but I do have serious reasons to doubt whether I’ll actually be fit to be a father before the August deadline, when our baby is scheduled to be delivered. My main concern is that I’ve never been able to toss a baseball to myself and hit it to a desired location. Pretty much every father I’ve ever seen has had this ability, especially my own, who could hit a pop fly or a grounder right to me every time, calling the shot beforehand like Babe Ruth.

Sometimes, I picture our own child, glove on knee, yawning, perhaps texting a friend with their free hand, as their father keeps yelling, “Just a minute!” and whiffing, over and over again, the ball pathetically plunking at his feet. Then I wake up screaming.

Also, with the publishing of this week’s column, I have successfully met the challenge from reader Anne Carra of Roxborough, who asked if I’d ever been able to use the word “moribund” correctly in a column. Of course I hadn’t, because as of a few hours ago, I thought a moribund was something you dunk into your coffee.

You can send Mike Todd a practice email at


  1. Pardon? You mean there are differences between puppies and babies? One learns so much, here!

    P.S. Please don't fret. Successfully throwing a baseball to your child is on page 4,382 of the Parents' Handbook; which will be delivered upon delivery of your baby.

  2. That TV was an excellent investment! Your Xbox would be very lonely without it!

    On a side note, when the snow stops I'll take you out and teach you how to hit a ball ;)

  3. I also see that you've given into Perlson's blackmail. Good job :)

  4. 3 hours was our crating limit with Isaac...he's a tough one to raise.

    Sergey, wait till you see what I have up my sleeve for next weeks banner extortion. Ever seen what happens to drunk frat guy who passes out with his shoes on?

  5. Oh, we're talking about drunk people passing out with their shoes on...I think there are plenty of thos pictures around. I don't recall Mike passing out like that, but Jered.....

  6. Loon -- Many thanks. I aim to educate. Also, I can throw a baseball just fine. At least I could fifteen years ago. In any case, I wish I could get an advance copy of that handbook.

    Sergey -- Much appreciated. And yeah, I had to give in, since the chance of Chunks actually coming through with new banners is down to about 3%.

    Perlson -- Even if you put a bowl of water in with him?

    Derek -- Thanks for setting the record straight. Do we still have that one of Jered? That would make an excellent post.

  7. Don't worry too much about crating kids: Parents me crated and fine I am.

  8. Uh, photos of me would make for really stupid banners. Kinda boring and there's no possible tag line.

    Here's the deal, I stay out of the banner business and the banner business Perlson does stays out of my photo achieve.