Monday, November 02, 2009

Things that go dorky in the night

“Maybe we should have gotten a second dog instead,” I said to my wife Kara as our son Evan threw his head back and wailed in our faces, his tongue waggling like a screaming Simpson.

At this time last year, about two weeks before we found out that Kara was pregnant, caring for a dog seemed like the absolute pinnacle of responsibility. These days, by comparison, the dog seems to require about the same amount of care as a cactus.

“Did you give Memphis her dinner tonight?” Kara will ask, and I won’t be able to remember. I can hear the sound of the food hitting the metal bowl, but was that last night or tonight? Or this morning? And Memphis will sit there, dusting the floor with her wagging tail, hoping to score her second dinner of the night. Or her first. Who can remember?

There is little chance of forgetting to feed the baby, though. Run ten minutes late to feed Evan and you bump into the very real risk that his screaming will start knocking shingles off the roof.

Of course, it’s not fair to compare a baby with a dog because dogs are programmed to give you nothing but unalloyed adoration, while babies are programmed to scream in your face for a few years, then to take a short break while they turn into teenagers, and then to recommence screaming in your face.

“Goodnight nobody, goodnight mush,” Kara said, attempting to settle Evan down with a little Goodnight Moon, which is required reading for children until they’re old enough to realize that it doesn’t make any sense.

“WAAAAAH!” Evan replied.

“Maybe he has colic,” Kara said, shutting the book and rubbing her temples.

“I don’t think so,” I said. From what I understand of colic, you never need to wonder whether or not your baby has it. If you ask my mom what it was like when my sister had colic, a dark cloud settles over her face, and you feel like you owe her a glass of wine just for asking the question.

I try not to complain too much about Evan’s crying, partly because I know it really isn’t that bad, but mostly because having a baby and then complaining that he cries seems a lot like buying a lawnmower and then complaining that it cuts your grass.

“Maybe it’s time for your Moment of Zen,” I said to Kara, and her face lit up. Her Moment of Zen happens when I take the dog and the baby out for a walk around the neighborhood, giving Kara a brief opportunity to remember what quiet sounds like. Or what a former child star dancing the Paso Doble to “Singin’ in the Rain” sounds like, if it’s a “Dancing with the Stars” night, which it seems to be every night.

Now that it gets dark so early, giving Kara a moment to herself requires me to push the stroller with one hand while holding the leash and the flashlight in the other, which sometimes makes it tough to handle the trombone while playing the bass drum with the foot pedals.

A couple of weeks ago, as I stood in the garage with Evan in the stroller, I took a deep breath and removed the yellow reflector vest from the packaging that it had lived in since last Christmas, when Santa was on a prenatal safety kick.

It was a big moment for me, surrendering coolness points for safety points. I’m from the last generation to spurn wearing bike helmets and sunscreen. To us, a little added coolness is worth a severe laceration or two. But not so with a baby involved.

If you’ve ever wished that maybe your parents were a little bit cooler, there’s an excellent chance that their current condition is very much your fault. They might be wearing reflector vests now, but before you came along, they were snapping their fingers to turn on jukeboxes. Or at least getting high scores on their PlayStations.

You can forget to give Mike Todd his dinner at


  1. Mike, you never disappoint! Great column and oh so true!

  2. Jen -- Thank you! Made my day. And you deprived Perlson of his seventh consecutive firsties.

  3. safety gear is cool! I have no kids and I wore a helmet, reflective jacket, and three flashing lilghts to bike through philly this morning :)

  4. Jill -- That is awesome. If safety is cool, then you're Miles Davis.