Ryan's Reviews > Babyhood

Babyhood by Paul Reiser
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Feb 19, 08

bookshelves: humor, family-relationship, non-fiction, own
Read in April, 2005

** spoiler alert ** My Favorite Quotes:

“I want to have kids,” she says.
“Hey, who said different?”
“But not right away.”
“No, I know. We’ll have kids, but when we’re ready.”
“Right …”
Beat.
“But I don’t want to wait too long …”
“No, we won’t,” I assured her. “We’ll wait, like, you know … just the right amount of time.”

I’m well aware that not everybody gives the if-and-when of having kids this much time and deliberation.
A lot of people have kids who, frankly, didn’t mean to.
Many people choose to have no kids at all and live quite happily.
But most people have kids simply because you’re “supposed to.” The rule book says once you get married, start churning ‘em out. It’s just “the next step,” part of that nonstop momentum that keeps us all sprinting through life. (p. 8).

It becomes a matter of which self-centered impulse you want to service; the need to be free and unencumbered now, or the need to secure yourself a caretaker to whom you can be a huge encumbrance later.
“Let’s see … we’re going to need someone to put our things in order, someone to take all our junk when we die, and someone to take care of us and worry about us before we die … I don’t know anybody who’s going to do that … I know – let’s make someone. Let’s manufacture a whole new person, and then that’ll be their job.” (p. 10).

New parents always sound like hucksters in a pyramid scheme. Anyone who has kids and then gets you to go and have kids gets a check from Huckster Headquarters. They’re like newly converted religious fanatics, these people. They’re not only hooked, but they won’t rest till they bring you into the fold, too. (p. 11).

When you’re trying to get pregnant, you both take a veritable crash course in biology and anatomy. Names of procedures and body parts that were once faraway places on that big map in your doctor’s office become second nature.
But for men, this transformation is even more remarkable, because before this, they knew next to nothing. It’s remarkable –sad, but still remarkable – how little they know of the actual mechanics operating within women’s bodies. The whole business is referred to simply as “Down There.” (p. 21).

So where do these cravings come from? I concluded it’s the baby, ordering in. Prenatal takeout. Even without ever being in a restaurant, fetuses develop remarkably discerning palates, and they are no shy about demanding what they want. If they get a hankering, they just pick up that umbilical cord and call. (p. 38).

In addition to cribs and cradles, you also have to consider playpens, which at first impression struck me as no more than brightly colored, miniature jails. Is this really how we want to treat a brand-new person? Poor thing spends nine months cooped up in the womb, and first thing we do is toss him in a cage like a zoo animal. At least zoo animals get shrubbery and little ponds and schoolchildren tossing them peanuts. (p. 45).

Once you go ahead and buy every piece of merchandise with the word “baby” in the name, you still have another problem: How do you get all this stuff home? The answer, of course: Get rid of your car and find yourself a big ugly four-wheel-drive/trucky/sport utility/”just-throw-everything-in-the-back” vehicle. Suddenly you understand those behemoth station wagons your parents had. But because we are, as a group, so much more clever, we now surround ourselves instead in hulking tanks – uglier by far than anything we sat in the back of when we were five. But this time they have much cooler names, Outback, Range Rover, Land Cruiser, Four Runner, Trooper, Pathfinder … Where do we think we’re going? We’re picking up diapers and dropping off a video. We’re not bagging a cheetah and lugging it across Kenya (p. 49).

Observing my relatives with the baby, I realized they fall into a few different categories of adult-to-infant communications:
There’s the Greeter:
“Who’s that? That’s your mommy. Who’s that? That’s your daddy …”
Who works hand in hand with the Tour Guide:
“This is the living room, can you say living room? And this is the foyer! You don’t want to spill anything in the foyer …”
Who’s not quite as annoying as The Embarrasser:
“Did you make a stinky? I think you made a stinky. I’m going to tell everyone you made a stinky, even though we’re not a hundred percent sure …”
Or the Entertainer:
They just lean over the baby and make amusing noises. “Ha-cha-cha-cha … Ha-cha-cha-cha … Boo-ti-boo-ta … chook-chook-chook-chook …”
These of course, are all derivatives of the quintessential and official baby-speak noise – “Coochie-coochie coo.” I’m not sure how that became the industry standard, but it is. I imagine that at some point there must have been a meeting. “Coochie coochie coo” beat out perennial favorite “goo-goo-gah-gah” and the straightforward but too-literal “Greetings, Small Bald Round One.” (p. 86).

When you’re the parents of a new child, all the craving and desire you’ve ever felt for sex is transferred over to sleep. It’s like somebody sneaked into your brain, found the wires going to the sex button and the sleep button, and just switched them.
I didn’t realize how extensive the change was till I found myself one day staring at a lingerie ad with a photo of a beautiful, seductive, young woman sprawled practically naked across a satin-sheeted bed, and all I could think was, “Man, that bed looks comfortable.” (p. 106).

But as miraculous and moving as this is, I can’t get past the fact that food is coming out of my wife’s breasts. What was once essentially an entertainment center has now become a juice bar. This takes some getting used to. It’s like if bread were suddenly coming out of a person’s neck. Wouldn’t that be unsettling? Let’s say you’re a woman. If you were nibbling your husband’s ear and came away with a piece of toast, wouldn’t you be a tad skittish? That’s all I’m saying. (p. 133).

And again the accepted convention is: Lie. For all the sharing and being open and vulnerable, the truth is that all new parents are Big Fat Liars.
We lie about things that don’t even mean anything. Like Sleeping Through the Night. You wouldn’t think your newborn baby’s ability to sleep or not sleep consecutive hours would be potential grounds for ridicule. But you’d be wrong.
“Our daughter came home from the hospital, and from that night forward, she slept perfectly. Went down at eight-thirty, woke up the next morning at nine.”
Lies, lies, and more lies. Because if you told the truth, it might make you look bad. If your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, it’s a cultural stigma. It’s like The Scarlet Letter –where the “A” stands for “We’re still Awake, thank you very much.” So even if you both have bags under your eyes the size of steamer trunks –lie. (p. 180-181).
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