Bringing up baby His lifestlye is nothing to cry about


THE CLOCK on the wall says 3:20 a.m. as I sit here feeding the baby and watching monster-truck racing on cable and jotting down a few random thoughts.

One thought that keeps surfacing is that even brief exposure to monster-truck racing might be dangerous for a 9-week-old baby boy.

Perhaps it eventually triggers a subliminal desire to drop out of school in the 10th grade and work the full-serve island at Chet's Exxon.

Then a year or so later, overcome with wanderlust and a desire to drive a modified cab with huge tires over a dozen beat-up old Pontiacs, the child might hit the monster-truck racing circuit.

He might travel from one tank town to the next -- Indianapolis and Des Moines and Daytona Beach or wherever these grease monkeys do their thing -- passing his nights in an endless succession of musty, dirt-floor arenas ("Ladies and gents, here's Big Bob Bohanon in The TER-MIN-A-TOR!!!") and his early morning hours in one dreary honky-tonk after another.

God, what a frightening thought. Silently, I murmur a prayer of thanks that we're not watching a tractor pull.

The other thought that occurs to me at this hour is that babies (unlike monster-truck drivers) have a terrific lifestyle, one that I have wanted to emulate for years.

To begin with, a baby can sleep as much as he wants, and no one hassles him.

If he wants to wake up at, say, 10 in the morning, it's no big deal. In fact, when he finally does open those baby blues, people will actually be leaning over him and smiling, instead of shooting him dirty looks and telling him to cut his hair and get a job.

Even when a baby is awake, he's not exactly working on a killer schedule, either.

This became evident the other day when we put the baby in his little playpen. If memory serves, this is how he spent his time: He gurgled. He looked to his left. He looked to his right. Occasionally he poked one of his little fists in the air. And that was about it.

Anyway, after about 30 minutes of this, he let out a soft sigh. With that, my wife came rushing out of the kitchen and stuck her head in the playpen.

"The baby's tired," she announced.

"The baby's tired?" I said.

"All this activity has him tuckered out," she said.

"What activity? Using his eyes?"

Nevertheless, she picked the baby up and whisked him off for his "nap." It was 7:30 in the morning. He'd been up a grand total of an hour and a half. And now he was taking a nap.

I don't see how you can beat that kind of a life.

When the baby isn't sleeping, of course, he's eating. This kid eats like he's with the Green Bay Packers. Forty-two bottles a day, at least that's what it seems like.

Me, I'd want to mix in a steak or some nachos every once in a while. But the idea that all you have to do is cry and people will come running up to you with food does have a certain appeal.

Babies also have a lot of cool, personalized equipment these days. Baby car seats. Baby strollers. Baby carriages. Crib. Playpen. Exercise swing. Lots of cool stuffed animals and squeeky toys.

We sure didn't have any of that neat stuff back when I was a baby. In fact, one of my earliest recollections concerning toys involved my father suddenly looming over my crib, which, quite frankly, scared the hell out of me.

"Know what daddy has for you?!" he said.

I shook my head no, although judging by the excited tone of his voice it was something pretty special. Maybe a Ferrari, I thought. Or at least a go-cart.

And with that, he handed me this old tennis ball. A tennis ball! Like he was doing me a big favor. Meanwhile, the ball looked like it'd been run over with a lawn mower.

Then, as if I weren't annoyed enough already, he pinched my cheeks and chuckled.

Oh, man, I went ballistic! I was so ticked off. But before I could take a swing at him or nail him with my rattle, he was gone.

Anyway, all these thoughts are going through my mind now as the baby drains the last of his bottle.

The clock on the wall says it's now 3:50. Almost time for offshore powerboat racing.

You know, we didn't even have offshore powerboat racing when I was a baby.

Please. Don't get me started.

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