The very first thing you learn as a father is that crying is bad.
If you’re smart, this is your cue to hand baby to mama. I say “If you’re smart” because you only get to pull this trick a handful of time before mama just hands him back, and at first he probably just wants to nurse anyway so it’s like a freebie.
Soon enough papa finds himself all on his lonesome with the howler and this is where lesson 1.5 comes in: crying means one of about 5 things:
5. I’m done with this diaper
One, sometimes two cycles through this checklist will almost always resolve the issue. And by the end of the second week, like the Car Talk guys, you’ll find you can diagnose the problem over the phone if necessary. You know the baby’s routine, you learn the different kinds of crying, you know whether to turn on the vacuum cleaner, or start boiling water.
And from there you’ve got it down. Sort of.
By trial and error, desperate effort and being knee deep in the mud on the front lines of parenthood you’ve tuned into every current of thought coursing through his massive, massive head. You know when trains are in and dogs are on the wane. You know when peekaboo needs to change to hide and seek and when actual swear words need to swap out for Bugs Bunny swear words. You learn his rhythms and whims like the most obsessive of Beliebers.
Or at least you think you do.
The other day we went to the zoo. Little man loves the zoo. Talks about it for days after the fact. Loves the zoo.
And at the zoo, there’s a monorail train. Little man loves trains. Plays with his wooden train on the floor for tens of minutes at a time (I call these parent-hours). Watches youtube videos with trains. Always wants to go downtown to see and or ride the light rail. Loves the trains.
So riding the train at the zoo? Donuts stuffed with Christmas stuffed with the 1812 Overture, right? One would think…
Two minutes in and he’s whining to go home.
It’s a 25 minute ride.
Fatherhood lesson number whatever – you know exactly nothing.
You’d think I’d have learned that in college.