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Friday, November 7, 2014

Dumb Dad

Dumb Dad

I was 52 years old when my fourth child was born.  It was 22 years since my third child.  Apparently, I soon found out, rules to raising a child had changed in 22 years.

I appreciated disposable diapers, they are way better than the old cloth diapers and diaper service (though there is no better wiping rag than a cloth diaper.) I was not so fond of baby monitors which alerted you every time the baby so much as rolled over.  I learned that you need more support for baby in the back seat of the car than wedging in a few books to keep him from moving.

I also learned that a 52 year old father looked more like a grandfather than a dad.  Women assume that grandpa has no idea how to care for a baby.  I was often offered unsolicited advice when I took my boy for a stroll in town.

"You need to cover him up more or he will catch cold."

"It is too warm for all those blankets."

"I think he is hungry."

"He probably needs changing, do you need help."

Shit, I've changed more diapers then any of these busy-bodies, and I did it with diaper pins.  Still, I generally took the well intentioned advice in stride.

Sometimes I did not.

One day I took Spence to town in his carriage.  He was asleep.  He was just a few months in this world and he slept a lot.  When he wasn't asleep he really was not that much fun.  I preferred it when he was asleep.

On this sunny day, I pushed the carriage into town which was less than a block from my home.  I wanted a sandwich at the local deli.  I knew the local deli always pumped up their air conditioning.  I was of the opinion that the air temperature change in the deli would wake up my sleeping baby, so I left the carriage right outside the deli, brake on, and easily visible from the inside of the deli. 

Please keep in mind the last time a crime was committed in this town which I often refer to as Mayberry, New Jersey, was when a pumpkin was stolen from Mrs. Binghamton's porch in 1977.

Inside the deli several young moms started a small buzz while glancing first outside and then at me.  Finally one kind lady whispered to me,

"You probably ought to bring the baby inside."

"Why thank you so much, but I don't want the cold air to wake him up."

"Do you think the baby is safe by himself outside?"

"I can see him pretty well, thank you."

"Suppose someone runs off with him!"

"I may be a little old, but I'm pretty sure I can run down anyone pushing a baby carriage in the middle of town and if that chase wakes up my baby there will be some serious ass kicking involved!"

I was told in a very indignant manner that I should be reported to what sounded to me like a Mutual Fund Company, but was apparently some kind of child service thing.

I did not give her the finger.

I sincerely wanted to. 


  1. Everyone has an opinion don't they? Would I have left the baby outside even though he was in full view, perfectly safe and happy? Probably not but only because I would have spent the whole time imagining that something catastrophic was about to happen. It's an irrational fear and obviously an instinct designed to ensure that you protect your baby, not necessarily something that equates with modern life, more a kind of 'if I don't constantly stand over my baby then he will be eaten by wolves' sort of thing.

    No, I don't think you were wrong and I'm sure, like most parents, you would do anything to keep your child from harm but I think perhaps these women were just unable to switch off that instinct and it came across as very judgemental.

  2. Men approach things differently than women do. I can see your logic here. I think you should have done that one finger salute though. It would have been the cherry on top of the sundae.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  3. How rude. You would have appreciated a recent dilemma I witnessed. Laura's art teacher had a new student starting in the slot after Laura. I climbed the twenty steps to the studio near the end of Laura's hour, to pick her up. A frazzled woman came rapidly up soon after, looked at grandmotherly me on the sofa in the hall and thrust a small baby in my arms. "I'll be right back!" Clatter down, and more slowly up, she returned with an identical baby, plus the student. She reclaimed the bundle, and I must say, managed one in each arm very well. Strong women, these young mothers. When Laura and I left the double carriage was parked right on Main Street, in front of the yellow door up the steep steps in historic downtown.

  4. Each generation acts like they were the first ones to raise children, and everything done previously was wrong. What a loaded diaper that is.

  5. There are busybodies everywhere it seems. Fie on them.

  6. It seems there is always someone there to make sure you are informed that whatever you are doing is wrong, like Stephen said each generation thinks they were the first, and yes they assume that they know more than you.

    I'd like to see one of the younger generation attempt a cloth diaper with diaper pins, on a rubber doll that is, because I feel it wouldnt be safe on a real baby.

  7. When my kids were growing up, (they're in their 50's now) I often left them in the car for 5 minutes. Nobody cared, nobody commented & nobody stole them!!

  8. Different generations have different approaches, I suppose. We put our babies on their stomachs to sleep, but today's generation has been told that's a big bad no-no. We had to do all that bottle sterilization, and deal with cloth diapers and (ugh) diaper pails. Today's generation has disposable this and disposable that, and all kinds of gadgets and gizmos to ensure the baby's safety. Things we never even dreamed of. I swear, you need a master's degree to operate some of today's car seats. Even though our kids didn't come with instructions, we all managed to muddle through somehow, much to the surprise of our elders.

    If I'd been you, I would've said something to those busybodies along the lines of, "I didn't want to bring the baby into the air conditioning, but maybe you're right. Would one of you ladies mind standing with him until I finish in here...?"

    1. I learned it was a no-no to put them on their stomachs too, but my youngest wouldn't sleep any other way, so I ignored the busybodies who said he would suffocate. I had the cloth nappies with nappy pins too and never sterilised anything, just washed and rinsed super carefully. They all survived and were rarely ill.

  9. Nowadays it takes a village. My PhD child psychologist daughter in law once chastised me for lightly bouncing a healthy 7 month old grandchild on my knee....:(

  10. It was not only a generational thing but also a gender issue. Women are a lot more panicky and worse case scenario types then men--it is our nature.

  11. I hear that a lot from men who have children at a slightly older age...women always think we're the only ones subjected to unfair stereotypes, but men are, too. ESPECIALLY in the area of fatherhood.

  12. It is interesting how raising kids have changed over the years; first safe to lay on their backs, then not safe, etc. I'm such a helicopter mom, even now, that I wouldn't have been able to leave the stroller out there, though I think in your case it was perfectly fine. I hate leaving Koda out in the car when I'm running a quick errand (always in cool weather, not on hot summer days) and I'm always looking out the window to make sure he hasn't unlocked the doors (he hasn't yet, but he is a corgi).


  13. Oh, dear. A baby is not a bicycle, to be parked outside the deli while you grab a sandwich. I imagine you would at least have put a lock on a bicycle, despite Mayberry and its 1977 crime spree. Even Barney Fife had a bullet, JUST IN CASE.

    I'm afraid I must side with the busybodies, though I would have been too chicken to say anything to you. I probably would have just made sarcastic comments to my fellow busybodies, while giving you the stinkeye.

  14. I once left my sleeping third child in her pram at the end of an aisle in a bookstore while I browsed and completely forgot about her! I was walking halfway down the next block towards home when I remembered her.

  15. Afraid I agree with the instinct tells me you should be standing next to the baby if you cannot here it. And leaving it outside...well your kids survived.

  16. Oh dear. I so much want to be on your side, but I just can't!

  17. I have been witness to a couple of similar events and what I ended up doing was watching the baby, myself.. discreetly but steadily. I grew up in a large city (Montreal) and I raised my kids in a reasonably large city (practically Toronto). I wouldn't have felt comfortable leaving my child outside. But to each his own. Vive la difference.

  18. Next time try a bra and a whig ...... maybe some heels ...... they'll leave you alone.

  19. The chances of someone swiping Spence was apparently slim to none; however, with every kidnapping greatly publicized via our numerous forms of media, we've become a fearful society. Substantiated or unsubstantiated, I know I would have done what Hilary said (because I've done it more than a few times) - I would have found a way to watch the baby.