Sometimes I prop my baby’s bottle up with stuff so he can
suck down his formula without me having to hold him the whole time. I know that
a lot of people will say that that’s not cool, and that I am robbing him of the
tender intimacy that a tiny child deserves, but I don’t know. Lots of people
have really strong opinions about how to raise kids. And lots of them are
Now, I’m on my third kid and so, I’ll admit it took me a
while to come around to the technique. And yeah, I felt kind of guilty about doing
it the first time or two. There’s so much that can go wrong in every single little
aspect of rearing a new baby — or that’s what many will have you believe.
“If you even look at a
baby with cross-eyes or sigh when they haven’t stopped bawling for 72 hours
straight, hey, it’s all going to be on you when that child grows up to be a
damaged menace to society!”
That’s the sort of malarkey so many so-called "experts" and
self-proclaimed parenting gurus will have you believe. And I ate it up, my first
few years of being a dad. I fed every single bottle by hand, lovingly,
tenderly, but truth is — and I think this goes for lots of folks whether they
admit it or not — I often found myself wishing to some higher power that I could
just get up off the damn couch for two seconds of my day so that I could hit the
loo or maybe eat something myself before I fell down on my two pins and needles (once known as legs) and landed on my right hand (which was already numb from
holding a baby bottle all day/every day for the last nine weeks).
But my kids didn’t seem any more at peace or wiser or most
prolific or prodigious than any other kid I saw in the supermarket or whatever.
In fact, by the time they were about 3 years old, each of my older two kids
went straight-up honey badger. So much for all that special parenting advice.
Thanks for nothing, people.
Everything changed one day, not long ago, about a month after
my third child came along.
Any guilt or mixed emotions I might be feeling about propping his never-ending buffet for him a few times a day were no big whoop.
There I was doing the dishes, mopping the floor, making a
paella from scratch, working on my book, hiding dollar bills all over the house
in case of the apocalypse, refereeing my older kids’ battles and running the
vacuum, and I looked over at my Charlie sitting there in his baby chair, and he
seemed edgy, flirting with tears.
I knew what that meant.
That was the first time I propped. I wanted to keep up my
chores and all, so I caved and shoved some blanket under the
bottle and stepped back over to finish wiping my son Henry’s popsicle sneeze
off the wall.
Two minutes later, I looked over at Charlie, and there he
was, happy as a clam, watching "Naked and
Afraid" and mowing through his meal without a trace of tragic circumstance
anywhere in the room. Right then and there, I suddenly realized that any guilt
or mixed emotions I might be feeling about propping his never-ending
buffet for him a few times a day were no big whoop.
It hit me like a lightning bolt.
I’ve got to do what I
can do to be the best dad I can be AND to live my own damn life at the same
time. And it’s the guillotine for anyone who thinks otherwise!
Constant bottle-propping, if someone fell victim to that
habit ... well, there might be an argument against that, mostly because I think
you’d be missing out on some pretty special times with your kiddo. I hold
Charlie a lot, probably as much as most parents hold their babies. He’s 4
months old now and it isn’t ever lost on me that the time will swish right by
us. But using "the prop" to your home-field advantage in the car or down at the
gastropub or around the house during prime time hours for getting stuff done? Well, that’s just unstoppable brilliance, if you ask me.