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True Confessions of a Bottle-Propper

Dark parenting confession time, ya’ll.


OK, let me just dive right into this one.

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 worthwhile.

Yet, a bunch of them can go to hell.

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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.

Bottle time.

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!

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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.

Or even if you don’t ask me, for that matter.

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