Babies have moved beyond playing and crying

    For those of you (or more likely, just you) who are interested in how I fared with the perpetuation of my chromosomes, I am pleased to report that my wife Liz and I have successfully reproduced

    It was a piece of cake. We got to the hospital at 10 p.m. and Douglas James Werner was born at 10:30 p.m. I was a rock. Oh sure, there was a lot of screaming and howling from Liz, but you know how melodramatic women can be.

    So now weíre all home. And there have been some surprises for me. I expected I would have to learn some new things, and probably purchase a few, but I had no idea I was going to have to learn a whole new language.

    Parentspeak is easier to learn than, say, Chinese, but it is still an adjustment. Mainly, what you have to do is elevate your adjectives and nouns to the Elian Gonzalez level of overstatement. At least this is what I have been able to gather based on my two sessions with the new parents group hosted by our pediatrician.

    Being the enlightened New Age kind of guy I am, I took the little fellow to the meeting so Liz could have a couple of hours off. Besides, I thought it might be fun to be the only Dad in a group of Moms, offering my unique and wise perspective on things.

    Not exactly.

    One of the mothers was talking about how her little Junior has a "meltdown" every evening at dinnertime. It took me a while to realize she was talking about a tantrum. Babies donít just cry it seems, they stage their own personal Chernobyls.

    Also, I had thought playing with the baby was playing with the baby. Wrong again. All the goofy things parents do Ė poking, tickling, making goofy faces, singing, etc. is referred to as "interaction."

    And the others in the group were politely horrified when I admitted we did not own the complete set of "Baby Einstein" videos. According to their manufacturer, the videos are "created to stimulate baby's development . . . . Baby Einstein is based on research that shows that exposure to a wide variety of phonemes . . . . can result in greater brain capacity."

    Iím thinking I ought to buy these things for me. If I watch them enough, maybe I can figure out what the heck a "phoneme" is. No way do I want a kid thatís smarter than me.

    The only chance for my kid to be a baby Einstein is if the qualification is having the same hairstyle. I try to comb his hair, I really do, but five minutes later it looks like he stuck his finger in the electrical socket.

    Iím also wondering how Einstein got to be Einstein without these videos.

    Parents out there are also buying Baby Mozart, Baby Bach, Baby Shakespeare and Baby Van Gogh. If anyone out there finds Baby John Wayne, Baby Dick Butkus or Baby Pedro Martinez, please write.

    I know that infants are supposed to be learning new things every day, but Iím not seeing a whole lot of evidence of it. I do have a theory that when he cries (a/k/a melts down), itís probably because some lonely thought is rattling around in his head. That could hurt.

    On the other hand, maybe heís smarter than I think. I brought my guitar out of retirement so I could play it to help him fall asleep at night. It seems to work, but I am nagged by the suspicion he is just faking it to get me to stop.

    And Iím also wondering if the need to change his diaper Ė right after Iíve changed one Ė might be some sort of practical joke. Talk about your infantile sense of humor.

    I dunno, maybe the whole world is smarter than me. Parents seem to be planning the route to Princeton for their kids, while Iím still trying to figure out if Pampers or Huggies are better.

    But Iím going to try and do better. At next weekís parenting meeting, Iím going to listen and learn. I just hope I donít suffer a meltdown from all the interaction.


January 2, 2001