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PREPARING FOR BABY
Webster's Dictionary defines prepare as "to put in proper condition or readiness."
Readiness? I didn't even know that readiness was a word. But who am I to argue with Webster? What I can say with complete confidence, though, is that saying that you can be "ready" for a baby is like saying that you can be "ready" for a natural disaster. We know that things are going to get shaken up, we know we'll be out of our element and there are supplies to be had. But really, how the hell does one "prepare" for his life to be turned completely upside down?
I wasn't ready for my son to be born three months premature. To be honest, I wasn't ready for him at all. I was a lout. I was a loudmouthed know-it-all who always had to have things go my way. The thought of me being in charge of another human being's welfare was laughable. Well, it would have been laughable if it didn't happen to me at four-thirty in the afternoon that fall day. What had once been laughable became instantly terrifying. I had no idea how to be a father. I had no idea how to do laundry or how to mix formula or how to install a car seat. I was clueless about how to change a diaper. I didn't know how to soothe a grown-up, let alone a baby. I couldn't even find the remote. Parenthood is probably best described by the old expression "If you want God to laugh, make plans." I quickly learned that when it comes to parenthood there should be a change in that expression: "If you want God to laugh, have expectations."
I'm not sure what I expected when I became a father but I do know that every day for the next seven years, my expectations and hopes would be blown out of the water daily. I am sure that if you are a parent and reading this, you are solemnly nodding your head in agreement. Having kids is like Murphy's law taking place every day inside your heart. If you want your son to be an athlete, he will become a total spaz. If you want your daughter to be a beauty queen, she will be cross-eyed. If your wish is for your daughter to go out into the world and get a great education, she will be as dumb as a bag of hair. Parents make big plans and God laughs. Every day. You go to sleep at night and think up a big plan to take your daughter to the beach. You can hardly sleep because of how excited you are that you thought of something so cool for your kid. You reflect back on all the times you wish your parents had taken you to the beach, and you lie in the dark and silently gloat that you are going to be a better parent than your parents ever were. Then you wake up in the morning and tell your daughter the big, huge, wonderful beach news and she looks you in the eye and says, "I don't want to go to the beach." You stand there stunned while holding towels and wearing white shit on your nose. You think, Who the fuck doesn't want to go to the beach? Your child doesn't want to go to the beach because you planned a day at the beach. Welcome aboard.
So we've established that the moment Jackie was released from the womb, I realized--in a moment of simultaneous bliss and sheer terror--that I could never be mentally prepared for the event. But let's call a spade a spade (where did that expression come from anyway?): my lack of "readiness" for my child began months before his birth . . . when I realized that I had to literally and physically prepare for his arrival. For the slow audience and the cheap seats, this means that I had to blow my entire life savings to buy a bunch of things that I'd never even...