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Man vs. Child
One Dad's Guide to the Weirdness of Parenting
By Doug Moe, Rebecca Kaplan, Jordan Awan
Abrams BooksCopyright © 2017 Doug Moe
All rights reserved.
MAN * VS. * LIFE
YOUR FUN, WORTHLESS LIFE WITHOUT A CHILD
"WHY AM I HERE?"
That's the big question that hits you when you're boozing your way through a wonderful brunch with close friends.
"What's it all for?"
That's the other question. The one that hits you as you scarf down a bite of delicious eggs Florentine. This big question has been pondered ever since man stopped doodling on cave walls and started thinking about work/life balance.
"What is my purpose?"
Oof. Now, that's a question. Is your purpose brunch? Or your band? Your job? Do you even have a job?! You have incredible freedom, but for what? What do you do with it? You while away your time watching TV or collecting comic books. You sleep in. You waste it all.
* What if I took away your late-night hot wings but gave your life meaning?
* What if I took away your freedom but gave you a higher purpose?
* What if I took away peace and quiet but gave you laughter, then crying, then whining, but then laughter again?
That's what being a dad is like: It gives you meaning and purpose and fills your days with laughter, then crying, then whining, but then laughter again. You're welcome.
MAYBE YOu WiLL BE A GREAT DAD NOW THAT we know you're not a great guitarist
By now, you're old enough to have failed at many things. You know you're never going to be a great guitarist or a professional gamer. Your videos never went viral. But you could be a great dad. Isn't that more noble than being good at guitar? Isn't that more meaningful than video games? You used to be insanely obsessed with Facebook likes, but you could be pouring that insanity into a child.
THERE ARE SEVERAL GOOD REASONS TO HAVE A KID
The main reason is that a kid is someone who, at least for a while, will really like you. Will love you. Will give you hugs and write sweet things to you and give you kisses. I promised myself I wouldn't cry.
And having a kid makes you a better person. I really think so. A friend of mine told me that before you have a kid, you think you have a set amount of love in your heart, but having a kid opens up a whole new chamber full of love you didn't know you had. It's like that weird dream where you discover you have another room in your apartment that you had forgotten about. It's not like that weird dream where your head is made of bologna but no one told you.
Ready to have a baby? No? Well, let's take this piece by piece. What are "babies"?
WHAT ARE "BABIES"?
C'mon, you know what a baby is, so cut the crap.
Okay, so you're not a baby guy. I gotcha. That's okay. Lots of great dads are not baby guys to start. There's still hope.
You've seen babies all over the place, but never really thought too much about them, fine. I, too, was like this when I was Un-Childed. Un-Childed people are not yet enlightened, not yet blessed with the beauty of children. They are really not paying attention to babies. So what are "babies"? Let's make sure you know the answer.
Really, babies are just Tiny People. But here's a secret that no one tells you before you have one: Not all babies are the same.
Did I just blow your mind? Yes, some babies are older than others. And new babies and older babies are fundamentally different species. Roughly speaking, they break down like this:
* BABY, NEWBORN: This is the kind of super-tiny baby that you see and think, "WHOA, that is a tiny baby"
* BABY, STANDARD-ISSUE: This is a classic baby. Not too small, not too big. Not walking around, not talking. Just doing classic baby stuff, like drinking a bottle or throwing something on the floor.
* BABY, COOL: This baby has a lot of personality. What a cool baby. I will also refer to this kind of baby as an "Interesting Baby."
* BABY, CRABBY: This might be a toddler. Are they walking? Are they being kind of annoying? Probably a toddler.
* BABY, BIGGER, TALKED YOU INTO AN ELABORATE BANK HEIST WHEREIN YOU ARE PUSHING THIS BABY IN A STROLLER AND THEN IT POPPED OUT WITH A GUN AND DEMANDED MONEY: This is probably a tiny gangster, not an actual baby. Check out my book Man vs. Tiny Gangster.
Now that you know what a baby is, the question is: Are you ready to have one?
ARE YOu READY TO HAvE A BABY?
No. But you're asking the wrong question. The right question is:
"ARE YOU EVER READY TO HAVE A BABY?"
If you're like me, you had a ton of things to do FIRST before having a baby. Things that would make you ready. Like:
* being successful
* being mature
* having money
* having a plan, for once
* having enough room — I mean, we live in a one bedroom!
* being not such a total screw-up, like THAT'LL ever happen
* feeling ready
Being ready is overrated and can take forever.
SHOULDN'T I AT LEAST BE A GROWN-UP FIRST?
The answer again is no.
Here's a little pearl of actual wisdom that I've acquired from being a parent: You can be an adult without being a grown-up.
That is to say, you can be full-size without feeling like you are a grown-up. Grown-ups are serious. They are deeply settled into the world. They are self-assured and complete. When you're a kid, most adults seem this way, especially dads.
But as you become an adult, you realize that most of the adults you know aren't grown-ups. They don't know what the hell they're doing. Some bully from your high school becomes the town cop. Or your flaky college roommate who used to steal your hummus becomes a big TV producer. And yet they haven't changed a bit.
It turns out that everyone's a big fake, especially people who think they are grown-ups. No one is ever really a grown-up.
The good news is that you can be as big a liar as they all are! And if you become a parent, you'll have to be. So, no, you aren't a grown-up and you aren't "ready" to have a baby. Join the club.
SHOULD I HAVE A DOG FIRST?
This is a common thought: I should have a dog before I have a baby. That way I can get used to caring for something else. Good idea — you should have a dog first. But you can't just skip to the dog.
The proper sequence is:
2. Small bowl that you always put your keys in so you stop losing them
4. New plant (other plant died)
5. Cat (optional)
6. Another cat, so the first one has a friend
7. Shared Google Calendar that you and your wife actually check
8. New cat (don't ask)
ARE DOGS LiKE BABiES?
Dogs can be great practice for babies! And dogs and babies are more similar now than at any other time in history. Dogs have become more like babies. Both have:
* Human names
* Cute outfits
And babies are more like dogs:
* Dog names
* Attempts to bring them into restaurants where they are not welcome
* Good for about thirteen years, give or take
NO, DOGS ARE NOT LiKE BABiES
Despite these similarities, let me assure you that babies and dogs are not the same thing, no matter what your coworker Susan thinks.
* Need money
* Resent your jokes
* Love you, then tolerate you, then resent you, then love you again
* Lick another baby's butt and then lick you
* Bark and bark and bark at absolutely nothing, even when you say "NO!" a bunch of times
* Dig in the dirt, roll around in a dead thing, and then whine about a bath. Well, probably not.
So sure, get a dog first. It can give you love and help you practice feeding something else regularly. And then a dog can be a useful companion to your baby, something else to terrorize and assert dominance over until you have a second child.CHAPTER 2
MAN * VS.* PREGNANCY
THE WEIRDNESS GROWS
PREGNANCY AND BIRTH: WHOA
Pregnancy is a weird, exciting time for you and your wife. When my wife got pregnant, it was the first time in awhile that we'd really had to plan something.
A few years before we had planned what I think everyone will agree was the best wedding ever. But that had been more of an exercise in budgeting and where to seat my dad's weird cousin than planning a new life. Deciding on cupcakes instead of a wedding cake felt pretty significant at the time, but in retrospect it pales in comparison to having a baby. Babies don't come in red velvet, for one thing.
Babies require even more planning. We had a lot to prepare for mentally and strategically. Would we stay in our one-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up apartment? How could we save some money? What should we name this kid? Where should we put the crib?
All the planning was exciting, though. Imagining what it'd be like to be parents, to be "establishing a family" — it was all like our own little private joke or something. It felt like a fun secret, like when you're not wearing underwear.
And it snapped me to attention: I had to step up! Sure, every couple is supposed to take care of each other, and you know I'm the one rebooting the router when our Wi-Fi is down. But the physical realness of my wife's pregnant body made the whole thing a lot less theoretical. When your partner's not feeling well and her body is changing and she can feel a baby's elbow in her stomach — that tends to focus the mind.
Sounds crazy, right? You've got nine months or so to get your head in the game. Hop to it!
YOUR ROLE AS NON-PREGNANT GUY
Other books can tell you the medical stages of pregnancy. Those books are all "trimester this" and "trimester that." But for understanding what it'll be like for you, the bystander, refer to this handy summary.
STAGES OF PREGNANCY (AS OBSERVED FROM NEARBY)
1. Maybe pregnant, maybe not
2. Pregnant but superstitious
3. Pregnant but secret
4. Pregnant but passing for bloated
5. Definitely pregnant. Tell everyone! Classic pregnant.
6. Super-pregnant, probably can't get any bigger than that
7. WTF pregnant, watermelon-sideways pregnant, impossibly pregnant
SOME THINGS ARE NOT FOR YOU
Clearly there's a lot more to it. But some of this baby thing is going to be almost exclusively for your wife to experience: a person growing inside her body, a person coming out of her body, and breast-feeding to name just a few. Even the most sympathetically almost-pregnant dads-to-be have to satisfy themselves with descriptions of the bizarre inner workings of child growing.
BE A GREAT SIDEKICK
That doesn't make you useless. Some dads use their bystander status to justify not doing anything baby related. But I think you're a New Dad. I think you should help in as many ways as you can and be a great sidekick. What's Batman without Robin? What's peanut butter without jelly?
Sidekicks are invaluable. Here's how you can help:
* Put the crib together based on the rage-inducing instructions; pregnant women shouldn't hurl things.
* Paint the baby's room so your baby doesn't get whacked out on paint fumes.
* Go to the billion doctor's appointments and nod along, then look stuff up later.
* Read up on pregnancy from other, more authoritative books so you don't look like you are just a cutup who only likes comedy books.
Sure, Robin's main job is to help fight the Joker and keep the Bat-mobile gassed up, but I bet Batman keeps him around for the awesome foot rubs, too. Sidekicks do what needs to be done.
BIRTH CLASS: WELCOME TO THE BODY
Maybe you lead a more interesting life than I do, but birth class was the first time I sat around with a bunch of dudes while we all rubbed our wives' bellies.
Birth class is where you reacquaint yourself with the physical. As you've gotten older, there've been hints that the body is weird (a long hair growing from the top of your ear; a zit that you squeeze and squeeze until you have to go to the doctor), but your wife's pregnancy is on a whole other level. And birth class is where you confront the weirdness of bodies head-on ... through the vagina.
There are many different types of birth classes, but it's likely that you will be attending some kind of post-hippie birth-empowering class designed to give you lots of information so you feel more in control of a scary process.
These classes are totally worth doing so that you can bone up on epidurals, dilation, and contractions. You'll learn all of the technical stuff and all the options for birth, and you'll get to formulate a "birth plan."
A birth plan is your plan for how you and your wife would like the birth to go. It is like many plans you will have in the future: a great theory, largely scrapped as soon as the shit hits the fan.
MASSAGE YOUR WAY TO A NATURAL CHILDBIRTH
Nowadays, the goal is to have a "natural childbirth." Your wife will likely want to be "present" and hope to have the least amount of drugs necessary. To this end, you will learn a bunch of massages that are supposed to serve as an alternative to epidurals That said, most women don't yell for "less epidural" once they get a taste.
You'll also learn how to coach your wife's breathing: deep breaths, counting, and not acquiring a "tone" about it.
And you'll learn how to support her through the birth, mostly by getting out of the way and not forgetting to bring her "go bag" full of special stuff she wants in the room (and your kick-ass "Birth Jams" mix CD that she will definitely love).
MUSTACHES AND BIRTHS AROUND THE WORLD
In my birth class, we watched videos to learn about how birth differs between cultures around the world. The basics are the same everywhere: Get. Baby. Out. But attitudes and styles of birth are very different. Like, in one scene, Swedish people wandered around their Bundesmall, eating a Swedish Cinnabun minutes before giving birth. And then there was the scene with a woman from the Amazon jungle pausing to squat and give birth while shucking some kind of weird corn. Show-off. Heck, it's enough to make you proud to be an American! People all over the world are so casual about birth; here, it's still a bit of "me time."
If you're a laffriot like me, keep your head in the game: These videos are supposed to be about the wonder of life, not about making fun of fashion disasters. Apparently, they stopped making birthing videos around 1986, so there are a lot of pastel-colored sweaters and bushy mustaches. These were some of the weirdest non-porn naked-people videos I've seen in a while, but my wife did not like me laughing at them.
Most of all, you will learn to be sappy and loving to your wife and unborn child in front of other men. There's nothing very macho about it, unless you think deep breathing and giving foot rubs is macho. But here we go: Having a kid is gonna be one big reckoning with looking uncool. Welcome aboard.
YOUR WIFE'S MOOD AND WHY YOU SHOULD SHUT UP ABOUT IT
There's no upside to talking about your wife's mood swings. That's why you should silently suffer these terrors.
Have you ever felt crazy? Yeah, well, she feels REALLY crazy.
Have you ever felt crabby? Did it make you feel better to have someone talk about it or not shut the hell up about it? Yeah, that's why you are going to shut the hell up about it.
YOU ARE STILL THE IDIOT
Your wife is changing. It's like she is a wizard now, but she's still married to the village idiot. When you approach this mighty wizard, be humble. The wizard will grow angry if you ask her stupid questions. Respect the wizard.
And this wizard is, well, a little moody. DO NOT TELL THE WIZARD SHE IS MOODY. THE WIZARD KNOWS AND DOES NOT CARE.
Unlike a wizard, a pregnant woman's powers are based in science. Hormones, discomfort, and the general problem of fitting another human in a person's body are the root of her powers.
MEN CANNOT COMPREHEND
Hormones are coursing through your wife's body in a way that us guys won't ever understand. Remember when you bit into that weird pickle right after you brushed your teeth? I'm guessing it's like that. Or maybe it's like when you sneeze and burp at the same time. See? We'll never really know.
Pregnancy is a mysterious process. It's scary, and it's weird. It's also not your body. And until future generations fix this, us men will not have to carry babies in our wombs. So maybe we stop talking about it so women don't get any big ideas. Nothing to see here, move along....
TAKE CARE OF THE WIZARD
Taking care of this wizard during this moody time is great prep for the moodiest of creatures: a baby.
So for now, love this wizard. Give her little foot massages, cook, and cater to this wizard. Mix the potions, vacuum, and be nice. Nobody wants to be turned into a toad.
WHAT IS A DAD NOW?
It used to be easy being a dad. You'd go to work, come home, pour a drink, and pass out by the fireplace. Every once in a while, you'd dole out advice or sign a check. From the head of the table, you'd intone on some matter of the world before drinking again and snoozing.
I've seen old Super 8 footage of the three generations of dads before me. First, my great-grandfather: unsmiling, stern, and silent. He seems unsure of whether this is to be a motion picture or a photograph, and he's pissed about it. Next, my grandfather: nice guy, but formal. One time I remember getting him loosened up was when my brother got him to listen to House of Pain's "Jump Around" on his Walkman. "Why is that guy screaming?" he asked.
Next up: my dad as a teenager about to go off to college, smiling and goofy. He's still like that. He's a warm, funny guy, but he was never a real chase-the-kids-around-the-sprinkler type; like a lot of dads of his generation, he was caught somewhere in between the strict dads of old and something new. But I give him a lot of credit for trying hard. My parents were divorced, so even driving down to get us every other weekend shows some hustle.
Excerpted from Man vs. Child by Doug Moe, Rebecca Kaplan, Jordan Awan. Copyright © 2017 Doug Moe. Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Man vs. Life: Your Fun, Worthless Life Without a Child 8
Man vs. Pregnancy: The Weirdness Shows 16
Man vs. Newborn: Keeping This Weird Thing Alive Awhile 36
Man vs. Baby: What an Interesting Baby! 50
Man vs. Toddler: Why Won't Your Kid Just Be Cool? 72
Man vs. Little Kid: Who Am I Kidding? Little Kids Are Easy! 112
Man vs. Big Kid: Big Kid, Tiny Person 156