to Deal with a Neurotic Parent
Ive been told Colorado is cold. In fact, I was told emphatically
by my friend Claire that I should bring plenty of warm clothes for Skylar
during our visit for Kaitlins baptism.
Shut the door, Claire said when I first arrived at her front door.
Youre letting all the cold air in. She turned the
thermostat up three degrees. I dont want Kaitlin to catch
I dont understand it. I went from a heated airport to a heated
car to a heated house. When, exactly, do I need these warm clothes?
In a word, Claire is neurotic. I mean this in a loving way because I
love Claire but listening to her talk about the right way to raise a
child... Let me put it this way: She once accused me of child abuse
because I let my house fall to 69 degrees.
The alarm in the kitchen goes off. Paul? Claire calls to her
husband as she resets the alarm, will you get Kaitlins bottle
ready? Claire pulls out the log book and enters the time. I
peek over her shoulder. The feeding times are exactly four hours
apart. Sometimes we have to wake her for the 3am feeding, she
I look at her, aghast. Wake a sleeping baby?
I remember reading that book, the one that said your baby should go no
longer than four hours without eating. Claire keeps the book on the
shelf with about thirty others, all heavy flagged with post-its.
Rebecca and I stored our copy in the fireplace.
Paul takes what appears to me a perfectly clean bottle and places it in a
large metal box that takes up half of the total kitchen counter space.
Emblazoned on the door are words like Sanitizer,
Reverse-Osmosis, and Ozonator.
Paul, Claire says very seriously as steam pours out of the
sanitizer, did you change Kaitlins diaper today? A pained
look crosses Pauls face.
The problem with babies is that they cant tell you whats wrong when
they hurt, and there are few ways to reliably measure symptoms. One
popular method to monitor a babys health is to count diapers.
Paul, Claire says, you have to remember. Ive got four
ounces I cant account for.
But merely counting diapers is an inexact science. Yesterday Claire
proudly described her system to me. Shes supposed to poop
three times a day, right? But how do you count it if theres only
half a poop? She put her finger up in the air for emphasis.
We weigh what goes in and we weigh what comes out.
Pauls brain comes through for him. Yes, he says.
Yes, I did change her. It was 3.95 ounces.
Squeezing the diapers dry, Claire explained to me, turned out to not be
very accurate, especially with the superabsorbent diapers. Weighing
does a much better job, especially if you tare the diaper, subtracting the
weight before use from the weight after. Claire has the created the
most amazing changing station you can imagine, complete with a five-point
safety harness to hold Kaitlin to the table while Claire weighs the diaper
out and logs the entry.
What about precipitation and humidity? I asked.
The house is always a perfect 72 degrees, explained Claire.
That makes the calculation easier.
Claire nestles Kaitlin lovingly in the crook of her arm as Paul hands her
the bottle, steamed to the perfect temperature. You might want to
get ready to leave for the baptism, she says to me. Make sure you
wear something warm.
As we drive to the church, I wonder what Im getting myself into.
As Godfather, Im about to bond myself to this little baby for life and,
as a consequence, her mother. I become Kaitlins guardian if
anything happens to her parents. Im not sure Im up to weighing
The church is large and silent with an echo. The small crowd of
family gathers around the baptismal font. Claire breaks out a
plastic box and places a probe in the water.
Checking the temperature? I ask her in a stage whisper.
And the pH, she replies.
In an odd way I understand where Claire is coming from. Good parenting is
more or less protecting a child from killing him or herself, and every
parent has a different way of doing the best he or she can. Every
day I have doubts about whether Im not trying hard enough or if Im
trying so hard that Im doing permanent psychological damage to my son.
But after Ive been around Claire for a few days, these doubts disappear
and I feel much better.
After all, theres nothing like a good dose of another parents
neurosis to make you feel normal again.