Issue 56

Special Delivery


                In today’s mailbox I find a large brown paper package stamped all over with the word, “Special Delivery”.  It is postmarked May of last year.  Special Delivery, I decide, must be some obscure postal service classification for “lose in a dark corner for as long as possible.”  Inside is a heavy book, easily three thousand pages, entitled “How to be a Parent: The First Year.”

                “Rebecca,” I say to my wife, “did you order a book on parenting for one of our friends?”

                She takes the tome from me and carefully opens it.  “No,” she says.

                I search the torn wrapping for an invoice or bill.  Nothing.  I check the shipping address.  Yes, it was supposed to come here, but no, there isn’t any return address.

                “This is creepy,” says Rebecca. “’Chapter 3,’” she reads aloud, “’Skylar’s Cries: what they mean and how to make him happy.  Chapter 7: Foods Skylar is Allergic to.  Chapter 12…’”

                “Wait a second,” I say.  I look at the book myself.  Rebecca’s finger points to the table of contents.  Every chapter is about my son Skylar.  “This has got to be a joke,” I say.  “I bet Ben did it.  He bought a parenting book and put in this fake table of contents.”

                I turn to a random page and begin reading.  “’Babies typically begin teething between 5 and 6 months.’  There, see.  It is just a normal book.”

                Rebecca picks up where I left off reading.  “In Skylar’s case, he’ll have two teeth come in at four months, six more at eight months (make sure you’ve caught up on your sleep beforehand – it’s going to be a couple of late, late nights), and then he won’t get any more teeth his first year.”

                I touch the page.  The paper is a fine quality, and the binding is perfect.  This is a professionally printed book, not something someone threw together with a cheap computer printer. “Not even Ben could have pulled this off,” I say in awe.

                I flip to the front to see who wrote the book.  The first page has a dedication – “For Skylar” – and the next page is the table of contents.  There is no publisher or author information.  No address.  No phone number.  Nothing.

                I get comfortable on the living room couch and begin to skim through the book.  I don’t know whether to be amazed or scared.  For example, the chapter dealing with diapers goes far beyond any simple blue-water pictures, delving into the fine points and philosophy of the craft.  The clear, concise explanations and diagrams detail diaper changing strategies for a variety of situations, from Skylar throwing a full-on tantrum to a just-asleep Skylar you don’t want to wake up.  The chapter on diapers alone takes 157 pages and still admits to leaving out many important details.

                Reading this book is too eerie.  It’s like I wrote it myself.  I cringe as I read the chapter on how Skylar already manipulates me.  It’s true, so true, but even knowing this I am helpless to avoid being a sucker for my son.  The book, annoyingly, shares this with me as well.

                Suddenly three thousand pages doesn’t seem like enough.  Certainly before I had Skylar everything I knew about children could fit on three sheets of paper, most of it wrong.  But learning to raise a child didn’t just happen by osmosis in my sleep.  I had to learn every detail myself, one mistake at a time.

                Skylar walks over to where I’m sitting on the couch.  I should say that he stumbles over.  He’s still learning to walk.  Heck, learning to use a spoon is still on Skylar’s list of to-be-conquered challenges.  The number of things my son still has yet to learn seems endless: how to dot an i, tie his shoes, the difference between a bush and a shrub, how to walk without stumbling into a wall, heck even things as simple and fundamental as how to hold his breath!

                The more I read, the more my curiosity and amazement turn towards anger and frustration. Where was this book when I really needed it, fourteen months ago?  Just think of how many hours of sleep I would have saved!

                I close the book and lay it aside to pick up my son.  As I bounce him on my stomach, I wonder, indeed, just who did write the book.  But an even more important question occupies my mind: where is the still-as-yet valuable sequel, “How to be a Parent: The Second Year”?

                Alas, given it’s already a few months late, I fear it has been shipped Special Delivery as well.


Home ] Up ] Issue 57: Marital Aids ]