In todays 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
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 isnt any return address.
This is creepy, says Rebecca. Chapter 3, she reads
aloud, Skylars 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.
Rebeccas 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 Skylars case,
hell have two teeth come in at four months, six more at eight months
(make sure youve caught up on your sleep beforehand its going to
be a couple of late, late nights), and then he wont 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 dont 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 dont 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. Its like I wrote it myself.
I cringe as I read the chapter on how Skylar already manipulates me.
Its 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
Suddenly three thousand pages doesnt 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
didnt just happen by osmosis in my sleep. I had to learn every
detail myself, one mistake at a time.
Skylar walks over to where Im sitting on the couch. I should say
that he stumbles over. Hes still learning to walk. Heck,
learning to use a spoon is still on Skylars 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
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 its already a few months late, I fear it has been shipped
Special Delivery as well.