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Wail Street: Larry Doyle on protecting your baby investment

Congratulations! You’re a new father! Let’s have a look at your investment so far:

$27,585.75

Of course this does not include start-up (e.g., courting costs, rings, wedding expenses due to father-in-law default, honeymoon, etc.), which must be amortized across future babies, nor does it take into account baby-driven increases in your overhead (e.g., moving to a baby-friendly neighborhood, upgrading the help). Nevertheless, even as a lowball estimate, this figure should make one point exceedingly clear: you’ve put a whole lot of money into this baby. And right about now you may be asking yourself, “Was a baby the smartest investment we could have made in these uncertain times?”

The answer, unequivocally, is yes. A baby is always a smart investment, because a baby continues to grow regardless of the economic climate!

But there’s one important caveat: to capitalize your baby, you must carry it for a term of eighteen to twenty-one years, and sometimes more, until it reaches full maturity. Expect some rough sledding along the way; babies are extraordinarily vulnerable ventures, particularly in the first six to eighteen quarters when they are subject to any number of risks, including but not limited to electrical outlets, stairs, and open fire pits. Protecting your baby investment therefore requires diligence, ingenuity, and more than a little old-fashioned elbow grease.

YOUR BABY’S HEAD: THE HEART OF THE OPERATION

While there are certainly some exceptions, your baby’s head- and specifically its brain-is a crucial factor in determining long-term future dividends. Unfortunately, your baby’s “profit center” is ill-protected by its natural casing, which, due to a manufacturing defect, is soft and mushy. One way to compensate for this structural flaw is to buy commercial infant headgear (available at most baby sporting goods stores) and have your baby wear it at all times. Bear in mind, however, that in July 1991, a woman in Ojai, California, stopped her bicycle suddenly to avoid hitting a squirrel, turned around, and was horrified to discover her twenty-two-month-old son with his Babyguard® ToddlerTopper™ dangerously askew. While it’s true that this product was quickly recalled and that the company was subsequently litigated out of existence, it’s also true that no infant headgear on the market today has been designed using your baby’s precise cranial specifications.

However, you can do this yourself, at home, and for less than five dollars. First, purchase a 16″ square of 2″-thick foam padding (depending on the size of your baby’s head and his propensity for banging it into things, you may want to go with 3″ foam) and “mold” it to your baby’s head [Fig. A]. Secure the foam in place by wrapping it completely with any commercial packing tape [Fig. B], then trim the excess foam. Tuck the whole thing into an attractive bonnet [Fig. C] and it’s hardly noticeable. It also can be disassembled at any time, before bathing for instance, although this is neither necessary nor advisable.

INTO THE MOUTHS AND EYES OF BABES

Babies are naturally curious. An admirable trait perhaps, but the downside is that a baby’s curiosity is directed almost exclusively at objects that choke, poison, pinch, cut, bruise, burn, irritate, infect, abrade, blind, or are expensive to replace, thus setting into motion the toxic cycle of blame and guilt that will lead inexorably to your baby dysfunctioning down the road and deciding to become an artist – in other words, an emotional loss leader and chronic income siphon. An entire industry has sprung up preying on these fears, marketing devices that allegedly “babyproof” your home – outlet plugs, cabinet latches, cable lock boxes – but these contraptions can be easily circumvented by clever babies, and certainly by any baby worth having.

Again, you can do better than store-bought, and for far less money. You will need four 4″ x 8″ metal plates, about 12″ of coated copper wire, a 12-volt battery, a roll of electrical tape, and a small electronic buzzer, horn, or siren. Fully insulate the baby’s hands and then tape two plates onto each palm about 16″ apart [Fig. D] Run wires up along the arms to the power source/soundmaker assembly, located on the baby’s back [Fig. E]. Each time your baby picks up a dangerous metal object, the completed circuit will set off the soundmaker, alerting you and nonverbally communicating to the baby that the object should be dropped [Fig. F]. You can extend this deterrent effect throughout your household by wrapping stripped copper wire around bottles of cleansers, drugs, and other items you do not wish your baby to touch (your Blu-ray, for example). Which noises are most effective vary from baby to baby; you will want to experiment. Also, top-notch babies will quickly acclimate to particular sounds, and may even begin to enjoy making them, so be prepared to vary the sound and volume frequently. But try to stay away from low, harsh buzzers or horns, which can sound overly judgmental.

DEFENDING YOUR BABY’S PRIVATE ENTERPRISE

While maintaining your baby’s reproductive organs has no direct bearing on your investment return (on the contrary, reproduction-driven babies sometimes choose to reinvest profits in babies of their own rather than paying much-deserved dividends), it is nevertheless critical to preserve the integrity of this area. Unauthorized tampering with your baby’s reproductive organs can result in a devalued baby content to spend its life in some go-nowhere civil service job; or, worse, continued abuse can produce a downtown performance artist – in other words, an economic sinkhole.

Protecting your baby’s private enterprise from unwanted public intervention can be accomplished inexpensively using items purchasable through several mail-order hunting catalogs.

As seen in Figure G, a spring-loaded animal trap (0-6 months, rabbit; 7-12 months, fox; 12 months and up, bear) is doubled back on itself and concealed by decoy diaper flaps. With most models, the spring mechanism can be adjusted to wound, cripple, or amputate unauthorized personnel who transgress the area.

OTHER DANGERS

But what, you may ask, about prowlers; kidnappers; drunk drivers; hurricanes; serial killers; biker gangs; falling plaster; gypsies; botulism; freaked-out junkies; wounded fugitives; Satan worshippers; bricks hurled through windows; disturbed, maternally fixated young women; teen punks out for sick fun; giant sinkholes that houses are sometimes inadvertently built over; old lovers driven insane by your happiness; boulders; anti-family terrorists; small plastic parts; twisted nannies; ball lightening; psychotic nurses; rampaging postal workers; rifts in the space-time continuum; cannibals; in the northern United States, wolves; in the Southwest, rattlesnakes; in the Everglades, gators; on the Lower East Side, ferrets; and in more American homes than ever before, cats – any or all of which might strike while you’re in the bathroom with the hair dryer going? Good question.

The answer, sadly, is this: Babies are a risk. That’s the nature of the business. Given the long-term rewards they offer, most investment counselors agree that they are an acceptable risk; nevertheless, you should be prepared for the possibility that one day you may glance away, only for a moment, and when you look back, your baby will be gone and all the time and money and emotion you’ve invested will have gone, for what? You may want to limit your exposure accordingly.

Also, just to be on the safe side, buy a gun and teach your baby how to use it.

Essay reprinted from the book Deliriously Happy: and Other Bad Thoughts by Larry Doyle. Copyright © 2011. Published by Ecco, a division of HarperCollins.

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