I anticipated some difficulties, of course. That’s what you do when you decide to have children – you anticipate the difficulties.
I figured time would be a big one. Our friends with children always seemed harried. “Not enough hours in the day,” they said. “You’ll see.”
But I haven’t. I have a fairly flexible work schedule, and can sometimes work from home. My wife still does her thing, I still do my thing, and we still do “other things” together as often as we always have.
Money. I figured money would be an issue. The same friends that always seemed harried also always seemed broke. “Diapers aren’t free, you know.”
Diapers aren’t free. They’re nine bucks for a pack of forty. Twenty-two cents a poop. The first few years are relatively inexpensive. I’m sure money will become an issue soon, but it hasn’t yet; friends bring over old toys, yard sales sell old clothes, and if we ever need some quick cash, I can always write something dirty.“You know how many Gerber babies grow up to do porn? A lot,” I want to tell him. But I can’t.
Friends, social life, sex, money, time; I anticipated difficulties with all these things before our son was born. What I hadn’t anticipated was his complete lack of skepticism. His wide-eyed non-pessimism. His (ugh) optimism. And optimism is a bitch.
“What a silly mouse!” I say. “She’s in the tub!”
My son laughs.
“Look! She’s splashing! Is she splashing in the tub???”
“Mayshee,” he nods, snuggling up beside me. “Mouse.”
Because I want to tell him, but I can’t.
I want to tell him that the applesauce in his “Organic Baby” applesauce is the same goddamn applesauce that’s in Mommy and Daddy’s applesauce, only with a picture of a baby girl on the label and three times the price.
“Baby,” he says when I bring out the jar. “Girl!”
He leans over and kisses her.
There are so many, many things I want to tell him.
“Whore,” I want to correct him. Shill. The blonde-haired, pink-ribboned brainchild of some pathetic Brand Manager – “V.P., Apple Sauce” – at some Allied Transglobal Foods and Heavy Machinery Concern, Inc. “Making Good Things for Good People!”
“Girl,” says my son, pointing to the girl on the jar. “Hap-pee.”
“She better be,” I want to tell him, “or Mother Showbiz gives her the strap. If she’s lucky she’ll end up doing the weather on the Local 8 newscast; more than likely, she’ll end up doing porn. You know how many Gerber babies grow up to do porn? A lot,” I want to tell him. “Trust me.” But I can’t.
I want to tell him the balloon that Doctor O’Connor gives him is not just a balloon. That it’s a pharmaceutical promotional item. That it says “Adderall XT” on it. That the drug companies hope that the kids go home with the balloon and the parents see “Ask your doctor” on it and they think, “Hey, I should ask my doctor,” which sounds incredibly stupid but, hey, thirteen million people bought Maisy, right?
I want to tell him but I can’t.
I want to tell him Clifford the Dog is sending the wrong message about being biggest and having the best, and that the name of the character on his new bouncing ball is Dora the Explorer, a show that airs on a channel called Nickelodeon, and I bought it because that there were no balls for sale in the store without characters from Nickelodeon on them, and that Nickelodeon is owned by Viacom, and Viacom owns the store, and I want to tell him that the Fisher-Price Ride-n-Stride sitting in the corner is a gift from my mother who thinks she can buy her way into his life with a few plastic trinkets, and . . .
“Bookie,” says my son.