When a couple steps forth with a baby in tow everything in life is stable and normal. People hold open doors, hard shopkeepers “chuck” and go all gooey before catching themselves and generally life is an easy ride. But gentlemen, when he who dares to step-out with a baby in tow (minus the wife) life becomes a series of obstacles that never ceases to surprise.
I don’t mean a trip to the corner shop, “no siree”! I mean a fully-fledged trip into town, pram, milk bottles and spare nappies to boot! Small things are immediately noticeable, like that hard and mean-looking grocer down the road! When my wife goes in to his establishment he goes all gooey, in fact he doesn’t notice me at all; just talks to my wife and son and ignores me as if I was the invisible man. But walking in to his shop with only my son, an apple to buy before the days outing ahead and he became meaner and harder. In fact he noticed me for the first time, glared at me as if I had just stolen the kid and was on the run and said “hope that’s not for the little one”! I felt like saying what’s it got to do with you mate but ……………on the bus the driver who suggested that I sit near the front instead of upstairs was nearly out of his seat and taking the part of usher before realizing that this was not really in his job description!
Somehow some basic human instinct suggests that ‘man’ is neither capable nor fit to look after a baby! This instinct immediately raises the hairs on the backs of people’s necks, images of disaster loom in their minds and unseen forces push them forwards to offer help. They do not see a happy and carefree father pushing his laughing baby along in the pram, they see a harried father who is at his wits end and who is desperate for help. They see a tormented and unwilling baby, screaming and kicking in desperation, a father who is pulling his hair out and desperately looking around for somebody to just show him what to do.
Once in town and in the department store I headed straight for the baby changing room! Same routine as always except minus one cog – the wife! I did what I had done so many times before whilst my wife had sat down to read a magazine. Well, the plan was the same as all those times before, make the milk give my son the bottle, lay him down on the nappy changing “thingy”, change his nappy, etc! I did not even get as far as the hot water dispenser! One mum, before I had even entered the room stopped me in my tracks and in a very serious way informed me that the seat belt on the pram was not fastened. One has to be polite in situations like these; I myself planning ahead as always had removed the seat belt just then in preparation for lifting my son out of it once inside the baby room. I did not know of the golden rule that one cannot unfasten the seat belt until well inside closed doors!
Inside the room, some mystical being ran around the room telling all of the mums that a ‘father-alone’ was out and about! Upon entering heads swiveled in my direction, a series of forces pushing bodies towards me and unwanted advice started to escape from mouths. Once past I could hear whisperings, stories being generated and past on; a fictional myth growing in reality to become truth in mind! I shut myself off, warded off the numerous hands that where heading towards my sons cheeks like locusts, barged through with forced smiles and “no thanks”, and managed to get to the water machine. I smiled politely to the lady who showed me how to press the button for hot water, grimaced when told that the milk I had made was too hot (how did she know?) and nearly barked when asked “is the wife in not well dear”!
These kindly mums, whose husbands obviously knew nothing about how to change a nappy or feed a baby his milk, had my son crying within five minutes. He doesn’t like attention in the form of searching hands. He especially doesn’t like getting his cheek pinched or chin chucked! I felt like shouting “give him air” or wading in with elbows to rescue him but they were all so well-meaning, these poor mums! Needless to say that as my sons screaming and bawling intensified to maximum pitch the mums turned to me as one as if to say “look at the poor man, doesn’t know how to look after his baby”.
Naturally as they confirmed their belief that I was totally inept and useless, wandering hands gained purpose and started to lift my baby out of the pram to offer him comfort – my son hates strangers holding him! Well, I made a run for it, I grabbed the baby in mid-air, swiveled the pram around on a sixpence, closed my eyes tight and charged for the door, throwing aside mothers like pins at the bowling alley!
I went to the men’s toilet to change my son’s nappy! At least in the sanctity within, nobody talked to me, no advice was freely given and no insects to ward off. Naturally, looks of sympathy and confusion were issued freely, stories would abound later as husbands rushed to tell their wives about the “poor sad man with the baby” – but who cares, just don’t talk to me about it.
I suppose all is not so bad! A new dimension opened up, one that it would be best if my wife knew nothing about! I have never in my life had so many young ladies (ones who wouldn’t know what the inside of a baby changing room looked like) surrounding me; albeit they were cooing at my son but ……… something about single men with babies must be an attraction. Anyway, I always enjoyed their reaction when saying loudly, “ah, here’s my wife coming now”, the desertion was abrupt and complete! I know how to handle that one; it’s the rest that bothers me!
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