By Andrew Knott of Explorations of Ambiguity
When I found out I was going to be a parent, I got straight to work. I walked right out of my house, drove to the nearest Barnes & Noble, and asked the store attendant to hook me up with every book in the pregnancy and parenting section.
“One of each,” I commanded, gesturing toward the shelf. “I’m about to be a parent!”
Over the next six to eight months, I read every single one of the books cover to cover. Thus, when it was finally time for the baby to be born, I knew exactly what to do: go to the hospital. And when the baby was born and we brought her home, I knew exactly what to do then, too: feed her when she cried and change her diaper when she pooped. Thanks to my diligent preparation, I was killing it.
Things could not have been going better until my daughter was between two and three months old. From my reading, I knew what to expect at that age and developmental stage.
“Your baby will discover her hands,” all the books said. So, you can imagine my surprise, when instead of discovering her hands, my daughter discovered that she was in charge of a small arsenal of nuclear warheads.
Yes, this discovery came as a big shock to all of us, particularly my daughter who was easily startled by unexpected events such as the reappearance of objects after a brief absence and the air conditioner turning on. However, we are very proud of her for taking it all in stride and taking to her new duties with great aplomb.
Each morning, we drop her off at the nuclear silo we never knew was so close to our house. Surprise! At first it was very difficult. Can you imagine leaving your three-month-old baby alone all day with the most dangerous and destructive weapons on earth? It is every parent’s worst nightmare.
However, after an initial period of adjustment, things have started to settle into a routine. We now give whole new meaning to the term nuclear family. Ha!
All kidding aside, though, our stress levels remain high. Every day when we drop her off at the silo, we know it could be our last goodbye. On both a personal and whole human race level. So far so good, but we remain concerned that our daughter’s physical development is outpacing her mental development. We fear that this incongruity could have disastrous consequences.
For example, now that she is six months old, she has become quite proficient at sitting up and flapping her arms wildly with little control or intention. We fear that such actions could result in unintentional button pushing in her workplace. We do not have the necessary security clearances to enter the silo with her, so we are not sure, but we assume there are buttons that should not be pushed.
We are also concerned about recent changes in our daughter’s behavior. We believe that the stress of her new responsibilities is beginning to get the better of her.
For example, she used to sleep remarkably well for a baby, waking only once or twice a night and staying awake only long enough to take a bottle. Recently, however, things have changed for the worse. She now routinely wakes with a start at 3 a.m. and throws epic tantrums. She kicks and screams and lashes out at anyone or anything that catches her attention.
Her speech remains limited to incoherent babbling, what the parenting books call the pre-verbal stage, but while before the tone seemed whimsical, now it seems strained or angry. Getting her back to sleep after these fits is a daunting task. The books say it could just be a growth spurt or teething, but we can’t help but think that the nukes have something to do with it.
And then, at exactly 6 a.m., she wakes for the day. Breakfast has become challenging as well because she has begun to resist eating her baby oatmeal and pureed fruits. Instead, she insists on bacon grease. Lots and lots of bacon grease. She cries and pounds on her high chair tray until we inevitably give in to her demands. Exhaustion makes cowards out of the strongest among us.
Ultimately, it is exhaustion that we believe will be our undoing. If there is one thing you cannot trust a cranky baby with, it is weapons of mass destruction. We don’t know when it will happen, but we fear it is only a matter of time before one of our daughter’s coworkers takes away her favorite blanket or forgets to run their fingers gently across her face in a brushing motion when it is time for her afternoon nap. Our daughter will then fly into an overtired rage and slap violently and aimlessly at the launch console like she does at home with the mock version we keep in her playroom.
Our only hope is that she hits the launch button instead of the self-destruct button. Again, assuming that such buttons exist; we really don’t know. At least if she launches the missiles, we will get to say goodbye to our little girl before the whole world begins to burn in World War III.
But until the fateful day arrives, we continue to do our best as parents. We take comfort in the little things. For example, we are looking forward to the day, which should be coming up anytime in the next two to three months, when our girl starts crawling. Sure, that will open a whole new can of worms with the nuke thing, but you have to cherish the moments regardless. They do grow up so fast.
Now she’s just a baby, but before we know it, she’ll be killing us all and contributing to the extinction of the entire human race. Luckily, we probably won’t have the opportunity to record that one in her baby book. We’ve checked and there is no spot for that milestone. We were thinking of just putting it under “Other,” but that doesn’t quite seem right either. I guess we shall see how it all turns out. Parenting in these uncertain times is just so hard.
About the Author
Andrew is a writer from Orlando, Florida. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Higgs Weldon, RAZED, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Defenestration Magazine, Scary Mommy, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Paste Magazine. He also writes on his website, Explorations of Ambiguity, and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. His first book, Fatherhood: Dispatches From the Early Years, is available now.