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08:13:00 - 2000-07-17

THE JOYS OF PARENTHOOD ARE SLOWLY BECOMING A MYTH

I've always thought that raising a dog for the last ten years would someday prepare me for parenthood.

Now I realize that all raising a dog did was prepare me to someday raise a cat.

Our dear friends Patricia and Ehab visited us last weekend and brought along the latest addition to their family, one-year-old Max.

I was looking forward to the visit to catch up on old times with our friends. But I also had a hidden agenda. I wanted to see exactly what a one year-old boy was like these days, since I'll have one of my own in about a year and four months.

We never found the time to catch up on old times with Ehab and Patricia. Because, as I pointed out earlier, they brought Max along with them.

Max is a darling boy on the outside. It's those inner demons that had me freaking out for 48 hours.

I'm not sure if you knew this, and it sure was news to me, but one-year-old boys can't talk.

That's right. No verbal communication skills whatsoever.

Max has his own primitive methods of letting you know he wants something. He starts by making grunting sounds like a constipated caveman and pointing at something with his tiny little fingers.

If that doesn't work within two seconds, he moves on to Plan B. Which is to scream like Janet Leigh in the shower of the Bates Motel.

This plan usually works and Max gets more than he bargained for. Let's say he wants some Cheerios. The grunting and bouncing in his high chair doesn't get the job done and he's left Cheerio-less.

So the screaming begins.

Suddenly, Max has Cheerios, bottles of milk, toys, car keys and several Chrysler products.

ANYTHING to make Max quiet down.

At first, I thought Max was crying or throwing a temper tantrum.

Upon further inspection, I realized that even though he sounded like he had got his foot trapped in a blender, there were no tears coming out of his baby blues.

"Aha!," I said to myself. "A ploy to show urgency in his demands for Cheerios!"

Well kids, that ploy WORKS. Because nobody wants to hear a baby scream just because it wants to suck on some Cheerios until they're soggy globs of oats.

Another trait of one-year-olds seems to be their utter fascination with dropping things.

Every single time we handed Max something, he held onto it briefly before he tested the laws of baby gravity by dropping them onto the floor.

A stuffed animal wasn't a big deal. But after scooping up the third bowl of Cheerios, I put two and two together and realized that maybe Max hadn't exactly grasped the concept of grasping.

Then again, in his mind, he may have been creating art. Because each time he dropped something onto the floor, he'd grin wildly and get everyone's attention to help admire his work. We were all then forced to applaud his work, which would then make him applaud and everyone was happy. Well...I say everyone. Max was happy. I secretly think that we adults were all just humoring him.

At least, I was.

Another trait of the one-year-old is that they are able to pick the absolute worst times to nap as well as the absolute worst times to crank their rambunctiousness up a notch.

Max fell fast asleep in the car during a drive around town Saturday afternoon and slept for two hours.

Once we got back to the house, with all four adults desperately in need of a nap, guess who decided to play a rousing game of "What Else Can I Shove Into The VCR?"

That's right. Our hero ... Max.

Which brings me to yet ANOTHER trait I learned about one-year-olds this weekend. If you own one, there is no such thing as "sleep" for you.

Sure, the kid will sleep soundly during several five-minute periods throughout the day and night.

But while he naps, your time is spent hurriedly scraping baby food off of walls and fishing Cheerios out of VCRs while mentally preparing for that next game of "Let's Bang Heavy Objects On The Glass Coffee Table Repeatedly".

Your best strategy for this game?

Let him win. It's so much easier to buy a new coffee table than to rationally explain to a one-year-old that hammering on glass with a coffee mug is unacceptable in today's society. They don't understand the reasoning and will resort to "Foot Caught In The Blender" tones in a matter of seconds if you try to retrieve the coffee mug from their tiny little hands.

All in all, this weekend taught me two lessons. The first one is I have an awful lot to learn in a short amount of time about how to raise a child.

The second thing is ... in the game of "Tinkie or Stinky?" it's going to be a Stinky 95 percent of the time.

Which means, the baby wins.

... And you're the perennial loser.

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