Sunday, June 12, 2011

So Long and Thanks for all the Pasta

It is a widespread, and I believe, generally positive tradition for friends of a newly babied couple to provide meals for the family upon their return from the hospital.  The rationale goes something like this:  The couple is transitioning from the relative bliss of three days in the hospital, where (not including the actual birth) they have lived in peace and harmony, with all meals provided by pastel clad hospital employees, dishes whisked away when the last morsel is consumed, and the next day’s meals conjured up simply by checking boxes on a menu.  (This Eden-like meal plan does not usually include the husband of the new baby.  We are often left to munch on couch cushions, sip water from the sink, and beg our wives for a few bits of steamed vegetables.)  Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and eventually insurance regulations require a couple to reenter society with their newborn child.  This is where friends and family step in.  Instead of forcing a couple to fend for themselves and somehow scrounge the time to prepare meals around caring for an organism that sleeps 18 hours per day and spends the other 6 eating, pooping, and staring at air molecules, a train of hot meals begins to appear at the door.  Friends from work, friends from church, neighbors, and even postal workers begin to deliver dinners, in much the same fashion as the hospital, only without the pastel uniforms.  This is a wonderful arrangement.  The only complaint I’ve ever heard (and this was from another couple and not indicative of any experience my wife and I had) is that pasta is a mainstay in virtually every meal brought to parents of a new baby.  A typical week’s menu might look like this:  Monday- spaghetti; Tuesday- lasagna; Wednesday- macaroni and cheese; Thursday-hamburger helper; Friday- fettuccine.  My only explanation for this phenomenon is that the starch needs of new parents must be extraordinary.  Or possible pasta is really easy to cook and really difficult to mess up.  So maybe next time someone says, “Hey, you wanna bring a meal over to the couple with the new baby,” sign up to bring steak.  It will be a welcome change from rigatoni and couch cushions. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Parting the Red Sea

Cutting in line is wrong.  This is one of few absolute truths that the whole of humanity can agree on.  Cultures may differ on whether society should rehabilitate its criminals or chop their hands off.  They may disagree on whether rain is caused by a confluence of atmospheric conditions or a carefully sequenced dance ritual.  But nowhere in the world is cutting in line okay.  Unless you have small children.  Yes, the rules and norms of society vary widely for those of us wielding a baby.  This should not come as a surprise though.  Normal, healthy, well-adjusted adults do not pretend spoons are airplanes; they do not talk incessantly about the color of bowel movements; and they do not babble incoherently at an unresponsive and immobile victim in hopes of conjuring a smile.  Parents of infants do all these things.  Regularly.  So it should not come as a surprise that this same crowd considers cutting in line not so much a deadly sin, but a perfectible art form.  The first time it happened to me it caught me by surprise.  I was minding my own business, waiting in line at my favorite tool store with some hacksaw blades in one hand and a five-month-old in the other hand.  My son began fussing while we waited, and the person in front of me immediately begged me to cut in line- apparently so I could get my soon-to-be-screaming baby out the door sooner.  In a moment of clarity (rare for those who get so little sleep) I realized that I held in my arms the modern day equivalent of Moses’ staff.  Taking a trip to the store with a baby, once an abhorrent idea, suddenly became welcome.  It was worth struggling with the car seat, finding a cart without pinch points, and cleaning off pacifiers dropped on supermarket floors, all for the chance of being able to move up a few spots in line once I reached the front of the store.  In my opinion, this benefit is worth every bit of the pain and agony associated with childbirth.  I’m beginning to understand why some couples have double digit offspring.