The Story About the Toddler, Epilogue.

Four years ago, my first child was born, so I started these journals. Four days ago, my second child was born, so I’m pretty much stopping. I think that everything anyone can possibly reasonably say about the experience of creating human life, I have now said. Except for a few closing, Epilogue-type details.

And So It Came To Pass. Again.

Miranda Krizsan Vogel was born on March 23, 2006.

When Miranda plopped out, she weighed 7 lbs, 6 oz. I’m not sure why you’re expected to say the weight of the child. That really only seems relevant to me if you want to estimate its cooking time. But some people expect that information, and now you have it. I hope you use it productively.

Time elapsed from when the first fluid trickled through Mariann’s ruptured mucus plug to when Miranda’s feet cleared the vagina was a scant four hours. Funny story. By the time Mariann was in enough pain to demand painkillers, it was too late for them to give her anything good. So she got a good taste of what it was like in frontier days.

Aren’t I Already Doing Enough To Overpopulate the Earth? Just Get Off My Ass Already! Jesus Christ!

One of the curses of parenthood is people nagging you to have more kids. But generally, people have the common sense and courtesy to wait at least until the kid is weaned before they get up your butt about it.

But the morning after Miranda was born, the obstetrician who was evaluating her, some old dude, was already asking us when we were going to have another. When the kid was under a day old! And he has the old-person cluelessness to look hurt when we were somewhat less than enthusiastic about the prospect:Old Person: So, have you thought about having more? 
Me: Uhhhh … 
Mariann: Uhhhh …. 
Mariann’s Vagina: Eeeeeeeee!!!! (Jumps off of Mariann’s body and slithers out the door.) 
Old Person: Your obvious reluctance disturbs and saddens me. I will express disapproval of you now. 
Me: Well, it’s just a little soon. 
Mariann: We only wanted to have two. 
Old Person: But it is so easy and fulfilling. And, though I am supposed to tell you to wait six weeks before having sex, just between you and me, it’s not really necessary. Young man, you can start putting the wood to the old lady right now. 
Me: But … 
Old Person: Just get on top and start grinding away, young feller. Make more babies! 
Mariann: Well, we … 
Old Person: But it’s best to do it with the light off. It’s easier if you don’t see the expression on her face.
Me: If I promise to have another kid, will you leave us alone?
Old Person: Just one? You little sissy boy.

I can’t tell anyone how I really feel, though. Which is that, given the choice between a third child and having my wife give birth to a face-ripping wolverine who, upon emerging, immediately leaps onto my face and starts ripping at it in the fashion that is the time-honored custom of their kind, well, give me the wolverine.

But my mind may change. I say this for the psychic benefit of any hypothetical third children who may one day read this.

What Raising the Second Child Is Like

One word: relaxed.

The best thing about the second one is that we don’t freak out about everything anymore. It’s still an irritation. Mariann still can’t get sleep. But now we know that it is not our fault.

It’s the baby’s fault. I blame the baby.

And What Have I Learned?

Having written two books’ worth of these journals over the last four years, I feel the need to pretend that I have accumulated some wisdom, some knowledge that I can pass on to the interested, to the undecided, and to those who survive me after my horrifying and inevitable death.

So here is what I know now that I didn’t know then. And, if you disagree with the following, entirely reasonable sentiments, well, I am right, and you are wrong. Suck it.

One. Babies are dreadful.

You ever hear of postpartum depression? Well, I think we’d have a whole lot less of it if we approached that thing we call a “Baby” with a bit more realism.

I just got a new one of them. And, let me tell you. She vomits and poops and pees on our hands and looks like a wrinkled old man and the only means of communication she has with us is the scream. Her campaign to deny us sleep can only be described as murderous. The best thing I can say about her is that she sleeps a lot. There isn’t a whole lot to hang affection on there.

Her mother would disagree with me, but her mind is clouded by lack of sleep and mommy hormones. I don’t get any of that, so I put maternal affection for an infant in the same category as the sparkling fairy dragon you saw when you took that hit of acid in college.

But it doesn’t stay that way forever.

Two. Chill out, dude.

The human infant has a brain, but not a mind. The brain does not develop into its proper, thinking form for months after birth. A baby starts life as a simple pack of reflexes.

So that tender bonding moment you had just after it was born, when it stared into your eyes and you were sure that you had had a moment of sacred communication between parent and child? I’m afraid we’re back in sparkling fairy dragon territory again.

What does this mean? Well, for the first few months, you mainly need to keep it alive and give it affection. Hold the child. See to its needs. But don’t worry about reading Goodnight, Moon the moment you get the child home from the hospital. And don’t, for the love of God, buy that Baby Einstein crap.

Pace yourself. Conserve your energy. Before all’s said and done, the kid will make you read Goodnight, Moon more times than a human being should be able to stand.

Three. Ignore everyone.

For almost every possible question you can have about parenting, you can find two books which will tell you, with no room for argument, two completely opposite answers. People who write about parenting, myself included, are busybody douchebags with control issues. To hell with the lot of us.

When we took Miranda home from the hospital, we were given a handout to tell us everything we need to know about raising a baby. What and when to feed it, how to clean it, and so on. This handout was two sheets of paper. And one side of one of the sheets was blank. That’s right. How to raise your kid? Two pages.

Anything beyond that is opinion.

Do you feel guilty? Kid use a pacifier? Watch hours of Teletubbies a day? Sometimes let it cry itself to sleep? I absolve you. There is really very little we know for sure about what does and does not help or hurt a child’s development.

Give food, shelter, clothing, and affection. And when some supposed expert comes on the local news comes on to tell you how stupid you are, flip him the bird and switch to Jeopardy.

Four. There is a reward.

The thing I’ve said more than any other is this: “I like kids, but I don’t like babies. Raising a baby is the dues you have to pay to get to raise a child.”

My daughter Cordelia is four. She is unpredictable, arbitrary, and prone to unexpected fits of uncontrollable anger. She has a lot of irritating qualities. Like every person on this planet.

She is also charming and interesting and bright. And I adore her. No hormones needed.

And I wanted another one, because I hoped she’d turn out the same way. And because, hey, someone has to do it.

Continuing the species is not for the faint of heart. But it has its points.