I know it’s wrong to use profanity around children, but fuuuuuuck, sometimes the situation just calls for it, right?
As of tomorrow Kristin and I can officially celebrate keeping this baby alive for a whole month. Hooray! As I Monday morning quarterback our effort over the last 31 days, I’m generally pleased with what we’ve done. She’s gained weight at a nice clip, she appears to sleep comfortably (most of the time, more on that later), she’s generally clean, has no rashes anywhere on her person, and hasn’t been smothered to death by a well-meaning but clueless cat. When you assess a one month-old baby, what else is there? That looks like success to me.
On a slightly different but related front, Kristin and I have generally maintained good humor and good relations throughout this first month. I think the key to that is maintaining courtesy, politeness and gratitude. It’s easy to get bogged down in the perpetual motion machine of infant care and become resentful of the Sisyphean cycle of eat, burp, shit, diaper change, get-her-to-sleep, clean, repeat. But I’d argue it’s crucial to remain appreciative of your partner for everything they do. We say “thank you” a lot. We set the other up for success. We hand off the squirmy malcontent before our patience meters reach zero. We’re a team. We’re Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.
And as much as it sounds like I’m reading directly out of some cliché-riddled hackpiece out of Parade fucking Magazine or something, it really is important to remember to laugh. This brings me to my central topic – the role and utility of profanity in raising an infant.
There’s a tendency to be way too precious when it comes to babies. You see it when any new person holds your baby for the first time. They turn entirely to mush, their voice softens, all of the hard consonants in their words transform into much gentler versions of themselves, and you want to break down crying confounded at how something so perfectly innocent is allowed to exist in this calloused world.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I look at my daughter’s gorgeously unsullied expressions, her adorably helpless little movements and then combine it with the multiplier effect of seeing this bundle of perfect unspoiled humanity wearing fleece clothing with drawings of kitties and smiling giraffes and baby elephants and shit on it, and it’s JUST. TOO. MUCH. I’m writing this in my office and just picturing her looking up at me is making me well up. I want to rush home right now, pick her up, and stare at her forever. It’s unparalleled in human experience.
But I also live with her every day. I talked to my friend Stephen yesterday, himself a father of two, and asked this, “This is a magical, transcendent, beautiful and wonderful experience… but some it sucks, right?” His response: “Oh yeah. Sometimes it’s awful.”
Sometimes she’ll cry and fuss and thrash about for reasons we cannot discern. Sometimes she’ll wait until the exact moment I look away to piss on a fresh diaper I’ve laid out even though I specifically waited what I thought was the appropriate amount of time to avoid such a thing. Sometimes I’ll watch her drop the fucking pacifier out of her mouth seven goddamn times in a row and wonder how any living thing can be that uncoordinated, less than a month old be damned. Sometimes the thought of washing another bottle makes me want to put my first through the wall.
And so you laugh. Our baby happens to fart like a trucker. She farts all the time, and Kristin and I laugh like we’re living in a frat house. Comedian Kyle Kinane has a bit about taking a very unfortunate dump in a west side cholo bar in Chicago where an exceptionally tattooed man came in and asked him “Are you takin’ a CHIT, mang?!” and then posted up for a high five. I now ask my daughter the same question in the same voice.
We track the baby’s feedings, diapers, baths and all sorts of other stuff on an app called Total Baby. It’s great. On each of the entries, you can leave notes. While I changed a diaper, Kristin asked me what the nature of it was, and I responded, “A shitload of piss.” I didn’t think anything of it until I went to log the next one and saw Kristin had noted the previous entry with “A shitload of piss.” That made me laugh. It’s always strange to see your word choices reflected back at you, and I had to giggle at the seeming contradiction of that phrase as well as its blunt crassness.
You’ll note that I didn’t say she “had a lot of tinkle” or whatever and that we talk about her farting and not “tooting” because a) thinking about talking that way makes me feel gross and inauthentic, and b) the baby doesn’t even know the difference. There will be plenty of time for cutesy poo euphemisms, but the baby can barely see two feet in front of her and has no idea that I’m watching Nightmare on Elm Street, Django Unchained, The People VS Larry Flynt, or WWE Survivor Series 1995 (all of which I’ve watched in the last month at various unholy times of day), much less what it means when Kristin tells me the baby spent Tuesday “shitting her brains out.”
If you’ve ever worked in a high stress environment, you know what a stress relief obscenities can be. So we let them fly. And I think it helps. I referred above to the Sisyphean cycle of tasks you undertake every day, and what’s amazing is that none of that stuff is very hard. Taken on its own, you could all of that for an afternoon easily, a day simply, and a week sort of happily.
It’s just the endless GRIND of it that eventually wears down even the strongest willed motherfucker. There’s no real mental break in taking care of an infant, which is why blowing off steam by popping off a few curse words is so incredibly cathartic. It’s why something called Go the Fuck to Sleep exists, and why parents everywhere seem to love it.
I have no problem reconciling the impossible twee cuteness of my baby with my appallingly filthy fucking mouth. It’s the yin and yang of parenting.