Globe Syndicate

for release January 12, 2001

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Note to Editors: First of a three-part series on babies and early childhood

We Interrupt This Life to Bring You a Baby

One of my favorite columnists is humorist Dave Barry. I always liked following his family because he has a son about one year older than my oldest daughter.

Then Dave and his wife had another baby-some 18 years after the first one! At first I thought the baby was just one of his farfetched story, but now I believe the baby is real enough. I've always said having children supplied great column material, but really, what lengths will some writers go to just for material?

This week I'm launching a three-part series on the early years of parenting: having a baby, the first 12 months, and the two to four year old.

An e-mail that was making the rounds a few months back contained a number of tests on how to know whether or not you are ready to have children. Among my favorites:

1. The Mess Test. Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

2. Toy Test. Spread a gallon box of Legos all over the floor. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk barefoot to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream because this would wake a child at night.

3. Dressing Test. Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure all the arms stay inside.

4. Automobile Test. Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon (or mini-van). Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it into the cassette player. Take a family-sized package of chocolate chip cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There, perfect.

5. Final Assignment. Find a couple who already has a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training and child's table manners. Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run wild. Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers. (If you would like the rest of the "tests," e-mail me.)

These tests, while exaggerated, do hint at what a great upheaval a baby brings to your life. It is difficult to know these realities until you learn them first hand.

I'm delighted to see the crash courses in parenthood now offered in some school systems. My kids just missed by one year the introduction of realistic-looking babies into school wide curriculum. Called "Baby-Think-It-Over," kids have to take care of these babies for several days to get a little taste of full-time parenthood. They cry and are programmed very realistically so that if you don't respond to the baby, the computer chip inside lets the teacher know you are shirking your duties.

Parents of these students told us that they are just like real babies. You get up and try to quiet them for 15 minutes in the middle of the night, lay them back down, and think all is well, until they cry again 20 minutes later.

We went to a piano recital and one of the young pianists had one of these "babies" she needed to take care of. As I sat through her performance, I was surprised to find myself somewhat nervous for the performer-afraid that her "baby" would cry and disrupt. Her parents talked about the "baby" interrupting their daughter's mealtimes-and I traveled back in time again. What a lifesaver a baby swing was for suppertime crabbies.

But the wonderful part about having babies is this very fact of interruption: children take you down paths you otherwise wouldn't have taken! Someone has said that life is what you do with the interruptions, and it was never truer than with children. My kids led me into toy stores, parks, hobbies, Little League and band. They steered, and sometimes dragged, my husband and me into worlds that were completely new to us. Like one Dad said, you end up knowing more about the in-brand of sneakers and American Girl Dolls than you ever wanted to know, but I know he wouldn't trade his learnings either.

A baby added to a family under circumstances where both parents want the child (or at least can get used to the idea) is an affirmation of life, of hope for the future, of faith in God. I hope they never come up with a way to by-pass babyhood.

For a free book written while I was pregnant with our first child, write for: For the Next Nine Months: Meditations for Everyday of Pregnancy write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 780 words; end material = 105 words

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©2001 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.

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