briefly, one month into fatherhood, or, how it was no longer creepy to be in the baby toy aisle

and I are inexplicably one month old today. Technically, they were one month old on Monday when they hit their four-week mark, but no one actually sits and counts out a hard 52 weeks or 365 days between birthdays, right?

[EDITORIAL ASIDE: No, this webspace will not be turning into a daddy blog. I promise. While my children are toward the top of the ultimate concern heap, I don’t see the value of pimping them out for material and/or materiel. I digress.]

They are wonderful little girls. After waiting for too long for them to be both home and healthy, we’re now headlong into the joys of minimal sleep, infant baptism (in reverse, being a good post-Evangelical, as well being as on the receiving end of the sprinkling), car seats and, last night, I introduced them to their first teddy bears.

I’m a firm believer that part of the joy of having children is the experience of innocence. To remind us that babies and little ones are as close to pure as we can get, we’ve ensured that everything about life with a baby has an echo of serenity. Everything is smiles and sunshine. That jungle print blanket, with lions and giraffes and elephants? All smiles, all completely detached from the reality that 1) neither lions nor giraffes nor elephants live in jungles, and 2) when put together, the giraffe would be a snack and the elephant would have made itself scarce in the process.

While wife was with children, I found myself in the baby and children’s section of any number of retailers. As mentioned before, the male gaze does not exist here. But I love to see the cute things produced for children to keep them oblivious to the fact that our world is a really screwed up place with really screwed up people. And I say let them have their noble lie: our children ought not be exposed to the evils and pains of a fractured society. They should be given ample reminders that the good things in life are smiles and sunshine.

Of course, being in Target’s baby section as a [sort of] young man without an actual baby or child in tow, I couldn’t tell you how many strange looks I got from moms and associates. Stranger danger! Creeper beeper! *gasp* He shouldn’t be in the Barnes and Noble kids section! Shouldn’t he be asking for the adult mags behind the sales counter, or drinking some horrible energy drink at the cafe? Isn’t there a men’s section where he can peruse titles on football and passing gas and car grease and such?

All those concerns (read: prejudices, for I wouldn’t tell a women that she ought to be reading only Austen or Good Housekeeping) disappear with car seat(s) in tow. Those sneers and stares turn into ‘awww’s and ‘oh, how old are they? they’re just so precious!’s and warm, probably genuine smiles. I could have a stroller full of ground beef and they’d be none the wiser, what with the modesty blanket pulled over and all. (Can you tell yet that I’m operating on a regular diet of three to four hours of sleep?) Without the cover of children, though, I am an anomaly, a virus: a threat to the sanctity of children’s sections everywhere. Even a smile and eye contact can’t negate the antibody effect those with hyper-hen complexes can have when it is perceived that all is not as it should be. I don’t blame them, necessarily, but it’s unfortunate to be put in that othering place.

In the end, the true joy is in helping to protect my girls from a harsh and cruel world. In seeing those smiling stuffed animals and toys, the happy little ditties they play and the soothing effect they all may or may not actually have, I am elevated above my own frailty and vulnerabilities. They can learn soon enough, first-hand, about what a crappy world it can be out there. All that can stay months away from now. For now, may they only experience smiles and cheer.

Deep down, isn’t that what we all want?


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