Don’t fear the reaper: Timeless advice passed down from a friend (via Blue Oyster Cult) in Vegas when saddled with the much-maligned 15 or 16 against a dealer face card.
You know it could very well cost you ten bucks, but it’s also the right play, for you and the whole table. Take a hit and see what happens. This advice, it turns out, can be directly translated into parenting.
It’s amazing how quickly your perception can change on things. Our baby came into this world eight weeks ahead of schedule. A little on the rare side. Almost baby tartare. He spent the first four weeks of life detoured in the Neonatal Intensive Care (NIC) Unit before he finally came home. The first couple nights were all wakey-wakey for us. Every grunt was a gasp for air, every groan a choke, etc. It was nerve-wracking.
The few visitors we admitted in those days were to be thoroughly scrubbed and deloused. And then the roof caved in anyway—we got the flu. We quarantined Baby for his own safety. My mother-in-law flew in to help. But afraid we would get her sick and she would in turn infect Baby, we all wore surgical masks for the weekend. It was quite the freakshow.
Baby was fine. Breast milk antibodies had built a dam that no influenza flood could crack. He must have thought we were nuts. And he might be right. It’s one thing to be cautious, but it’s easy to get carried away.
Things are a little different now. Refusing to succumb to the Chicago winter, we pushed that stroller dutifully around in the snow. Sometimes I catch him sucking on a finger of mine that hasn’t been introduced to soap anytime in recent memory. I now encourage guests to specifically cough on him, just so he gets a nice variety of germs to keep his immune system on its toes. Germ du jour.
I think George Carlin said it best when he talked about essentially being raised in garbage. The exposure to pollutants and allergens and germs at a young age built up his immune system. If you never encounter germs, your body doesn’t learn how to fight them, ultimately making you weaker. Baby will eventually get sick, no matter what we do, and at that point, we’ll be sad and freak out and question everything. But what we’re not going to do is fear the reaper and keep him in a plastic bubble.
The reaper, however, isn’t just limited to illness. The reaper is every obstacle Baby now provides you, every terrifying first. There’s the first doctor’s visit, moving from bassinet to crib, taking Baby out for dinner, grocery shopping, first long car trip, first flight, first overnight visit, first babysitter, etc. The list never ends, but neither should your adventurous spirit. Dive right in and learn from your mistakes, or your sentence in baby jail will feel so much longer.
When we were visiting the NIC unit every day for those four weeks, we came to know another couple and their sprout, all in the same premature boat. Through the power of the world wide web, my wife came to be in touch with the other mother a couple months later, and invited their family to meet ours for dinner some time. The other mother answered that they had not yet taken the baby out of the house. Oh, I see. Standing on 15. Still learning the game. Don't get me wrong—they’re certainly not bad parents. They just fear the reaper.