December 29, 2008

I wrote this several years ago with the intent of one day writing a parenting book for Marine Corps dads so some of the vernacular is a bit militant, but put that aside. If you’re a parent, you’ll recognize what I am talking about and hopefully you’ll be able to smile at what I am describing.



In the Marine Corps, fluidity means seamless transition, smooth flow of ideas, concepts and execution; it means something entirely different to parents. The human body is supposedly made up of 75% water or something crazy like that. If that figure is correct then I would venture to say that my children are 99% bodily fluids and 1% miscellaneous other stuff. My guys are made of saliva, snot, urine, poop, ear wax, and a couple of substances for which I haven’t gotten results back from the lab yet. I’m thinking that around the time puberty hits they’ll solidify and become solid matter, but for now they’re more ameba-like than human. This is one of those strange parenting tidbits that no one warns you about during pregnancy. Baby books don’t do the topic justice either. I did a lot of reading prior to Mack’s arrival and I didn’t find a single accurate portrayal of the amount of time I would spend elbows deep in baby goo. Most literature makes this aspect of parenting sound quaint- a fun little jaunt through baby’s world of bodily fluids, “When baby teethes there may be a slight increase in saliva- lovingly dab with a soft, clean cloth”.  Bull shit, after baby’s first day at home there won’t be a soft, clean cloth in the house, to include the clothes on your back and the cushions on your couch. You want to see a new parent’s eyes light up? Show them a cloth diaper fresh from the dryer- they’ll be willing to fight you for it. Back to fluidity.


The largest organ in an infant’s body is the saliva gland. I can’t prove it, but from my experiences I can make this statement with a degree of confidence. For this reason I spent my first 5 years as a father sporting a cloth diaper over my shoulder. Cloth diapers are extremely versatile and necessary pieces of baby raising gear. In the old days, before the advent of disposable brands, these things were the gold standard. People actually used them on their children’s butts- unbelievable. When they were dirty, they flushed the lumpy stuff down the toilet and threw the diaper into the washing machine. Even today some parents prefer them as they are more environmentally sound, i.e. they don’t tax our landfills. I think this is a noble gesture and I completely support protecting the earth, but like many parents, sleep deprivation got the best of me and I chose the more convenient option. I just didn’t have the energy to dedicate to the process of reusing diapers. I am a horrible person, but then again so are the 6 billion other people currently killing our planet with disposables, so at least I’m not going to burn in hell alone. What was I talking about? That’s right, spit.


Whenever I picked up one of the boys, I would do a quick wipe down so that they wouldn’t slide out of my arms and scurry under the couch. This may sound like an embellishment but my kids could produce a gallon of spit in less than 5 minutes. This was unnerving to me. I had never come in contact with any living organism that had this capability. I guess if you examine the animal kingdom you can find some similarities- porcupines have quills, skunks have odor, blow fish swell, my kids salivate. Most creatures are weak and vulnerable at birth so it makes sense that God provided a defensive mechanism- look at the poison dart frog, one lick and you’re a goner. Granted saliva is not nearly as sexy as razor sharp quills or deadly poison, but it can be fairly effective against an unsuspecting first time parent.


For those of you who have yet to experience the pleasure of a child in the throws of teething, let me develop a couple of scenarios that illustrate what I’m talking about.

Scenario #1-  While interfacing with the child, the parent raises him/her into the air and babbles incoherently in the infant’s native tongue. I can’t think of a single parent who hasn’t done this- it’s a customary parental ritual. We raise our kids above eye level and then move them back and forth so we can lock eyes and allow them to focus on our features. I’ve learned through experience that as I do this my kids weren’t focusing on my features so that they would be able to recognize me in a crowd of people. What I believe they saw each time I brought them closer to my face was an internal targeting signal that flashed a bright red X on my mouth each time it got within range of their saliva glands. 


When the moment is right, the child will release a volley of clear, lava-like fluid from their firing portal (mouth) inevitably scoring a precise hit. My children had the accuracy of a fighter ace normally achieving direct impact in my mouth causing me to momentarily lose composure and the ability to respond accordingly. This momentary loss of composure is problematic because you will be required to do multiple things simultaneously. One, ensure the safety of your child- do not drop, spike or in anyway endanger the infant- it is to your benefit to keep them safe for future intelligence value and observation. Next, move the child out of the effective range of his/her fires. Normally arms length is sufficient in reducing the effectiveness of their saliva launcher. Finally, search for a means to remove the fluid from your mouth/face (hello cloth diaper hanging on your shoulder). This is a harassing technique used to steal your ability to function for short periods of time. It has no lasting effect other than the emotional scars incurred from unexpectedly finding another human being’s saliva dripping off your chin.


Scenario #2-  There are multiple ways that your baby can employ his/her saliva glands. In the first scenario, I discussed direct fire techniques. Another way your child can punish you is through the use of strategically placed “slobber mines”. Your child will position saliva at key locations throughout your home- nothing is sacred. The best way to determine where the “baby boogers” are located is to think like your baby. This is called the “Infant’s Most Probable Course of Action (IMPCOA)”. Where you rest your hands, where you lay your head, anywhere your bare skin touches another object is where the baby will lay the slobber globule.  In my years of experience, I have encountered my kid’s saliva in a myriad of places. In my comb, on my pillow, on the rim of my coffee cup and my toilet- my kids had no sense of decency nor remorse when emplacing these disgusting little gifts of love. Slobber is only one of many bodily fluids that a child can employ on command. My boys are completely capable of firing multiple volleys from both ends simultaneously. This will most often happen during diaper changing or prepping for bath time. The critical time is when they are completely nude and all firing mechanisms are exposed to the elements.  But that is a story for another day… 



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