Tater Tots Are The Only Tots I Know What To Do With

I didn’t think about babies much before I was 18. Apart from some uncomfortable sex education classes where Sinbad the comedian dressed up in a condom costume and we were taught to chant, “It’s OK to think about sex; it’s OK to talk about sex, but it’s not OK to have sex” like drones in a Pink Floyd music video, there wasn’t much context for thinking about babies.

See, I had interacted with kids in that past. I really like kids! I especially like kids who can talk, regardless of how much sense they’re actually making. Want to tell me about how your skort is the coolest and you like Pokemon? Right on! I am your pal. Want to make cute faces and gurgle at me using what must be some sort of secret alien code that can only mean “destroy all humans?” NOPE. I cannot deal. I seize up like water in a hot pan. I begin to stutter and shake worse than Professor Quirrell.

At 18, people start to assume that you can handle children. This is probably a normal assumption to make, but as someone who lives far away from any extended family and whose family friends all have kids around my age, I didn’t get much exposure to babies. So when a baby needed to be held at a fancy function, no one figured I wouldn’t have the right stuff to handle the situation.

Oh sure, it all started innocuously enough. A mother who worked for the group brought her child in, and everyone was cooing at him. With good reason ““ he was an adorable baby (“was” in that this happened years before, and he is certainly no longer a baby unless he found that stream that all those everlasting Tucks kept harping on). One of the women picked him up and bopped him gently. No one expected what happened next, but we really should have: like any excited creature, that baby peed all over her.

That’s when I made my fatal mistake ““ I was standing nearby. The woman looked around for someone to pass the baby off to. She spots me, even though I employed that old trick of not making direct eye contact. Anyone who has been in a discussion section after not doing the reading knows exactly what I’m talking about here. She calls my name and asks me to take the baby so she can clean up. My eyes fill with panic. I stick my arms out, pull the rest of my body away, and half cry, half choke out, “I don’t know how to hold baby!”

It’s been years since that incident, and I still have never held a baby. I’ve gotten a lot better with interacting with them though. One time at a barbecue, one sat on my foot right when I was putting potato salad on my plate. Normally I wouldn’t mind having a baby on my foot, but this time we were holding up a line of hungry, hungry people. So naturally I looked at the little tyke and said in a warm friendly voice, “Small child, would you please get off my foot?”

I expect that as the years go on and more people have babies, I’ll learn how to hold them and talk to them. In the meantime, you’ll find me next to the potato salad.


14 replies on “Tater Tots Are The Only Tots I Know What To Do With”

I like babies (I like kids too for that matter, but that’s not the point.) I learned to hold them when I was little (thanks, many small cousins!) I like to play with them even when they’re small. I hold their little heads up, an bob them around, and make faces and coo when I see a baby in public.

But lord help me, nobody has ever taught me how to change a diaper, and I am now 25, and I am terrified that someone, someday soon (my cousin with the new baby? A friend? A sibling?) will ask me to babysit, or I’ll be trying to help out and somebody will say “oh, if you could just change the baby and give me a moment to sit down, that would be wonderful.” And I won’t k now what to do! And I’ll probably screw it up, and get peed on, and the baby will cry and cry, and get a rash, and it’ll all be my fault…

This is something I legitimately spend time worrying about. Not a LOT of time, but enough. I think I need a diaper lesson.

Diapers are actually surprisingly easy. I did the whole trial by fire thing with a kid I was babysitting (the mom just expected 14 year old me to know how to change a diaper. Haha, yeah, no). If you can deal with poop you don’t have a problem. Having something to distract them with is good too, I’ve had kids try to roll of the table because they were so squirmy. Just take the diaper off, wrap it up, grab the kid’s legs and wipe with a wet wipe. If they need some throw a little baby powder on (ask the parent). Grab a new diaper, unfold it and put the large end under the butt, put the legs down, pull the other end through, wrap, and tape. Voila! The first few times will be awkward, but you’ll get the hang of it. Very easy. There’s your internet diaper lesson, hope that helps!

Ugh. I do not like babies, either. Kids are ok – if they’re well behaved. I like kids from around the age when they’re potty trained and old enough to tell you what they need using words (so, 3ish or a little older, depending on the kid) and then only while they’re cute and funny, before they become snotty smartasses (fourth or fifth grade, maybe? some kids are sweet and cute longer).

But my mother in law just loooooooves to engineer situations so I end up holding the Mister’s five-month-old nephew. She thinks if I spend enough time around him, I’ll want one of my own. (I heard her whispering excitedly on the phone to my sister in law last time she did this, “Ooooh, this is how it starts!”) I think she may have gotten an inkling that this isn’t going to happen the last time I had to pick up the kid when he was crying and said, “I know, buddy. It’s a little disconcerting to have all of these strange people in your house, isn’t it? Can you say disconcerting?” (And then the baby’s father, who was watching me, asked, “What’s disconcerting?”)

It’s not that I don’t know how to take care of babies. My brother is seven years younger than me, and I’m the oldest cousin on my mom’s side, the youngest of us being 12 years younger than me. I’ve done all manner of babysitting for family and neighborhood kids in my day. I just don’t LIKE babies. What does crying mean? You’re wet? Hungry? Tired? Just feeling antsy? I DON’T KNOW! Use your words. Oh, but you don’t have them yet. Damn.

I have spent a lot of time around babies, am very comfortable with them, etc. (yay, for being in the oldest batch of 30+ first cousins), and I just wanted to let you know that talking to babies like they’re adults is my secret weapon. Even if they don’t understand you, you’re directing noise at them in an appropriate tone of voice. So, keep it up. :D

For example, my one-year-old niece decided that the glass objects in my mother’s house were pretty and should be played with. From across the room, I calmly said, “Godzilla, those are made of glass. Can you please play with something else?”

Godzilla (so named because she loves chaos and throwing things…this was a very tense moment in my head) nodded and walked away.

It’s magic, people.

Know what’s weird? I have a child, and I’m still like this with other people’s babies. I basically raised my little brother and was great with him as an infant, and was great with my son, but I’m not very good with others’ kids. I’m totally capable, and know how to hold a baby and everything, but I’m just naturally awkward if the child is not mine. I figured I’d change once I had a child of my own, but I haven’t. A good friend of mine who has a four month old came over recently and just passed the bambino over to me, and I held him all awkward like I didn’t know what to do. I can’t begin to explain that.

I don’t know what to do with babies either – I have no siblings and my few cousins were all older than me, and by the time they started having kids we lived far away from one another. I’ve really never been around babies save for watching my neighbor changing her kids’ diapers when I was about seven and helping my friend babysit her little niece once when I was about thirteen. So, I will join you by the potato salad. :)

The last and only time I held a baby was.. at least fifteen years ago. I think I skipped whole the ‘I’m a girl so I think babies are kyooooooooot gimme!’ fase and even though sometimes my arms itch for baby, I feel uncomfortable just asking for a baby to hold (I don’t coo over it either and feel glad for the baby that they don’t remember all those scary huge heads hanging over their crib).

Babies terrify me! I’m with you- kids are great! (obs- I mean, I work with them), but babies?! Umm, no thanks.

I don’t think I’d ever held a baby until last summer when I had to do my infant and toddlers clinical. I was all for the toddlers, but somehow I ended up in the infant room and they kept GIVING ME BABIES TO HOLD. I was so scared I would drop them. I literally would sit on the carpet surrounded by pillows if I was going to be forced to hold a baby.

Funny thing is, now we’re actually trying for a kid, but I kinda want to give birth to a 2 year old and just skip the infant stage.

But their necks! They cannot support their own heads entirely! One commenter on tumblr (I posted a link to this piece over there because social media is fun) mentioned that my fear might come from not being around babies when I was growing up – I think that’s 100% accurate. Now when I interact with babies, I mostly just watch them nap on their mother or father or carrier, which just contributes to the myth that babies are these ultra–exta-uber-super-fragile beings with powerful lungs and soft bones.

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