Wednesday, Apr 26th

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Hey Spidey, Try Your Hand At This...

Spidey can change    "With great power, comes great responsibility". So said Spiderman as he was putting on his tights. Similar sentiments are echoed when it comes to raising a child. And one of my first challenges was to wrestle the beast called the car-seat. When I lived in India for the first few decades of my life, never had I come across such a thing called a car-seat. At least not the ones meant specifically for babies or little kids. In India, you could leave the hospital with your new baby in any number of ways. You get to choose. The baby may be balanced precariously on your shoulder, squished under your armpit or suspended by the collar of its onesie that is clenched between your teeth (much like a mama cat). And this you do because you are hauling your wife's luggage in one hand and pushing people out of the way with your other hand. Then you ride home in a car, an autorickshaw or the local bus. It doesn't matter. The ride will turn out to be so bumpy that the baby which was in your wife's hand when you started your trip, would find itself nestled cozily in the hands of a distant relative or some stranger who was sitting a few feet away at the end of it. Sometimes, on the way back home you even stopped by the sabzi mandi (or in some parts of the country, the fish market) with your new baby to get some chores done. Back home, we are efficient that way.
  
    But here I was, hunched across the back seat of my car, grunting and gasping while I tried to get the seat in place. I just couldn't understand how such a simple thing like fastening a car seat can get so complicated. The first time I thought I had it done, I realized that I had strapped myself in with the seat. The next time I was sure I had got it, it lurched forward and hit the windshield when I braked. The next time I knew for certain that something wasn't right when a homeless man at the light pointed at it, clutched his middle, and laughed uncontrollably. When I finally did get it right I realized that I was crying and sobbing. Now I understood why the last applicant I had interviewed at my workplace had proudly mentioned "Fixed baby car seat in a single attempt" on his resume. Heck, he should have been made Time's Man of the Year!
  
    Once we got back home safely from the hospital without any baby-popping-out-of-the-seat kind of incident, things got a bit more actuarial. Before bidding adieu at the hospital, the nurse in charge had smacked a booklet in my hand instructing us to keep tabs of the baby's wet and dirty diapers. My miniscule knowledge about babies made me think that this was not a big deal. I thought I would probably have to note something down once or twice a day. Fact: Did you know that a new born baby can soil upwards of a dozen diapers a day?? I didn't. And now I will never forget. I was walking around like the carpenters back home with a pencil stuck behind my ear. There was a lot of cautious pulling on the diaper and peering inside involved. It was almost as if I expected something to jump out and attack me. It was an especially hard task to do right after I had eaten a big meal. I learnt to hold my breath for long periods of time. By the end of the first month, I could check the diaper, recite the preamble to the US constitution and whip up a six layer Sundae all in one breath!
  
    It was around this time that I learned that one must use the current diaper as a shield when changing baby boys. If not, you can get doused by a gusher. It almost seemed like he was holding it all in until it was I, who came around to change him. And no, there was no warning from the ladies in the house. They just sent me into the baby's room all by myself while they hid behind the door and guffawed heartity when it happened. Despite all this, there were some heartwarming moments for me with the baby. At times when I was cradling him in my arms, his eyes would open wide and he would crack a big smile. And my face would light up and  I would call out to my wife ecstatically "look look, he's smiling at me". And she would crush that moment of joy by declaring "Don't get so excited. He's just passing gas".
  
    And did you know that babies do not sleep through the night? Well, I learned soon enough.