“I can’t take a shower,” she said.
“Why not?” said her husband, from the other room.
“Something might happen to him,” she replied. She meant the baby.
“But it’s been 3 months,” said her husband.
“I know, and he’s still here, right. He’s still alive, right? So,” she said rationally, “it’s working.”
Her husband took a deep breath. “Honey, you need to take care of yourself.”
“What? No. My children come first.”
The look on her face told him that this should have been obvious.
“We just have the one,” he said.
“Well, I hope to have more,” she replied. Her expression didn’t change.
He grinned. “Not going to happen if you smell like that.”
Nothing. He tried another tactic.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll watch him, you go get cleaned up.”
She stared deep in his eyes with a bemused contempt.
“What?” he said.
“Well,” she began, “how often will you hold him?”
“How often?” She paused, then answered herself. “17 minutes. That’s what the book says. 17 minutes is the optimal gap in between holdings. I pick up the baby every 17 minutes.”
“What if you have something else to do?”
Her hair shook. “I set it aside for the good of my baby.”
A timer on her watch went off. She pushed the button, and gave her husband a little nod. She picked up the baby, counted to 20 and set the baby back down.
“Next time, I have to say the alphabet. The time after that I will sing Twinkle Twinkle. Good for geometry skills later.”
He was speechless.
“Because that’s Mozart, you know." She picked up THE parenting book and waved it. "There’s a way to do things John.”
“Let me see that.”
“Sure. If you’d like, I could buy you a copy, and you could start reading it. Like I asked. Six months ago.”
“I just saw this, but with a different cover,” he said
“I’m not so sure,” he said.
He pulled out his iPhone. “Oh, look, there’s a new edition of the book. Hmm – ‘one of the more surprising changes is the new optimal time for babies to be held. It has gone from 17 minutes to 13 minutes.’”
“I guess the world’s moving faster now, so …”
She began to pace, nearly tripping over the baby. She didn't even notice. John picked him up. “Oh no, John, what am I going to do? I’m behind! Now he’s going to be a serial killer, I just know it. He’s going to be the bully, and pull wings off of flies and fry ants with magnifying glasses and -"
He rolled his eyes. “I did that.”
“Great – now he’ll be genetically AND environmentally predisposed to psychopathy …”
His eyes got bigger. “Honey, I was just …”
There was no stopping her. “Or worse, he’ll become a socialist!”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
She started rubbing her hands together to keep from twirling her hair. “Oh, I’m not being ridiculous, John, we can’t let him become a socialist." She looked down, and the baby was gone. "See - it's already started! He's gone."
“What? He's right here."
“Ahh! What are you doing? Give him to me. NOW!”
“I’m going to make up for lost time . . . let’s see, he’s three months and 6 days, and every seventeen minutes compared to every thirteen minutes in a 12 hour period would be . . . Oh John, help me.”
“You’re on your own, sister.”
The timer went off.
“I’ve fallen short again. Will I ever get anything right? I’m doomed,” she cried.