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By Staff | Feb 25, 2011

My wife and I are at that awkward, in-between age – many of our contemporaries are grandparents, yet at the same time we have friends who are producing babies.

As you may imagine, this can lead to some interesting gift buying decisions. One day we might be purchasing a baby present that conveys the message “Congratulations! And here’s hoping your diaper issues are minimal.” The next day might find us purchasing a retirement gift conveys pretty much the same sentiment. It all depends.

I have nothing against babies, although in my opinion they should be born at about a year of age. That’s when they start to become interesting; you can teach them tricks, they’re pretty much self-propelled and are learning how to talk.

The learning to talk part can be a powerful inducement for a guy to watch his language, which is always a good thing.

It wouldn’t be bragging in the least to state that I grew up among kids. I found them to be fascinating subjects of study and even made friends with a few. But after I achieved adulthood, the whole topic of children lost its luster.

That is, until my wife whispered into my ear one night the news that she was expecting.

The revelation caught me totally off-guard. “Expecting what?” I sputtered. This, I quickly learned, was a woefully inappropriate response.

Children – or at least this one specific child – suddenly became the focus of our lives. There were baby clothes to buy and I had to squire my wife to an endless series of doctor visits. We were shown ultrasound photographs which, to my eye, appeared to consist of just so many formless blobs.

We were told that these nebulous blotches were our child.

“In that case,” I said, “I want my money back. That doesn’t look like anything!”

It was at that moment that I discovered there are a wide range of wrong things to say to expecting mothers. Especially to the one to whom you are married.

As punishment for that and numerous other faux pas, I was forced to attend Lamaze classes. With my wife, of course.

The Lamaze instructor began by telling us everything there is to know about the birthing process. Being a dairy farmer, very little of this information was new to me. On the other hand, some of our Lamaze classmates listened very intently, asking numerous questions and generally exuding an aura of wide-eyed wonderment.

I think that up until the Lamaze class, they actually thought that babies were delivered by The Stork Express.

Our son was born on time and with minimal bother – at least as far as I was concerned. My wife would probably tell a very different story.

As soon as he arrived, I asked that all-important question that’s on every new father’s mind: “Will we be able to claim him as a dependent on this year’s income tax return?”

Turns out that this was yet another of my many ill-conceived questions. It also turns out that the answer was “yes.”

Our eldest son was born very late in the calendar year. I assumed that we would be allowed to claim only 6/365th of a deduction for him since he was born six days before New Year’s Day.

Leland, our tax guy, had a very different philosophy regarding this issue. “If he didn’t live with you, who did he live with?” he asked. I liked the way Leland thought.

It wasn’t long before our second son came along. The next several years whipped by in a blur of icky diapers and skinned knees, too much work and too little money, visits from the Tooth Fairy and visits to the dentist.

My wife will no doubt contest the fact that I had anything to do with any and all poopy diapers. But if that’s the case, why is the image of a horrifying diaper changing experience permanently burned onto my retinas?

OK, so I changed a stinky diaper exactly once. But once was certainly enough to change me.

It’s nice to have friends who are our age, a set of folks who know what AARP stands for and purchase anti-aging products by the case. People who don’t need to have Watergate explained to them and understand that Alice Cooper is actually a guy.

But it’s also nice to count among our friends folks who would throw a body check to obtain a case of Pampers on sale. People who view six hours of uninterrupted sleep as an over-the-top luxury.

Because it takes monumental faith and vast amounts of energy to bring a child into this world, while it appears that growing older requires nearly no effort at all.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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