I have in front of me two babycare guides, both open to the index. In one, I find items such as “Developments, baby’s, accidents according to stage of” and Eyes, injuries to.” It also lists important things like “formula” – 24 sub-topics including “bioavailability of nutrients in” and “choosing” – and “safety.” You don’t even want to know how many sub-topics that one has.
The other book has equally critical listings in its index. Under A, you can find “alcohol” with the sub-topics “ability of men to have whenever they want” and “horrible consequences of pregnant women having, ever.” Under F: “first steps, catastrophic risks of.” Under N? “no, no no no no no no no.” And then there’s P: “penis, longer than yours” and “poop, documentary proof of.”
The first book is, you guessed it, The Baby Book, by the illustrious and esteemed (by other people) William and Martha Sears. The second book is How Not to Kill Your Baby, by someone with an actual sense of humor. (Full disclosure: I’m friends with Jacob Sager Weinstein, but he didn’t pay me to say that.)
How Not to Kill Your Baby isn’t a parenting book; it’s a parody of the parenting books we all read that gave us important and serious advice like: never put your child in a stroller lest he not learn to walk, cement all your bookshelves to the wall, and train your baby to go to sleep on her own because otherwise you’ll need to show up every night at her college dorm to rock her to sleep.
Sager Weinstein offers advice to the new mother. On pregnancy: “For the next nine months, every time you sit down to eat a meal, you’ll need to remember that you’re eating for two. That means you’ll need twice as much silverware.” On breastfeeding: “Breast-feeding is one of the most natural things a woman can do. For hundreds of thousands of years, it has been an instinctive bond between mother and child—an unending dance of nurture and love. Untold millennia ago, in a fire-lit cavern in a prehistoric jungle, your ancient ancestor knew exactly how to nourish her fragile newborn. You, however, are doing it all wrong.”
For the new father, there’s “Dan,” who offers tips in the form of sidebars. “Dan” introduces himself thusly: “Hi there! My name is Dan, and if you’re anything like me, you’re a guy! And that means you can’t possibly understand anything about pregnancy unless it has lost of sports metaphors and exclamation marks!” I love Dan. I love Dan so much that I went back after I read the book and reread all the Dan sidebars. Dan underscores the sexist and insulting way the parenting industry demeans the father and expects the mother to be perfect.
This book might have been far more useful to me as a new parent than all the serious baby guides. Had I gotten it as a shower gift, it would have made me laugh at how seriously I was taking the whole thing and how insane the babycare industry has gotten. Unfortunately, there is no sequel planned, because what I really need is a copy of How Not to Kill Your Elementary-School Sons When They Get Into a Fistfight on the Walk to School.