Parenthood cures modesty, or at least lowers your internal threshold for what constitutes normal public behavior.  The process of giving birth is the first big plunge.  If you are in a hospital then as soon as you are admitted you get accustomed to lots of people coming and going from your room.  And as the delivery draws near, two things happen.  First, the number of people gathered in the room increases to an almost implausible level.  No wonder delivery rooms are so large!  Second, the mother to be is more and more exposed until finally all pretenses are gone.  At least that’s how it was for us.  It turns that the process of sleep deprivation and exposure during delivery turned out to be good preparation for parenthood.

Since Everett was born I have been entertaining a hypothesis that babies emit some kind of mind control pheromones.  The primary evidence for this is that Melissa and I continue to do all sorts of goofy things in public to make him happy, no matter how much sleep we lose on his behalf or how long we need to console him for idiopathic crying.  This effect appears to get stronger as he becomes more interactive and playful.  Over Thanksgiving he was pretty sick with a cold and ear infections and a few other problems that I won’t go into for HIPAA reasons, which has had two effects.  First, both of his parents also got sick and therefore needed more sleep than normal.  Second, because of his illness, the sleep schedule that everyone worked to so hard to establish with him was shot to hell, which caused his parents to get even less sleep than normal.  Despite this, we found that we would still do almost anything to get him to smile in the morning.

One of our favorite local restaurants is called the Chancery, where they serve all kinds of Wisconsin specialties that are so bad and yet so good, like fried cheese curds or a cheeseburger with a half pound of kielbasa on top (the “Stomp Burger”).  It is sort of a pub, but prides itself on being family friendly, and their accommodating attitude toward children makes us like it even more.  Anyway, they sell a t-shirt that says “You don’t scare me, I have kids”.  This is beginning to make more sense.  The loss of control that comes with bringing another person into the world has changed our opinion on what is considered unusual behavior.  For example, the duck that was wedged into Melissa’s bra when I returned home from work a few nights ago was not considered unusual enough to warrant questions or comments.  Grandad Cress, the father of two children himself, recently donned a homemade aluminum foil helmet for Everett’s amusement.  For my part, I never imagined that I would walk through the grocery store making exaggerated faces and speaking gibberish to my six month old son, all with a frightening lack of awareness that I am in public.  Or that Melissa and I would stand in the airport discussing poop and pee, periodically lifting Everett’s behind to our noses to provide a more accurate diagnosis.  I feel confident that none of this is surprising to experienced parents.  But it is an incredibly large and abrupt change compared to our pre-parent state, and has pushed us to realize what is surely self evident to most parents: you will see each other in completely new ways, both literally and figuratively.  The mind-control pheromones seem to be doing their job.

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