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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Wednesday 20th August 2003

Baby Column

As a man, there are many things about babies I don't understand. Breastfeeding, for instance, remains shrouded in mystery, even though I've spent hundreds of hours studying it from a few feet away. I've even sneaked a peak at my wife. But I still don't get it. How much milk is coming out? Why do the babies have to switch breasts mid-feed? What happens if you have triplets? The Mary Celeste has nothing on this.

However, the biggest mystery of all is why people insist on coming round to your house to see the baby. I say "people" but to be honest the only men that have passed through our sitting room are husbands who've been dragged here, kicking and screaming, by their wives. They have that bored, hangdog expression you see on men waiting outside women's changing rooms in department stores. You can tell they'd prefer to be doing practically anything else, such as ironing the bed sheets or sticking pins in their eyes. They've only agreed to come because, for some inexplicable reason, their wives attach an almost religious significance to this ritual.

The only time men like to show off their babies is when it comes to emailing a picture to all their friends and that's because it involves (a) a digital camera and (b) a computer. I took a picture of Caroline and Sasha in the delivery room but made the mistake of suggesting we have a bit of fun with it in Photoshop before sending it out. I'd give the baby two heads and six pairs of eyes and we'd email that to all our friends. Didn't she think that would be hilarious? The answer was no, and neither did my mother-in-law who was sitting right beside her at the time.

"Could you explain to me precisely what element of that you find amusing?" she asked, fixing me with a death-ray glare.

"'re right," I stammered. "It's not at all funny. I don't know what I was thinking."

I've subsequently discoverd that before showing Sasha off to anyone it's essential to make her look as pretty as possible. When someone is due to come round, Caroline dresses Sasha up in one of the ridiculously overpriced outfits I've been forced to buy at Bonpoint and Petite Ange. The friends inevitably arrive bearing gifts--a cashmere cardigan from Bora, for instance--and the upshot is that Sasha now has a bigger and more expensive wardrobe than me. Given that she'll grow out of all these clothes within three months, I can't help feeling that they're a colossal waste of money, but experience has taught me to keep my mouth shut. These days, as Sasha is presented with yet another mink-lined babygrow, I simply nod and smile appreciatively.

The whole viewing ritual would be a lot more interesting if I was allowed to teach the baby some tricks which could then be performed in front of our guests. One of my best friends has recently become a father and, needless to say, we've become involved in a heated contest to see whose baby develops the quicket. Caroline knew nothing about this until my friend and his wife came round last week and I tried to demonstrate just how much progress Sasha had made on the crawling front. Admittedly, this involved a certain amount of pushing and pulling while she was lying, face down, on the floor, but I thought she did pretty well considering she was only ten days old. Caroline, on the other hand, was horrified. She whisked Sasha up into her arms and made me promise not to give her any more crawling lessons for at least six months.

Oh, and by the way, in case you've noticed the photograph of Sasha on this page, Caroline wants me to point out that it really doesn't do her justice. In fact, she's much prettier than that.

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Twitter RT @QuilletteM: Do Parents Make a Difference? A Public Debate in London | @toadmeister link  (8 hours ago)


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