Duane Sherrill

I think I’m out of practice holding babies. Hey, I’m hard to rattle. I’m a smooth dude. However, I’ve got to admit, I get nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers when someone hands me their bouncing bundle of joy to hold. There’s so much responsibility. You got to watch their head and neck, you can’t make any sudden noises and you darn sure better not drop ‘em. The pressure is palpable.

“Here,” my son said as he came to my house recently with my brand new granddaughter. “You want to hold her?”

Thanks to the pandemic, I didn’t get to actually see my granddaughter, Ocean Jade, or as I call her, O.J., in person until about three weeks after she was born. Yes. She’s my first grandchild despite me being well into my 50s with friends who have grown grandchildren. She is a little over a month old now.

“Hold her?” I nervously responded as Jack held her out like he was already an old pro at wielding a baby. “Um, sure.”

I gingerly took O.J. in my arms and cradled her like I’d never held a baby before despite the fact I’ve raised two boys.

“You look like it’s your first time,” Jack laughed as he saw how nervous I was.

I carefully set down, still cradling her in my arms. “Hey, I dropped you on your head when you were a baby,” I grinned.

“That explains some things,” Jack nodded. “Were you always so careful back when I was a baby?”

Actually, I was. I was never one of those who just had to “hold the baby” when there was an infant around. Much like the reefer being passed around in the crowd at Bonnaroo, I went ahead and passed my turn when it came to baby holding. I’m not really sure what caused my trepidation when it came to holding babies but I was forced to face my fears when Jack was born almost 23 years ago.

Like the iron woman she is, my wife at the time decided she was going to return to work three days after birthing Jack.

“You’re going where?” I asked in disbelief as she headed for the door dressed in her nurse uniform.

“I’m going to work,” she replied.

“But who is watching the baby?” I innocently asked.

She rolled her eyes. “His father,” she replied. “You don’t have to do anything. Just burp him if you give him a bottle and change his diaper if he needs it.”

“But …” I protested as she left. “I don’t know nothing about no babies.”

“You’ll be fine,” she assured. “Just don’t let the dingoes get him.”

Any other time that Seinfeld line would have been hilarious but on this occasion it just made me even more paranoid.

So there I was, alone with a three-day-old. It was the longest night of my life as I sat there, staring at the sleeping baby, hoping nothing would go wrong. Heck, I’d only changed a couple of diapers before and that was under direct adult supervision. What if the baby … cried? What would I do then?

And, as luck would have it, he cried. The problem is, you don’t often know why they are crying. So, I did the first thing I could and warmed a bottle and plugged it into his mouth. It worked! He sucked it down and went back to sleep … for a minute. Then it was squalling-time again. This time, well, it was the diaper. By the way, no one explained to me about boy babies and covering your face when you’re changing them. I was christened the first night.

This process continued all evening, only culminating once the wife got home from work. I had learned during my crash course on baby care that night that babies do three things … eat, sleep and dirty their diapers. It’s pretty simple really.

“How’d it go?” she asked when she got back, the bags under my eyes telling the story. I hadn’t slept a wink as anytime I’d start to nod off, Jack would wake up and sound the alarm.

Things got easier after that. And, by the time Henry was born eight years later, I was an old hat at caring for and holding a baby. It was second nature. However, it’s been a hot minute since Henry was a baby as he is 14 now. Therefore, when Jack sent me text with an attached picture of an ultrasound image as his way of telling me I was going to be a grandfather, I was thrust back to the old days.

Back when we were going to have Jack, me and the wife sat my mother down and did the reveal all formal and stuff. Jack shoots me a text and then immediately posts it to Facebook minutes later. That whole baby reveal thing has changed.

Another thing that has changed is that I don’t have the market cornered on Father’s Day in my family. Until now, I was the one who got all the attention on Father’s Day. Now my son wants in on the action.

“Where y’all taking me for Father’s Day?” I asked my mom who usually spearheads the celebration.

“You may want to ask Jack that,” my mom said. “He pointed out that he’s a father now and deserves his Father’s Day, too.”

“But he’s a rookie,” I protested. “He’s been a father for just over a month. I’ve raised two.”

Long story short, it’s a combined Father’s Day celebration this Sunday. We’re going to have a picnic at the house. Jack will get to enjoy his first Father’s Day while I learn how to hold a baby all over again. However, I’ll let him change the diapers. He owes me that much.

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