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Never turn your back on a toddler

By Jason Offutt

Never make direct eye contact with a baby.

Don’t take that statement lightly. If you’re not a parent you don’t understand the repercussions of staring at a baby right in their large, dreamy eyes. If you are a parent, you’re nodding nervously and are either in the fetal position, or drinking whiskey like a Scotsman.

Don’t worry, folks. I’ll be right there with you soon.

Standing in the kitchen with my legs spread and my knees bent because all parents are toys to crawl under or over, I chopped onions small enough to hide them in the food of the older children (parents are treacherous with vegetables). The Baby was with me, or was she? The only sound now in the house was my paring knife snapping against the cutting board.

Hmm. A quiet house, unless inhabited by Trappist monks, is alarming. Children are loud. That’s one of the five constants in the universe, along with gravity, the rate of neutron decay, the ever-spiralling expanding bureaucracy and PEZ. PEZ tastes awful. It always has.

The baby was gone. She was just on the floor playing with a dirty cooking spoon and colander she’d plucked from the dishwasher (don’t judge me). Now all that remained in the spot where her diapered butt sat were five Cheerios and a cooling glob of drool.

Oh, no. Something small and crafty lurked in my house. It was fast, it was dangerous, and I had no idea where it was. It was like the movie “Alien” all over again. Only this time it wasn’t in space, and I’m sure if I tried hard enough the neighbors could hear me scream.

I stepped gingerly into the living room. Wait, can a guy step “gingerly?” No. Okay, so I stepped manly into the living room.

She wasn’t there.

Padding down the hall in my sock feet, silent as a Hobbit, I peeked into the bathroom where the Baby sometimes likes to take food and sit, watching whomever’s on the toilet. She’s kind of like the audience at an improv theater.

The bathroom sat empty.

The master bedroom was next. My wife did the girliest thing she could do to our bedroom just short of covering it in puce and posters of unicorns farting rainbows. She installed a full-length mirror behind the door. Guys don’t use full-length mirrors – ever. Not unless they: 1) lift weights, or 2) practice quick draw with their Han Solo blaster.

I do neither. I prefer a phaser. “Star Trek” rules.

The bedroom was also empty.

I swallowed and moved on shaking legs. I was about ready for that whiskey.

Peering into the Baby’s room like a Cold War spy, I saw her. She sat amidst a pile of stuffed animals, Little People toys and blocks. Babbling softly to herself, she simply looked at a book.

I couldn’t let her know I was there. I stepped back quietly, trying to slink out unnoticed, when my foot hit a toy.

The Baby swung her head toward me and our eyes locked. She grinned and raised her arms for me to pick her up.

Damn. And I still had to make dinner.

Like I said, never make direct eye contact with a baby. It always ends badly.

Always.

Check out Jason’s new website at www.jasonoffutt.com.

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