The Kindness of Strangers

“I can’t. I already have it hooked up to the truck.”

This is one of the most bullshit phrases that Americans still use today. Which is exactly what I was thinking as I was now sprinting the stroller with my very sleepy and hungry baby in it back to my wife’s slightly inclined car.

Not only did I learn back in kindergarten that what goes up must also come down, but the eyeball test would indicate that there currently weren’t any other cars on the back of the tow truck and common sense would dictate that they went somewhere and the most likely scenario is that they were put back down. So yes, jerkwad who has now seen the panicked look of a father with his infant child seeing his only way home from Baltimore being towed away, you CAN put the car back down. You just WON’T put it back down.

If you wanted to see some picturesque coolness under pressure, you should have seen my daughter. Seeing the worry on my face, Mabel looked at me and said “It’s OK, daddy. Calm down. We have all my food here, we got here in time to find out where the car is going and the nice man who’s really just doing his job offered us a ride. And who knows? Maybe it’s company policy that they can’t put the car back down once they start the tow. Maybe it’s dangerous to the vehicles around it. Let’s just find our way there and get back home. It’s only money.”

I hate it when she uses reason.

I definitely did not keep my cool. My voice cracked and I verged on tears, and not just for leverage either. Legitimate end-of-Big-Fish-type of tears. I tried to figure out how the hell to get to the impound lot and couldn’t interpret my options at the time. The offer on the table was for me to sit up front in the cab with him while Britney Spears-ing my baby girl. This was not going to happen. Though there was a moment of desperation where I thought “what the hell could really happen.” My wife could shoot me in the face with a bazooka, that’s what could happen. I asked if we could ride in the car as it was being towed. Turns out we’re not allowed to do that. All these damn rules.

Fortunately, a very nice woman who saw this all happen and shared in my horror of the rottenness of the by-the-book integrity of this city employee offered a hand. She first tried to assist me with my argument, thinking that maybe a woman’s touch could appeal to his softer side or maybe just if we outnumbered him, democracy would set in or maybe she just wanted to comfort me, but it didn’t work on any level. She then offered me a ride, though Mabel’s car seat didn’t attach into her car seat holder thingy. HOWEVER, she had an older child who had a forward-facing car seat which could suffice for the seven-minute ride to the impound lot. So the tow man got me my GPS and let me put my stroller in the car and off he went.

This incredibly kind onlooker had to go buy cat food and then she would drive us to the impound lot, which I’ve been meaning to show Mabel anyway. Kelly, as I found out her name, has two children of her own and her husband went to law school at UB. She also shares a dislike for people who take other people’s cars off the street, so we bonded over that for a minute. Meanwhile, as tired and hungry as Mabel was, she must have sensed that she needed to summon her inner Fonz and just sit there and be cool, shooting daddy a cockeyed half-smile when he needed one. Or maybe she was too confused at what life was like riding forward for a change.

As we got to the impound lot, I tried to get Kelly’s email address to possibly repay her or at least send her a thank you card. She refused. I told her about this website, so hopefully she will read this story and it will make her feel better to know that she is now publicly appreciated. Even so, it was nice to see the scales of kindness dip way down to one side only to quickly even themselves out again. Thank you, Kelly, for the early holiday gift. I wish you the same should you ever have your car impounded from DC.

To be continued…

Mabel Giftmas Card Caption Contest!

Mabel's First Giftmas

Mabel’s First Giftmas


That’s right! This time you get to play along.

So this is a pretty adorable picture we’re thinking of using as a Giftmas Card, but we need a cool caption. Normally pretty good with these sort of things, I have not been able to come up with anything worthy of going with the actual picture. I blame my sick wife, now causing me to take care of two whiny babies in the house.

Nobody tell her I said that please.

Anyway, if you can think of anything catchy and short to put on here, please write it in the comments section. Winner gets their caption up on the site. Thanks for playing and enjoy your holiday, whichever it may be.

Check out more of The 12 Days of Giftmas over at

Teeth Happen

A friend of mine would brag about his daughter’s sleep habits. “Claire’s slept through since she was six weeks old,” Bob would say. This turned into “Claire started sleeping through the night when she was six weeks old, but I don’t know what the hell last night was all about.” And eventually it became “Claire slept through the night when she was six weeks old, but this month has been a hot mess.” Now he only talks about sleep in hushed tones with legitimate knocking wood nearby. Speaking with him was like speaking with Jacob Marley, I fear. Only this time, the grave that I see reads “R.I.P. Dustin’s six straight hours of sleep.”

About two weeks ago, I heard moaning coming from the magic swing that puts Mabel to sleep for 10 hours at a time. I looked over to find a set of eyeballs. This was a new development. An hour after the excited little girl was taken from the swing, she fell back asleep. For an hour and a half. Crap. It looks like the honeymoon is over. I could hear Jacob’s chains rattling as he flew out of the bedroom window.

Coincidentally, my sister called the following day and I told her about the night. “Oh. She’s probably started teething.” I looked down at Mabel, who was sitting in her high chair with all her toys and chewing on the tray. Either Mabel was trying to gum her way to freedom or my sister was onto something. This was good news. Teething implies that this is a phase. One that lasts several years, but still just a phase. Like finding out that what you thought was dog poo on somebody’s shoes before a five-hour car ride was really just gas. There was hope that I may sleep again.

So I did what anybody who didn’t read books would do, and I called people who read books. Bronwyn said that their son was only in pain for a couple days at a time. OK. I can get behind that. Keith and Meghan said their two boys never had problems teething. That’s not helpful in any way, but good for you. My sense of panic was tempered a bit.

How to handle this new hurdle? We have some chew toys, but Mabel can’t fit them in her mouth. We also didn’t want to just medicate her because we felt like that would make us bad parents. But we didn’t want to let our pretty little girl suffer because of our parental pride, which would make us worse parents. So we bought this awesome five-pronged teether which she seems to enjoy, but since the pacifier in the eye incident, not much progress has been made with her hand to mouth coordination. So in lieu of holding it her mouth for hours on end which seems unreasonable, we decided we could give her baby Tylenol on a very limited basis when we both agreed, making us about half bad parents. But Jenn and I were never on the same page at the same time. Whenever I had reached my breaking point and thought Mabel had had enough, Jenn wasn’t so sure. And vice versa. So the stars have aligned just once so far. And Mabel spit up the entire dose.

Thankfully, since our brief night of panic, Mabel hasn’t been that bad since. Surely nothing to complain to other parents about. She’s made due chewing on Mr. Giraffe and shoving her fingers violently down her throat. However, the motor in her magic swing just burnt out, so we’re hoping her exhaustion outweighs her pain before ours does.

Baby Book Club

My daughter is part of a book club now, which I assume I will also be soon since I think it’s what housewives do. Mabel’s book club is really just a half hour program at the library where we parents can bring our children so that somebody besides us will read to them for a change.

There’s not much I’m sure book club is really good for five-month old kids. It’s nice to have a reason to get out of the house so I don’t have to tell my wife she watched 10 hours of SportsCenter. Also, I read in a memoir by Neal Pollack of the plight of having his son pick out crappy books to read to him at night, so I figured I’d start brainwashing her with stuff I can tolerate early. So I’ve strictly been checking out Dr. Suess books. And I’ve read them so much, now I’m thinking like him now. As I took Mabel for a walk yesterday, I thought to myself for no reason at all “Out in the street, the Everywhere Street, where Everywhere boys kick balls with their feet…” This is apparently common among parents.

All book club is really good for is for parents to network and hopefully I could learn something from them, seeing as how Mabel is one of the youngest there and I still haven’t read any parenting books.

We read a book today, and though I don’t recall the title, it was a captivating tale about a brown bear who saw a red bird who saw a yellow duck and so on. The plot really fell apart when the white dog saw a blue horse who saw a purple cat. I mean, I know it’s fiction, but my belief can only be suspended so far. This is definitely not one I’ll be bringing back home.

After the half hour was up and I had the realization there were still six and a half hours to kill before mommy gets home, I stayed after to socialize with some of the parents who had kids old enough to play with toys. Possibly unprompted, I started bragging about my daughters sleeping abilities because that’s what I have to brag about now. I may have thrown in how I play guitar for her in her swing to lull her to sleep. Subtly, but noticeably. Upon hearing this, one of the mothers (I’m the only guy) said “Wow. Your baby must be one lucky girl to have a father as talented and dedicated as you.” This was a lady who exists solely in my head. An actual lady asked “Why does she sleep in a swing? Does she have acid reflux?”

The actual lady has now assumed that I know a few things. 1) What acid reflux is and how to diagnose it and 2) that a swing would fix that. She obviously thinks I know what I’m doing. Not wanting to shatter that notion, however incorrect, I decided to lie. Well, not really. The answer to the question really is is “Because it works,” but that doesn’t tell the whole story. I just didn’t want her thinking I didn’t know what I was doing. She said something about her daughter’s sleeping habits that sounded innocuous enough and didn’t seem to be intentionally demeaning at all. I still figure it’s best to avoid her in the future should I say something else that prompts any tough questions about things I should probably know already.

So now instead of going there and trying to pick the brains of people who know more than I do, I’m pretending to know more than I do to look like I fit in and I’m going to intentionally avoid the person who seemed most willing to share her knowledge with me.

Parenting is hard.