Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge



photo-51My niece Lola was born the same day Michael Jackson died. I’m still secretly hoping that, by some cosmic accident, she may have inherited some of MJ’s singing and dancing abilities. So far, though, there’s little to suggest that she has. She naps a lot. Tends to shit herself on a fairly routine basis. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our accidents. But this girl shits herself, like, ten times a day. It’s embarrassing.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that babies don’t really fall within my area of expertise. In fact, before Lola was born, the number of babies in my circle of acquaintances was zilch. (Nothing against babies, we just tend to have different interests.) But over the past month I’ve been spending quite a bit of time around this one. Studying her M.O. Seeing what makes her tick. After the jump: the Shocking Baby Expose Every Adult Must Read.1. Contrary to popular belief, women do not go crazy for men with babies. I know, I’m dumbfounded too. But films and television have lied to us. The whole thing is a con. Last week I wheeled Lola around the Jervis Shopping Centre for about thirty minutes while my sister was in MotherCare. Not a single female approached to fawn over either of us. And when I thought about it later, I realised the reason for this. When a woman sees a man with a baby, she assumes he’s it’s father. Obviously.

What I need is a t-shirt that says “World’s Greatest Uncle: Responsible? Yes. Sensitive? Fuck, yes. But responsible for the upkeep of this child for the next twenty or so years? Uh-uh. Not me.”

2. Nappy changing is an ordeal that demeans both parties. Changing a baby’s dirty nappy is disgusting. Nothing earth-shattering in that, I’ll grant you. But the fact that the child continues crying even as you’re wiping excrement from its arse is definitely, definitely not endearing. My attitude is, look kid, first you shat yourself. Now you’re crying, literally, like a baby. I step in to try and help you out in your predicament and you immediately piss all over me. Seriously? Have you no self-respect?

3. East European women know a shitload about babies. So I’m in the Jervis Centre and Lola and I are on about our twentieth lap of the place. And we’re getting nothing. So I get to thinking, well, she is a very small child. Underneath all those layers of blankets, you’d hardly know she’s there. Maybe people think I’m just a nutcase pushing an empty pram around a shopping centre. So I decide to take her out of the pram, pick her up, flash her about the place a bit – see does that drum up any interest.

Baaam – this Polish lady immediately comes over. But she’s not hitting on me, unfortunately, she’s telling me that I’m not holding the child the right way. That if I hold her the way I’m holding her, I might end up breaking her neck or something. My sister would probably have killed me had that happened. So I thank her for the tip. Later my sister tells me that one time, when Lola had been crying non-stop for about an hour, the Lithuanian woman who cleans her apartment walked over and just stared at the baby. She was instantly silent and slept for the next three hours (which, in baby hours, is about three and a half weeks.)

4. First time mother’s are insanely over protective. Shortly after Lola was born, my sister attempted to cut her fingernails. On the very first finger, she grazed Lola’s finger slightly. It was very, very minor – there was no blood, nothing. But my sister felt so guilty she wouldn’t do it again. Which was fine except the nails kept growing. After a couple of week’s Lola was starting to resemble a mini Howard Hughes. Worse still, when hungry, she had a habit of flailing wildly with her hands, often lacerating her own face in the process.

My three week old niece was self-harming, basically. And I wasn’t about to waited until she started bringing home My Chemical Romance albums before taking action. After a quick Google search, I discovered that the finger nail problem was not at all unusual. On Yahoo Answers someone asked:

Our little guy is 12 days old now, and since birth he has been scratching himself up pretty good. We put socks over his hands, but it is making his hands sweaty and dry. My girlfriend is worried about trimming his nails too short and hurting him… What should we do?

First up, a sane person replied:

…the first time you cut the nails you will nip the skin because the skin is somewhat attached to the nail. It usually only happens the first time and after that its smooth sailing.

Then a first time mother chipped in:

The guilt of my son feeling pain crushed me… From then on I would take a wash cloth and wash his hands with baby bath and then…yes im going to say it…bit his nails. It was the only thing that made me feel safe

She bit her son’s fingernails… WTF!? Worse again, when I show this to my sister she actually thought this sounded like a good idea. In the end, I took to waiting until mother and baby were both asleep and cutting them myself with a mini clippers.

5. Insanely over protective first time mother’s are also insanely gullible. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer is a book someone gave my sister as a present. It’s subheading “How to calm, connect and communicate with your baby” gives you some idea of what’s it’s about. (And I should stress that my sister does not subscribe to any of the theories herein.) It’s got this amazing glossary that first time parents are supposed to refer to, presumably while their child is screaming, kicking and projectile pissing all over them.

Turns to one side and cranes neck back (mouth agape) = Hungry

The appearance of a scream but no sound comes out; finally, a gasp precedes an audible wail = Has wind or other pain

Bottom lip quivers = Cold

Curls tongue at sides = Hungry

Plays with fingers = Needs change of scenery

And my personal favourite…

Grimacing, may also start to pant, roll her eyes, and make an expression that resembles a smile = Has wind or other pain; or is having a bowl movement

Yeah, well I know my money is on… Unfortunatley, this wonderful book doesn’t have an entry for Lola’s signature movement, so I’ve had to fill it in myself based on my own observations:

Screams, gargles, smiles slyly, farts, pivots and starts screaming = Vague existential angst

New Adventures in Babysitting is to be continued…

July 24th, 2009.


  1. Paul Says:

    The biting fingernails thing isn’t all that weird to me, as a new dad I ended up doing the same thing until I had a bit more confidence with the mini clippers! I didn’t swallow them or anything, though. That would be weird all right.

  2. Eoin Says:

    Nah, I dunno, I think it’s too weird. Yeah, it hurts to cut the child’s nails the first time but, fuck it, a bit of pain won’t kill them. They spend 90% of their waking hours crying anyway, so what difference does it make?

  3. Eoin Says:

    P.S. If you’d told me a month ago I’d be getting into child-care arguments online, I would not have believed you. I’m actually writing this on my iPhone in the media box at the U2 concert – that’s how obsessed about this I’ve become (and also how indifferent I am to U2…)

  4. Gemma Says:

    Biting your babies fingernails? Uuuuuuuuh……… gross

  5. Rosemary Says:

    If you think about it like yer one from Circle of Friends, biting a baby’s fingernails is better than sex, which (a) made the baby in the first place and (b) is – and this is a quote – “like sticking your finger up someone else’s nose”. Anyway someone once told me that you’re supposed to bite your baby’s fingernails, and who am I to question inherited wisdom, however questionable that wisdom may be? Tip for the top, though: don’t ever try to bite somebody else’s baby’s fingernails. It just won’t go down well.

  6. Eoin Says:

    Posted this on Friday. On Saturday, when Lola asleep and my sister in the other room, I cut her nails again. Nine of them successfully, but on the tenth I cut the tip of her finger. Felt so guilty – there was actual blood this time.

    Now I’m totally at sea. Feck it, maybe biting them is the way to go. But if someone came in the room all of a sudden and you were biting the baby’s fingernails, I still think that’s really, really weird.

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  12. Alex Says:

    “a mini Howard Hughes”? Brilliant!

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