My mom and I went to Lincoln, Nebraska today, to visit my brother, his wife, and their five-month-old son. My brother works for a railroad, and Lincoln is the rail yard where he is currently working.
My brother and I are very, very different. So much so that my mother often wonders aloud how she got one of me and one of him. But we try very hard to stay civil, for the sake of our parents. Today we did a pretty good job.
I’m not allowed to post pictures of my nephew anywhere on the internet, but I would if I could, because suffice it to say, he is adorable. He has more hair than most middle-aged men, and was born that way. But that’s a Hunter baby for you. Well, actually, it comes from my mom’s side of the family…my dad was bald as a cueball when he was born. But my Tellez mother has been a Hunter for 42 years. I’m pretty sure the name is hers now, too.
Since becoming a father, my brother has also become a baby expert. I was irritated, and yet amused, at his demeanor. At one point, I was allowed to feed the baby a bottle, and then I proceeded to burp him. My brother approached me and said, “You have to pat his back this way. This is how you burp a baby.” Later, as we sat at Cracker Barrel waiting for our lunch, I was holding the baby and as I switched arms, I accidentally knocked my napkin off the table. My brother clucked his tongue and shook his head, a wry smile on his face, as if to say, “Poor kid. She’s still got so much to learn.”
I wanted to remind him that I started babysitting when I was twelve, and that I worked in a church nursery all through high school. I wanted to tell him that I even babysat in college, even though I had an on-campus job, and two on-campus jobs in my senior year. I wanted to tell him that I had over a decade’s worth of experience burping and holding babies, and that even though I may not pat his son’s back in just this way, I will get the kid to burp one way or another. I wanted to ask him how exactly he thought I funded my habit of buying a CD a week in high school (sometimes two). I wanted to ask him how he thought I paid for my car insurance in high school. I wanted to ask him if he knew that our parents did not hand me the money for these things, that I earned it by playing endless games of Candy Land, by watching endless episodes of Veggie Tales, and by endlessly rocking and yes, burping babies. I wanted to ask him if he remembered what I looked like in high school, because if he did, this would surely be proof that I didn’t come by the money for these things in any sort of unsavory way.
But instead, I just let him think that I just don’t have the chops to be a parent yet (which he’s probably right about that). It wasn’t worth the inevitable squabble that would have ensued if I had let him know that I’m actually not totally incompetent when it comes to taking care of children. But I think he got a clue when the baby randomly spit up all over my shirt, and I calmly asked for a burp cloth instead of running screaming into the bathroom. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.
I smelled like baby puke the rest of the day, but it was worth it.