*Not for real. Sorry to get your hopes up, Mom and Dad.
Fatherhood is a scary proposition. My ineptitude at caring for pets has been well documented, but the thought of raising an actual human being in my current state gives me nervous sweats, similar to that one time I ate cold penne alla vodka at a street fair. (Pro tip: Never do that.) The closest I’ve come to fatherhood so far was raising a Tamagotchi. In case Late ‘90s Toy Crazes isn’t one of your preferred Jeopardy! Categories, allow me to elaborate – a Tamagotchi was a digital game in the shape of a small egg, in which the player would have to raise a digital animal-like blob by feeding it pixel food and showering it with pixel love. Yes, it was technically a pet, but with the way I begged my parents that Christmastime, you would have thought it was my life’s new mission.
When I was fortunate enough to receive my very own Tamagotchi, I was obsessed – for about a day and a half. Then I realized that my idealized dream of raising my very own digital being didn’t sync up with reality. You were expected to press buttons all day long and check your Tamagotchi’s happiness and health meters every fifteen minutes to ensure they didn’t dip too low. My Tamagotchi, which I never got around to naming, quickly became too high-maintenance, and after two short weeks, he had a quick, painless, digital death. I’m just hoping it was painless – I don’t really know what the original Japanese game makers had intended beyond traumatizing a nation of twelve-year-olds by showing the extreme consequences of neglectful parenting.
So I thought I could have a redo for my final manly challenge. I could honor the memory of my late, great, anonymous Tamagotchi by not making the same mistakes again. But of course I would need a practice baby first. I don’t think I’m ready for the big leagues just yet.
In her health class this past year, my sister had to carry around a ten-pound bag of flour and treat it as she would a newborn. The instructions for the exercise warn the newly christened mother or father to keep the baby safe at all times, to show the baby love and affection, and to never let it out of your sight, lest you be accused of child abuse. The instructions also reminded the students to give the bag of flour construction paper arms and legs.
I graduated from high school ten years ago and have learned a great many things since then – 49 things, to be exact. This should be an easy A. The hardest part of the exercise initially seems to be simply finding a ten-pound bag of flour. I have to visit four different stores until I come across the correct weight, but the one I finally find does have a picture of a toddler on it, confirming this particular bag as my destiny.
Despite my pained effort in locating a flour baby, I let him or her live as an amorphous blob on my kitchen table for a couple of days – a lack of commitment foreshadowed by my history of Tamagotchi parenting. On the third day, I finally feel guilty enough to work on the transformation. As I wrap the first piece of duct tape around his base, a tiny cloud of flour spits out of his head. I feel a jolt of panic, which seems ridiculous at first, but then I realize that my panic shows I’m beginning to care about my flour baby. It’s actually a touching moment as I wound my powdery offspring. I cut out paper legs and arms and even give the little buddy a blue baseball cap. Peter Jr. is starting to grow on me.
Nearly anyone else would be a better source on fatherhood than me, but since I doubt many people have been face-to-face with a flour baby, I can speak with some authority on the subject. Flour babies bring out your worst qualities. I didn’t give my flour child a face, arms, or legs for three whole days. I’m lazy. I am late to work every day this week because I wait until the last possible moment to pack Peter Jr. in his carrier (read: Urban Outfitters shopping bag). I am bad at time management. I had a cramp in my side each day I walked to the train with him. I am out of shape. My flour baby won’t let me forget any of my weaknesses.
Want to read more? You’ve reached the end of the preview, but the full text of this entry and many more can be found in my book, BE A MAN: How I Spent One Year Drinking, Shaving, Farming, and Fathering My Way Toward Masculinity.
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