"Take my hand off to never never land." -Metallica
He's the greatest relief pitcher in history. Always comes through when it counts. Shrugs off the stress, demands, and expectations of the job. I'm not talking about Mariano Rivera, the main reason the Yankees won four World Series in five years. He has been usurped of his role as best closer ever. That title now belongs to me.
Call me 'Mr. Automatic' because when I'm in the game, you can turn out the lights. The party's over. Mariano's got nothing on me. I am the one they call in to put the kid to sleep. Gotta go to Mo? No. Gotta go to me.
My wife is the pitcher who eats all of the innings. She takes the hill every time she is asked. Bad back. Sore nipple. Exhaustion. Doesn't matter. She's on the mound firing away. Giving us her best. That's all she's capable of giving. She is the ace of our staff who keeps us in the game, and hands the lead over to me to close it out.
My job is the pressure-packed ninth inning. Closing time. Send the fans home happy. If I come through, there won't be any back page headlines in the tabloids that read "Father Failure" or "Daddy Didn't."
But the fallout when I blow a save is far more severe than millions of people reading a newspaper article that chronicles my failure. The consequence is the Peanut transforms from a sweet little angel to what I have termed "The Screamin' Demon." Her face morphs from soft and cherubic to jagged and angry. And it can happen in an instant, like a two-out rally. Then a once quiet evening becomes very long and sleep-deprived.
Be warned. You don't want to meet the Screamin' Demon. She is Chucky from 'Child's Play' drunk on red bull and vodka. Thrashing. Grunting. Grumbling. Not just crying. Blood-curdling. I don't even know who this person is.
Luckily, those nights are few and far between. There are actually some nights when the game's a blowout, and the closer isn't needed. I have to admit I'm both disappointed and a little relieved when that happens. For the most part, when I get home from work and settle in at about 11:30 PM, the baby, the game, is in my hands. That allows mommy to get a few hours of much-needed sleep.
The Peanut is still a little alert when I get her. I take that opportunity to love her, talk to her, sing to her, give her a quick rundown of the headlines of the day. Then she starts to get that glazed-over look. The same look I get when there's a priest who doesn't speak very good English giving the homily at church.
So when I see those droopy eyes, I turn off the charm, and start to warm up in the bullpen. Seriously, they should bottle what I got and sell it at CVS. I am human Sominex.
The first step is to wrap her tightly in a swaddle. I'm talking spandex on John Candy tight. God rest his portly soul. That way, she can't inadvertently punch herself in the face. Did you, like me, have an older brother growing up who was so relentless he made the dentist's chair seem like a week in Waikiki? Makes Wayne from "The Wonder Years" look like Wally Cleaver? Trust me, nothing makes you feel more like a schmuck on wheels than punching yourself in the face.
Next, we turn the stuffed little burrito onto her side, and hold her so she can't go anywhere. Oh, she fights it at first, making noises like an Olympic weightlifter going for the gold. Hold fast. She'll settle down eventually.
If she's still crying, and loudly, then we need a distraction. This isn't time to sing her a soothing lullaby. This is time for the heavy artillery. The point is to make a noise loud enough that overpowers her crying. That way, she'll hear it, focus on it, and calm down. My first attempt: a loud SHHHHHHH right in her ear. That usually works in a matter of seconds. Her scrunched up face will loosen up, revealing those big blue eyes. The shushing imitates the womb. That's why she likes it. Make womb for baby. It was loud in there. She doesn't want quiet. She needs noise.
To keep her in her trance-like state, and subsequently get her to sleep, that's where the Great Space Coaster we call the glider chair comes in. Get on board. Step inside. Soaring for a magic ride.
To test her state of sleepiness, I'll stop the shushing. If she starts to stir, I turn it back on again. If not, I eventually stop the rocking to see if she's in a deep sleep. The next stop: the bassinet for her, the bed for me.
I don't want to make you believe this is easy. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of repetition, and a lot of drinking water to treat the dry mouth from all of that shushing. And when she's in a really bad mood, which is at least once a week, that's when I pull out all the stops. I head to the bathroom. That's right, the bathroom.
That's where there are two shushing devices that blow my puckered lips out of the water. The bathroom fan, and the hair dryer. So imagine the scene: I'm standing in the middle of the bathroom, with just the fan turned on, holding my screaming daughter in one hand, swinging my torso from side to side. (Great workout for the obliques.) In my other hand, the hair dryer. High-powered shushing. I'm a madman on a mission.
You're no match for me, my cuddly little nemesis. Call a cab. By 12:30 AM the latest, it's time to go home. Enter sandman. Bring me a dream. My work here is done. We'll do it again tomorrow. Unless, of course, it's a blowout.
*I cannot take credit for the techniques mentioned above. For more information, check out "The Happiest Baby On The Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp. Highly recommended reading for first-time parents.