My wife recently found a crushed spider on the floor of our kitchen and asked me to pick it up. I picked it up with my toes while carrying my baby in my right arm
Baby Dee has always enjoyed the human touch, and after the first few months of sobering tranquility, she decided that she doesn’t like to be left alone for long but wants to see and hear everything with which the parent or relative or friend watching her happens to be involved. Of course, not yet fully mobile but armed with a healthy appetite, the baby has grown to dimensions and mass that make her somewhat challenging to carry around. Stubbornly, having figured out that we are loathe to drop her, she uses her tree-dwelling-primate-strong grip to reach out to grab a cord, utensil, remote control, or whatever might capture her fancy at a particular moment.
Living left handed
So, being profoundly right-handed, I inevitably find myself carrying the baby in my right arm, with some hip support. This leaves me needing to accomplish whatever tasks need to be accomplished using only my less adept left hand.
This leads to two unfortunate trends. First and foremost, things just don’t seem to get done with the quality they used to. Second, with baby in my right arm, I have to be even more careful to avoid letting her unlimited curiosity and ill-developed sense of self-preservation combine to disastrous effect.
Picking up bugs isn’t the only thing that holding a baby in my right arm has interfered with. I learned early on that sending email using a computer, while holding a baby in my right arm, can be somewhat problematic. Years of computer use have made me a rapid typist, but suddenly I am in a position where I have to compose thoughts, answer student questions, and ar
range meetings, using the “hunt and peck” method with only my left hand.
This was a challenge. Many attempts to spell complex words, or to punctuate a sentence properly, led to absurd spelling errors as my left hand, moving into uncharted waters. Colleagues commented on two developments in my e-mail correspondence that followed the baby’s arrival. First, I seemed to be sending a large number of emails at rather early hours of the morning – say, 5:45 am. Baby’s sleep patterns were the obvious explanation. But my e-mails also got shorter – to the point of being perfunctory – because I was compensating for having just my less dexterous left hand available for composition.
And then there is one-handed cooking, I’m sure the subject of some reality television show on the Food Network. I generally prefer baby to be at a safe distance from the hot stove and with her wide, exploring eyes out of range of a lemon I am squeezing. But sometimes she’s not in the mood for a Bumbo chair or isolation behind the walls of her pack-and-play. So trying to crack and egg into a bowl with just my left hand, and I’ve noticed that I don’t always get as much of the egg out of its shell as I used to.
Reality, for better
or for worse
One-handed parenting also causes some nervous moments when baby reaches out with her strong fingers at whatever dangerous implement I’m trying to use with my clumsy left paw. We had a near-miss with a knife during a recent banana-cutting session, which required some hostage-negotiator persuasion to get her to unhand.
Parenting would be so much easier if my wife and I were the multi-limbed beings of science fiction, and fantasy. Though evil, for instance, Spiderman’s nemesis “Doctor Octopus” would be handy to have around with a new one in the home. But this is reality, for better or for worse, so we and baby must make do with the hands we’ve got.
Geoffrey Rapp is a law professor at the University of Toledo and the father of a one-year-old baby girl, “Dee”.