We are being reintroduced to infants, via a new crop of grandchildren.
It takes some relearning, but the essentials remain fairly obvious.
About eight months ago, Wyatt Michael became the newest New Jerseyite, much cuter than Gov. Chris Christie, of course.
About one month ago, Cody Michael popped into the population of Erie, Pa.
I got confused. Imitating my mother's hilarious names-mangling during the last decade of her life, I started referring to Wyatt as Cody and to Cody as Wyatt.
"Whoady," I thought. "That is a sensible solution. I shall call them both "Whoady."
The Good Life
Please note. I no longer do call them "Whoady." The nickname has been ... umm ... disapproved.
"WHAT did you say?" my wife will ask, alert and annoyed. I meekly reply with either "Cody" or "Wyatt," desperately hoping that I have affixed the correct monitor to the child being discussed.
Of themselves, they are delightful, these newest additions to our families, furnished respectively by the older of my wife's two sons and by the younger of my two daughters (and their spouses, of course).
Wyatt is blond, bubbly and, at this stage, excitedly loud, as in "Wooagggghhh!" and "Glaglumpa!" Cody is darker in hair and skin and, as befits his age, is simpler in language, confined chiefly to "Coo," or "Waaahhhhh!"
About the children themselves, there is not a lot to relearn. I have raised six children; my wife has raised three. These two increase the Christmas gift list for grandchildren to a total of 16.
We know the drill.
Stuff goes in one end, stuff gets cleaned off the other end. In between, there is holding, much baby talk (by the adults, not the babies), vehement insistence that whichever one's photo pops up on our computers' screen savers at any given moment is the cutest, most amazing, most adorable infant in the world, if not in the entire universe.
Babies don't change a whole lot down through the years.
It's the stuff that comes with them that leaves me bemused, all thumbs and bewildered.
The baby-carrier thingie clips right into the car seat. No need to take the baby out of it. Just find the release latches - without permanently injuring your already tender back - and lift out baby and carrier.
No, no. Don't try to put the baby into the stroller. The baby-carrier thingie clips into the stroller thingie, with or without the aforementioned back-wrecking searches.
There is likewise no longer a need for adults downstairs to hold up a hand, motioning for quiet, while the conversation ceases in order to listen to hear whether the baby, asleep upstairs, is stirring. Electronic monitors provide audible feeds and even video - viewable on "smart" telephones, except by "dumb" grandfathers who won't buy that newest electronic gizmo and must therefore still tiptoe around the corner to peek in at the sleeping infant. That's more fun, anyway.
There are even baby drying racks, not for clothing but for bottles, bottle brushes, infant-medication syringes and dozens of other things that weren't available even a generation ago when our now-twentysomething grandchildren were infants.
My daughter is facing a move later this month, to be with her Army-lieutenant husband during a four-month-long school in Virginia.
The adults' clothing can fit nicely into one vehicle. But might be a good thing that her father-in-law is a long distance truck driver, because it could take a 66-footer to lug the baby stuff. I counted four he-can-sleep-here things in Cody's apartment last week, not including the crib. The playpen hasn't yet been unpacked.
Babies R Us, I am told, can be a day-long shopping experience.
And we haven't even touched upon the clothing. No more pins. What is stinky or soggy is promptly thrown away, not tiresomely rinsed in a toilet bowl preparatory to being washed and reused. Rubber pants? They're as rare as four-buckle Arctic galoshes.
I'm not belittling today's gear. These things take a lot of the peripheral work out of caring for infants, leaving more time for active parenting (or grandparenting). I wish many of these things had been available when I was an active primary child-raiser. And there are stabs of cold fear as I retroactively understand the risks we took, all unknowing, from stomach-sleeping infants to head-catching crib slats to imprecisely mixed or sterilized formula and foods.
But for those who haven't been immersed in babyhood for a while, a warning. Don't just plan to walk in, say goodbye to the adults, and then babysit. It takes as much pre-training today to master the gadgetry as it would take to spin a replacement chair leg on a friend's wood lathe, if you hadn't used a lathe since shop class in high school.
The babies themselves? They are delightful. I can feel my lips pursing in the familiar shapes for spouting nonsense syllables. And they are both Einsteins, way ahead of themselves. Don't tell me that either one of them merely just burped, either; on my last visits, from both children, I distinctly heard "Grandpa!"
We both giggled. Happily, for grandparents and infants alike, giggling hasn't changed a bit.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.