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    Even at 17, he'll always be her baby
    by Jason Offutt


    The Baby's one year old. I know this, my family knows this, and if my wife weren't in some alternate reality where diapers are never dirty and breastfeeding is forever, she'd know this, too.

    So why did I have to go and mention the T-word?

    "He's a toddler now," I said, not realizing how close I was to being stupid.

    "Shut up," she said, pulling The Baby closer to her as if the mention of the T-word would shoot him straight into puberty, a Camaro and some floozy named Daphne. "He is not. He's my baby."

    I smiled at her, which is one of the big no-nos listed in Chapter 12, paragraph 7, of the "Things Not to do to a Cornered Lioness," second edition: "Don't poke her with a sharp stick, don't make eye contact, and no matter what, don't bare your teeth. Oh, and don't tell the cub what a big boy he is unless being mauled by a lion fulfills a gang initiation."

    "He's walking now, sort of," I went on, creeping ever closer to the cliff of idiots. "So, he's toddling, right? That makes him a toddler."

    She frowned.

    "It's your fault," she said.

    There's a Mom rule that states if she doesn't notice the baby growing up, he never will. Translated into Guyese, this simply means he'll never play football if mom has anything to say about it.

    "My fault?" I asked. "How is our son becoming a toddler my fault?"

    Everything in life can be broken down to a game. With relationships, it's a strategic game like checkers. With marriage, it's a random game like Sorry! where the husband gets his pegs knocked off the board for any reason at any time.

    With parenting it's Simon Says, better known as stay the hell out of Mom's way unless you receive signed orders from the top.

    Dads, we didn't design this game, we don't have control over it, and if you know what's best for you, you'll go work on something in the garage -- right now.

    The game's not fair. Nope, not fair at all.

    "Honey," I said, running my hand through our son's never-before cut blonde hair that has slowly crept over his eyes. "He'll always be your baby. Even when he's 17 years old and stands a head taller than you, he'll still be your baby."

    "Really?" she said, starting to smile.

    "Yeah," I said, combing The Baby's hair behind his ears. "But right now I think he needs a haircut."

    It's amazing how a just-resolved argument can start all over again . . .

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    Jason Offutt is a humor columnist and college journalism instructor. In Jason's career he has been a newspaper editor, general assignment reporter, photographer, consultant, bartender, farm hand and the mayor of a small midwestern town. For an autographed copy of his new book titled On Being Dad, contact the author at Jasonoffutt@hotmail.com.

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