It's very early, still dark out, and I'm on the living-room floor, trying to simultaneously sleep and play with my 6-month-old daughter, Sophie. She goes to bed at 7:30 p.m., so by 5:30 a.m., she's wide awake and raring to go.
That's not a figure of speech: Sophie gets up on her hands and knees in her crib and literally rares until a sleep-deprived parent stumbles in there and picks her up. Then it's time for fun!
When I'm the parent in charge, the first fun thing I do is change Sophie's diaper.
Lately this makes me nervous, because of an article from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, sent in by many alert readers, stating that an apartment in Ennis, Tex., caught fire when a soiled diaper left in a plastic bag on a hot patio released methane gas, which caused the bag to "erupt into flames.'' If a single diaper, under the right conditions, can cause that to happen, then our house is potentially a nuclear doody bomb.
By the time I finish changing Sophie, it's 5:33 a.m. The morning is flying by! Next I try to feed her some "solid food,'' defined as "food that is not solid, and probably not food.'' It comes from those pranksters at Gerber, who shove everything they can get hold of -- peas, beets, pears, rutabagas, pepperonis, turkeys, goats, squirrels, squids, ceiling tiles, etc. -- into a blender, then squirt the resulting glop into tiny jars, which are labeled with names like "Protein Medley.''
I have an efficient feeding technique, and within a few minutes, every last spoonful of that glop is somewhere in Sophie's hair. I aim for her mouth, but she moves too fast. Sophie will try to eat virtually any random thing she finds on the floor, including a dead cockroach, but she draws the line at baby food.
Now it's 6 a.m. -- time to play! This is where, as a parent, you want to be creative, to stimulate your child's mind and help her develop intellectually. So I turn on the TV. My plan is that Sophie will be so fascinated that she won't notice I'm sleeping.
The thing is, Sophie doesn't pay attention to the TV. She's busy rolling around the floor, exploring her environment, as her brain learns to perform the incredibly complex set of functions we call human thought ("Maybe THIS will fit into my mouth! Maybe THIS will fit into my mouth! Maybe THIS will...'').
Meanwhile, despite my sleepiness, I find myself watching the TV, especially a show called ``Teletubbies,'' which is strangely compelling. For example, in a recent episode, Dipsy, who is the second-biggest Teletubby, was wearing his black-and-white hat, which is his favorite thing, when suddenly, for no apparent reason, there was this explosion -- POOF -- and Dipsy's hat was ... very small! So Dipsy went around to Laa Laa, Po and Tinky Winky, and they seemed pretty uninterested, except to say, quote: ``Dipsy hat too small.'' This surprised Dipsy. ``Dipsy hat too small?'' he kept asking, as though he could not grasp this concept, even though his hat looked like this little black-and-white forehead wart.
Just when Dipsy was starting to come to grips with the reality that his hat was too small, POOF it was ... very big! The brim was down around Dipsy's waist. He looked like he was being eaten by a mutant airborne cow. So Dipsy AGAIN went around to Laa Laa, Po and Tinky Winky, and they -- instead of telling him to get this hat to an exorcist -- merely said: ``Dipsy hat too big.'' While Dipsy was trying to absorb THAT, there was another POOF, and Dipsy's hat was ... normal! As Laa Laa, Po and Tinky Winky put it, in another example of sparkling dialogue: ``Dipsy hat just right.''
At this point I was totally absorbed in the plot. I wanted to discuss it with somebody.
"Sophie!'' I said. "Dipsy hat just right!''
But Sophie had rolled away and was exploring something under the sofa ("... Maybe THIS will fit into...''). I was actually glad she wasn't watching. I don't think it's healthy for babies to be exposed to a world where demons possess your clothing and your friends don't care.
Also, on "Teletubbies,'' the sun is portrayed as a giant baby head, looking down from the sky and laughing.
This is disturbing. If there's a giant baby head, there's a giant baby butt, right? Who's disposing of THAT diaper? Think about it! I think about it a LOT, lying on the carpet. And that's not the only alarming thing about children's TV shows. I also have come to suspect that the person inside the Barney suit is, in fact, L. Ron Hubbard. I have my reasons. I'd explain them, but Sophie's chewing something.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.
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