With twins on the way, we’re attending baby classes, which are designed to help new parents prepare for the rigors of childrearing. And, bless it, they’re already helping. The classes are expensive as hell and generally located far from your house during rush hour, leaving you broker and more stressed than before. Oh, you are a clever metaphor, aren’t you, baby classes? Next time just have the staff puke on my face and make it less subtle.
Our most recent baby class was for twins, and it was led by a woman who gave birth to twins and who had four kids in a 28-month span and six children total. Which, in LA, is just insane. In Los Angeles one dog = one child anywhere else in America. Two LA kids = four somewhere else kids. Three LA kids = six normal kids. Six LA kids = eighteen Ohio children. It’s the rare parent in LA who births half a dozen humans, but our teacher was able to do it, and she was able to do it because she’s Mary Poppins.
I’m not exaggerating. Her speech and mannerisms were proper. Intentional. Intelligent. She had a foreign accent—from South Africa. She had strong opinions that she was able to express with a single arched eyebrow. She laughed the laugh of a woman who’s been inside a drawing room before. Of course she has six kids. She has a flying umbrella in her closet.
The class was on the second floor of a strip mall, in a playroom for babies. There were a dozen other couples present, all of them expecting twins. One guy arrived 20 minutes before his wife did, and I wanted to point and say, “Hey, look at this guy. The Peyton Manning of dads right here. Early. Good attitude. No complaints. Looks good in chinos. Puts team above self. How about a round of applause?” But I did not, and I am glad I did not because I would have been thrown to the parking lot from the second floor of a strip mall.
We sat on a padded carpet in floor chairs, surrounded by toys and photos of proud graduate babies whose class pictures were thematically organized as TMZ posts and Facebook pages and other clever groupings. Mary Poppins’ job was to walk us through a list of recommended products and practices. For example, she let us know that in the early going we’d be ripping through 160 diapers a week, like we were Congress or something. She was there to both advise and to warn.
“I want to tell you it will all be easy and fun, but that would be a lie,” she said at the top of the two-hour class.
At this point we’ve been warned by friends and loved ones: your old life where you traveled and wore unstained clothes and slept like a normal human being is over. Your new life of deprivation and arguing over whose turn it is to clean the humidifier is just beginning.
I didn’t know if I was going to like her, but Mary Poppins won me over early. When the discussion turned to washing the baby clothes, one woman raised her hand and said, “We live in a condo. It’s nice. But we share a washing machine with our neighbors. I have no idea what they wash in there. Should we run the washing once empty before we wash our baby’s clothes?”
Even I knew the answer to that one. You are going to be so tired you’re going to forget your baby even has clothes. You won’t care what your neighbors wash in the machine before you do. Our neighbors were washing spent uranium rods? Well, are there any rods in there NOW? No? Throw a load in.
The expectant mother who asked seemed very nice and genuinely wanted only the best for her kids. I hoped, for her sake, that Mary Poppins would gently break into song: If it’s a dirty washing machine you fear/Give a wink and tug your ear! But instead, and this was just as effective, she looked at the washing machine woman with the look of “You’ve never been around new parents before, have you?” and smiled and said, “No.”
(And yeah, I get that you should wash a newborn’s clothes with special baby soap, so don’t email me telling me I’m history’s greatest monster for not mentioning that all babies need special soaps that have been approved by Jessica Alba. I sat by Mary Poppins’ knee for two hours. I know some baby stuff.)
When the discussion turned to washing baby bottles, Mary Poppins elicited a few surprised looks when she said, “After a few months, you can just wash the bottles in the dishwasher.” Some of the parents looked at her like, “Oh, no, you didn’t. We registered for the $250 Philip Avent Electric Steam Sterilizer, and we are going to use it until our kids are at least in college.” My wife and me, however, were relieved to hear this, and my own mother later told me, “Yeah, by kid three you just run the bottle under some warm water for a few seconds.”
The most important topic for parents in Los Angeles, though, more so than the fanatical eradication of all germs from planet earth, is hired help. Nannies. Babysitters. Night nurses. Sleep coaches. We were informed that Jamaican nurses flown in from New York City are all the rage in Los Angeles right now.
Apparently Jamaicans are so much cheaper than the local help that the airfare is offset by the low hourly rate. You have to lock them down months in advance, they’re in such high demand. Mary Poppins told us to run any hires by her, because she keeps a list, and we don’t want to hire any of the nannies that “really scare” her. So, apparently, there are nannies out there who scare a woman who birthed four kids in a 28-month span. Great.
We will be getting help from siblings and parents, all of whom we’ll run by Mary Poppins, to make sure they’re not on her list.