by Mike Todd

When the dental hygienist gives you a hard time about your lack of flossing, you just say, “Flossing? I have a baby. I’m lucky my shoes match.”

“Oh, pooch, I’m so sorry,” I said to my dog Memphis as she pressed against my shins, cowering as if she had done something wrong. We’d just strolled out into the street for our nightly walk, an event that we usually both enjoy, or at least we do when we aren’t wearing shock collars that should have been removed 20 feet ago.

While I once had some misgivings about hooking up our dog to a system that is designed to treat her like a bug zapper treats a moth, I’m now a huge fan. Memphis has freedom that she’d never otherwise have, and she never tests the boundaries. The system works perfectly, if operated by a non-moron. At least I assumed that it would.

I’d take full blame for not snapping off the collar for her invisible fence before taking her off our property, but really, if we’re being honest, the dog should never have trusted me.  She knows that my brains are slowly turning into strained carrots.

Our normal routine had been shaken up minutes earlier, as I’d made several trips back to the house to drag appliance-sized boxes out beside the trash can, boxes that once contained the gigantic plastic monstrosities that now inhabit our living room.

One of the worst symptoms of baby-having syndrome, besides thinking that everyone wants to hear stories, see pictures, watch YouTube clips and read newspaper columns about your baby, is that every square inch of floor space in your house gets occupied by things that end in “-eroo.” Bounceroos, jumperoos, this-cost-$150-but-your-kid-would-rather-play-with-empty-Doritos-bageroos, those kinds of things.
Our seven-month-old son, Evan, now has more furniture than we do. Admittedly, my memory from that era is a little spotty, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have nearly this many gigantic plastic monstrosities when I was his age. Back then, kids just stared at the wall, waiting for Super Mario Brothers to be invented.

Last year, my buddy Josh called to complain after he’d spent all afternoon assembling a huge plastic activity center for his son. “Dude, this stupid thing came in 700 pieces. I had to bust out a screwdriver and everything,” he said.

“You have a screwdriver?” I asked. Josh is a computer whiz, but he has less experience using tools than your average chimpanzee.

“Go ahead and make fun, but you’ll understand someday,” he said.

Someday is here, and while it might take all day to put one of these things together, if you want respect, you’d be better off playing guitar in Times Square in your underpants.  Nobody is ever going to say, “Oh, man, you built that Fischer-Price jumperoo all by yourself? I had no idea you were such a stud!”

Whether or not getting distracted by the baby stuff was a sufficient excuse for getting the dog shocked is a matter for debate, one that I’d lose, but it does go to show that there’s hardly anything for which having a baby doesn’t at least supply a plausible excuse.

When the dental hygienist gives you a hard time about your lack of flossing, you just say, “Flossing? I have a baby. I’m lucky my shoes match.”

When you show up an hour late for dinner with your friends, you just point at the 30-pound car seat that you’re lugging through the door, and they immediately understand. I mean, they would hypothetically understand, if you ever saw your friends anymore.

As far as Memphis was concerned, no excuses were necessary. One Milk-Bone and several apologies later, all was forgiven. I’ll have to be on my toes from here on out, though.  You mess up with a dog, it costs you a biscuit. You mess up with a kid, you just might have to build a plastic castle where your dining room table used to be.