With father’s day this weekend, it seems appropriate to share some advice for parents from a publication that came long before the pretty-darned-hilarious Go the F**k to Sleep that has been in the news and floating around Facebook recently. What Dr. Spock Didn’t Tell Us: Or, A Survival Kit for Parents, was written in 1958 by B. M. Atkinson, Jr. and illustrated by Whitney Darrow, Jr. The book is described as “an encyclopedic guide to hitherto uncatalogued afflictions, aberrations, exotic diseases of the American child,” describing such allusive things as “Butt’s Disease,” “Goat Mouth,” “Serpent’s Tooth,” “McGuffey’s Panic,” and “Vigilante’s Dilemma.” The author learned about such things after his daughter was born. He asked an experienced neighbor (with 5 children) why Dr. Spock hadn’t written about these in his baby book. The neighbor replied “Don’t be silly! If those experts told everything about children, three wouldn’t be any more children, and with out any more children there wouldn’t be any more books about children.” So 15 years and 4 children later, the author put pen to paper to expose the truth. Here’s a sampling:
PAUPER’S POUT. A recurring swelling and protrusion of the lower lip caused by delusions of extreme poverty in which any child insists that she received less allowance than any other child in town. Considered incurable. Always carried over into marriage.
JUDAS’ RECALL. An excruciating malfunction of the memory in which a four-year-old boy will cut loose with an oath that would do credit to a 104-year-old sailor and then, when taken under attack by his mother, will recall that he learned the word from his father, the father knowing damn well he learned it from the milkman. Occurs usually in the presence of guests, one a church worker.
SPAGHETTI LEG. Phenomenon resulting from attempts to put boots on a child, occurring as the parent orders the child to stiffen leg and push. Though the child ordinarily may have the bone structure of a Percheron and calcium deposits enough in each joint to be worth mining, this command to stiffen the leg causes a dissolving of all bones, joints and major muscles in said leg and reduces it to a state of limpness found only in overcooked spaghetti. A mother attempting to force the leg into a boot once it has achieved this jellied state might be more gainfully employed trying to thread a needle with an oyster.
UNIVAC’S QUIRK. An acute selectivity of the memory in which a child is unable to remember a parental command for five minutes but can remember a parental promise for ten years. The command may be leveled at the child in anything from a low roar to a raging bellow: “Quit jumping on that bed!” Five minutes later all will be forgotten and the boy and the bed will again sound like a kangaroo and a trampoline. The parental promise, however, may be made in anything from an unconscious grunt to an absent-minded grumble: “Yeah, four or five years from now Daddy’ll take you camping.” Four years later ~ to the day ~ the child will show up with a frying pan and a bed roll, usually snarling, “You promised!”
VESUVIAN BLADDER. A spectacular urethral expulsion of bodily liquids, resulting from sudden pressure of the bladder. Occurs exclusively among boy babies, usually from one to six months of age, and most often at bathtime when the child is without clothing and lying flat on his back. The expulsion takes the form of an arching stream and may attain a height of six to eight feet. Such heights, however, are rarely achieved, the stream generally arching only a few feet before striking the hovering parent between the eyes or, should the head be turned, in the ear. A new father, thus anointed for the first time, will usually back over a table or out the nearest window. His amazement, however, immediately gives way to parental pride, and for weeks the father will speak of the boy’s feat in terms usually reserved for men who put satellites in orbit.
Happy Fathers Day, all!