Last week, my wife Fitzsimmons found a moms’ website with a tip to help me break through the bottlefeeding barrier with our son Sam. He feeds well when she’s nursing, but so far he’s refused to take a bottle from me. What she told me was – feed Sam while walking. What I heard was ‘Feed Sam while Walken.’
“Hello, little man,” I say, sweeping up our three-month-old son and striding round the apartment wearing a Baby Bjorn kid-carrier and a deranged expression. “Boy, I sure heard a bunch about you.”
Sam doesn’t look too convinced about this Tarantino-lite and looks in vain for his mom, who’s disappearing into the kitchen lest she distract from Daily Bottlefeeding. No, today is the day that bottle trumps breast. Today he drinks, whether out of hunger or because he’s so freaked out by my Christopher Walken impersonation. I’ve got him whichever way he chooses, I figure cockily, either the carrot or the schtick.
“Your daddy carried this bottle with him for five long years,” I tell Sam, manically brandishing an ounce of fresh milk. In reality, I’ve tried to bottlefeed him for six weeks, but it feels longer. Today, as ever, he’s not biting.
“He hid it in the one place he knew.” Old Sam gets the anatomically edited version of Pulp Fiction, even if my fruitless feeding of my son is indeed a pain in the ass.
“If any other baby saw this bottle, it’d be confiscated. But the way I see it, this bottle is your birthright.”
Sam looks at the bottle warily, then up at me. He hasn’t heard this before, this level of entreaty. Or maybe it’s my accent, am I stressing the wrong words sufficiently? My Walken’s starting to sound Welsh. No wonder the poor kid looks terrified. Still, I’m in too deep now to stop. I need a dramatic finish, I need to give it more cowbell.
“And I’ll be damned if any kids are gonna put their drooly hands on my boy’s birthright.”
Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. So this is where it’s led, emotional blackmail with an infant using Pump Fiction. It’s no consolation that all the traditional methods have failed, from milk-warming to music-playing, lap-rocking to lip-tickling. After a month of feeding fiascos amid rubber seals and silicone nipples, I feel less like a parent than Inflatable Dad. One day he’ll drink, I think, one day he’ll crack. Or I will.
“It’s not working,” I say to Fitzsimmons, as I hand over the hungry boy. Sam looks across at me implacably, a tiny hunger striker eating away at my parenting reserves. My wife arranges him expertly across her lap and pulls down a shoulder strap. Within four seconds, Sam is attached and feeding. The injustice. The ingratitude. The swine.
“Either it’s the bottle,” I say, “or it’s me.” I am careful not to mention Walken, or my Fatboy Slim shimmy in front of the hallway mirror.
“No, you’re doing well,” she says loyally. “We still have time to experiment.”
Her maternity leave ends in six weeks and I’m getting desperate. When she goes back to work part-time, it’s up to me to bottlefeed Sam in the mornings. Today was my last hope, my last inspired shortcut to father-son bonding. Play-acting Walken has been fun, despite the failure, but this is serious. What now? Either I learn fast or it’s Honey, I Shrunk The Kid. Fitzsimmons sees my hopeless expression and tries to reassure me.
“Maybe it’s the bottle,” she says. “Maybe you should try a different brand?”
But I’m not listening, I’m daydreaming. Now there’s an idea. Brando.