Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Election Night Shrinkage

In my book The Daddy Shift, I reported research that shows men’s testosterone levels rise and fall in response to what's happening in their lives and environment. Having a child lowers testosterone; so does losing a tennis match.

Now comes a new study providing more evidence of a link between testosterone and social cues. The night to the 2008 presidential election, it seems there was a a dramatic drop in testosterone for men who voted for McCain or the Libertarian candidate, whoever that was.

"In contrast, men who voted for the winner, Democrat Barack Obama, had stable testosterone levels immediately after the outcome," says the press release for the study. "Female study participants showed no significant change in their testosterone levels before and after the returns came in."

"This is a pretty powerful result," said Duke neuroscientist Kevin LaBar. "Voters are physiologically affected by having their candidate win or lose an election."

In a post-election questionnaire, the McCain and Barr backers were feeling significantly more unhappy, submissive, unpleasant and controlled than the Obama voters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Economics of Potty Training

Stickers as the Basic Unit of Exchange Value


Potty training, when you really think about it, is applied economics. Sure, I could make jokes about toxic assets and deposit banking, or diapers as a form of moral hazard, but what I'm talking about here is the creation of value, the function of currencies, and rational calculations of profit and loss. If the field of economics is to survive the ongoing market debacle, it will behoove the profession to get back to brass tacks, as it were, and ground such basic concepts of these in the behavior of real people, not computer models based on the herd behavior of androids and coded by physics PhD's.

This is why my son Spot and I offer you an empirical case study on the economics of potty training, based on data collected in my bathroom.

The Case: Potty Training and Sticker Inflation

We did not invent the use of stickers as a type of currency. Stickers have been used to incent toddler behavior as long as we can remember, probably since the dawn of adhesives. Like gold or precious stones, stickers have an intrinsic value to the toddler's eye. So the first step in potty training is to establish a standard of value between a certain amount of potty production, and a certain number of stickers. In our study, this standard was 1 : 1, or, 1 sticker to 1 poop or 1 pee-pee.

Prior to this step, poop has no value. Suddenly, it is worth one sticker, and if he pees, maybe two. The basis for exchange has been created, and through the miracle of economics, poop has become a commodity.

Problems only arise when Spot exits this closed system and spends the morning with Grandpa. Grandpa, despite our best efforts to persuade him otherwise, does not adhere to our standard of value. Instead of maintaining a 1:1 ratio of labor to remuneration, he demonstrates an utter lack of discipline and rewards Spot four, five, or six stickers for every session on the potty. The inexorable result is sticker inflation.

Grandpa displays all the characteristics of an inflationary central banker. Stickers flow like water. Instead of issuing them himself, Grandpa lets Spot take as many stickers as he wants. He keeps the sticker sheets on the coffee table where Spot can get at them, in effect letting the fox into the hen house. On any given morning, Spot would return with what looked like permanent tattoos on both arms. What we observe in Grandpa's case is clearly a case of hyperinflation, and as a result, the rate of exchange for poop fluctuates wildly between households.

We determined that Grandpa's hyperinflationary sticker regime, therefore, was undermining our own domestic potty training economy. A standard of value of 1 sticker to 1 poop or 1 pee-pee was no longer generating an incentive for Spot at home. He was listless and irritable. Grandpa's inflation was "bleeding over" into our system, poop was now worth far more at Grandpa's house than in ours, and Spot was not happy with the imbalance.

At first, though Grandpa recognized the problem, he failed to perceive the correct solution, and proposed that we abandon stickers as currency and replace them with something else, such as crayons. We argued in response that this would only result in the same inflationary spiral. The only solution, as he came to appreciate, was to resume control of sticker issuance, and to clamp down hard on the money supply. Ultimately this is what happened, and stability returned to the inter-household sticker-poop exchange rate.


Spot is now almost fully potty trained. The sticker regime, over a period of six to eight months -- despite the episode of Grandpa's hyperinflation -- helped to construct a successful regime of incentives for sitting on the potty.

The sticker economy has served its purpose, and has now been largely surpassed. Because he has advanced from potty training, the most basic stage of economic rationality, Spot now covers his entire body with stickers in no relation to his pooping labors, while having absorbed the following important economic lessons: that the origin of economic value is in poop, that poop can function like money, and that the value of poop must be closely managed so as to avoid destabilizing and demoralizing inflationary episodes.

The Onion: How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son

How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son

Monday, October 26, 2009

Urban Butterflies

Here's a little video my friend Axel put together about our "Bees and Butterflies" group, which involved a group of almost 20 San Francisco families to explore the life-cycles of bees and butterflies, and to introduce basic ecological concepts to our kids. That's me in the goofy brown and green sweater, reading a customized version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar; that's my wife talking about the puppet show we did at our local farmers' market. Want to start your own neighborhood group? My pal Olivia Boler describes how we did it over at

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Obsessive. Compulsive. Dad.

My wife Fitzsimmons has decided that at four months, Sam needs a routine. “All the books recommend it,” she says airily. I’m worried. Routines for babies seem so… fixed. According to our pediatrician, four months is when babies start to understand cause and effect. But what if Sam learns something and can’t unlearn it? What if he never eats again unless he’s being carried? What if he can’t get to sleep ever again without listening to The Beatles’ Yesterday? What if, and this is the big one, my son turns out like me?

It’s not that I’m a bad person, though I occasionally re-use bus tickets. It’s just that I’m resistant to change. I’ve been eating muesli, for example, for nearly three decades. I like to listen to the same song over and over – this week it’s Somebody’s Crying by Chris Isaak. I have a system for washing up that Fitzsimmons refuses to adopt.

At four months, Sam has a chance to escape this fate. At thirty-four years, I’m toast. Since he was born in March, I have become OC Dad. And with all these new routines for the baby, I’m only getting worse. “You need to read to him every day,” Fitzsimmons will say as she leaves us for work. “And when he shows sleep cues, make sure you play the Rockabye Baby music.” “Sleep cues,” I say, “Rockabye baby.” As if I need reminding about repetition.

I blame my parents. My mom said that when I was a baby, they made a rod for their own backs by creeping out of the bedroom backwards when I fell asleep. Three decades later, I can’t remember any of this routine, but I quite like the sound of it. The image of a snoozing baby on his crib seems faintly monarchic, as the courtier-parents retreat backwards, curtseying as they go. From where I stand as OC Dad, looking backwards and forwards, I’m conscious of a crossroads in the history of Hodgson routines. I feel like the Hamlet of novice dads: to repeat or not to repeat? Do I deny our son these simple behavioural guidelines because I fear his future? Or do I agree to Routines, knowing what might befall him?

My problem is that my own amateur autism is selective. I never seem to repeat sensible practices: do 100 sit-ups daily; drink four liters of water; be nice to my wife. Instead, it’s always random, daft stuff: eating crystallized ginger after every meal; cooking the same meals compulsively (linguine with garlic and pancetta); watching Spies Like Us on YouTube.

Sam’s needs have prompted freaky new OC Dad iterations. My latest idiocy is to help him burp. He has reflux, baby heartburn, so I’ve evolved a method of winding him, by stalking around the apartment with a herky-jerky motion to release those tricky gastric bubbles. Yesterday, while carrying him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror and I was ashamed. I looked like a rooster with too-tight underwear. Or Richard Pryor ‘gettin’ bad’ as he prances into prison in Stir Crazy. Still, every time I do it, Sam eventually burps, so I think the herky-jerky jive turkey is here to stay. When Fitzsimmons left for work this morning, she handed me a stack of parenting books with yellow tags on the Routine pages. I’ve yet to find my new technique in any of them. I’m not sure why.

Simon Hodgson

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Justin Roberts "Stay-at-Home Dad"

My family loves Justin Roberts...maybe yours will, too?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Clive Owen says Yes to Fatherhood

Despite his tough guy reputation, British film star Clive Owen is no stranger to cleaning up after kids. In real life, he’s dad to two young girls. On screen, he’s done diaper duty in both Children Of Men (protecting the last baby on earth) and Shoot ’Em Up (delivering a newborn amid a gun battle). His latest picture however, The Boys Are Back (released in cinemas October 8th), offers the brooding actor a new challenge: performing opposite children.

Owen plays Joe Warr, a sportswriter in South Australia shattered by the death of his wife, then confronted with the responsibility of taking care of six-year-old Artie (Nicholas McAnulty). Although the RADA-trained actor prepares for every role meticulously, playing off Nicholas wasn’t exactly something Owen could plan, says director Scott Hicks. The film-maker had his own problems: how to light a scene featuring a spontaneous and unschooled performer. Hicks chose to film using handheld cameras “to capture something that might be unrepeatable.” Owen meanwhile responded by delivering one of his most complex performances to date.

This is a Clive Owen that film audiences haven’t seen before. Unguarded, angry, and bruised, Joe Warr doesn’t have all the answers. He makes mistakes, leaving Artie and fourteen-year-old Harry (his son from his first marriage) alone for a weekend at their farmhouse. When he returns, the house has been trashed by beach revellers. Actually, it’s hard to tell whether it has been trashed, given Joe’s laidback housekeeping. When Harry arrives from England, he’s shocked at the stack of washing-up in the sink, then thrown straight into a pillow fight riotous enough to put the bed into bedlam. “I run a pretty loose ship,” says Joe, explaining his no-rules approach to Harry. “The more rules there are, the more crimes are committed.”

So evolves Joe’s credo: Just Say Yes. What father wants to tell his boy ‘no’ after what they’ve both been through? Want to skip the washing-up? Cycle through the kitchen? Drive the Land Rover through a river? Yes, yes, and yes again. So what if Joe’s mother-in-law thinks he’s drinking too much, so what if the house looks like a bombsite, so what if the moms by the school gate frown? Through giving Artie the freedom to grow, Joe too finds the space to move on.

Not just a rewarding family drama, The Boys Are Back also offers an original parenting model. Behind the Hollywoody catchphrase of Just Say Yes lies a real idea. Joe Warr doesn’t want to deny his boy, he doesn’t want to say ‘no.’ He fears, like so many single dads, that Artie will miss his mom. He fears that he alone is not enough. Simon Carr, the British political writer whose memoir inspired the story, remembers wondering what would happen to his own boy after his wife’s death. “Frankly, I didn’t know whether I’d be allowed to keep him. The idea of a man bringing up a young child was alien to the spirit of the age.”

As the plate tectonics of 21st Century parenting shift toward fatherhood, here is a big screen dad who’s not afraid to fail. Just Say Yes is neither an epiphany, nor the promise of a happy ending. It’s a compromise, a deal Joe strikes with his boys as he struggles to find his feet amid mistakes and missteps. This quirky little family remains a work in progress, albeit one whose success is simply in surviving to write its own warming story.

Simon Hodgson

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sleepless In San Francisco

What’s the worst bit, friends ask, about being a new dad? I smile and give them my Enron answer: It’s great. This week, I’m changing my tune. I’ve been struggling to get Sam to sleep. Babies don’t always know how to sleep, they have to learn. Which means I have to learn how to teach him.

“He’s virtually asleep,” says my wife Fitzsimmons, handing me our bundled baby.


“Uh-huh. See you in twenty minutes.”

By the time I figure out that ‘virtually asleep’ means wide awake, she’s slipped out of the bedroom, leaving me bouncing mutinously on the exercise ball, while Sam gazes at me wide-eyed. This is Fitzsimmons’ latest tactic in our unspoken competition. We spoke last week about trying to be better parents. I now see that what she meant was to be the better parent. So when she hands over Sam saying blithely, ‘virtually asleep’, it’s a win-win. Either he nods off and she takes the credit for preparing him, or he stays psychotically awake and I’m Rubbish Dad.

What really stinks, I think as I bounce our child listlessly, is that she is the better parent. Her instincts are more developed, her rocking techniques are first-rate and she has breasts. I, meanwhile, have a saggy exercise ball and a handful of secondhand lullabies. I rock dangerously close to the sharp corner of the bed, voice cracking from a cold as I repeat another tuneless dirge.

“Hang on, Sam. I have to get a cough drop.”

As we leave the bedroom to retrieve a Halls throat-soother, Sam perks up. He doesn’t usually escape from the bedroom until the morning, so this must be like the Nazis escorting Steve McQueen to a motorbike race. I settle back down on the ball, bouncing more jauntily. On my tongue, the cherry-flavoured tablet seems the size of a horsepill, easily large enough to last until he falls asleep. My throat feels as soothing as the lullaby. “Beo, beo, be my bonny baby,” I sing, then swallow the lozenge whole.

As a YouTube devotee, I’m accustomed to pythons gulping foreign objects. But the sensation of a cherry-flavoured pebble sliding down my gullet is new to me. Imagine Frankenstein ingesting the bolt in his neck. Despite my discomfort, there’s no way I’m calling for Fitzsimmons. Although maybe I should be dialling 911. Sam’s eyelids are drooping, or perhaps it’s just my asphyxiation. I wonder how the San Francisco press will swallow this one. ‘Mystery of dad found dead Tuesday 7pm beside yoga ball. No murder weapon found. Infant asleep, virtually.’

Simon Hodgson

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In The Company of Moms - Part 2 of 2

[Transcript -- Session #4: Stay-at-Home Dad A]

: So then what happened?

A: So I'm sitting with Spot back in the corner at parent-tot, and he wants to read, so we pull out a Barney book, Barney's on the farm, lots of pull-up flaps, he loves it, we read it like four or five times whenever we go there. So I'm getting into the pig, the cow, the ducks, all that, and one by one a few other toddlers make there way over to where we're sitting, like the way the ducks on a pond figure out who is tossing out the breadcrumbs and assemble until they're in a naval formation coming your way.

So then I'm reading Barney to two, then three little kids plus Spot, all girls, and we're hanging out. It suddenly strikes me that Hey, this is what the teacher usually does, but the teacher is over on the other side of the room, standing next to the empty easels, the vacant sandbox, talking to 3 or 4 moms.

Q: What are they talking about?

A: I don't know, I can't hear. I'd guess it's the stuff they usually talk about. I call it "boob talk". I can't really participate, although I know what they're talking about. I mean, I was with my wife the whole time that stuff was going on, I understand what boobs are for and how sometimes they work and sometimes they don't work. I like boobs as much as the next guy. But I can't talk about boobs. Certainly not the way they talk about them, and not with Spot hanging around.

Or they might be talking about their husbands. Joking about how their husbands spend all Sunday watching the game, or maybe complaining a little bit about how they are always the ones who are doing all the laundry. I'm like, then why did you marry such losers? This is the 21st century, people. But you know, that's not polite, so I sit in the corner and read books to their kids while they kvetch.

Q: How does that make you feel?

A: I kind of like it. I like kids. I'm a teacher, always have been. It keeps you young. It's a beautiful thing, really, to read to kids. But it weirds out some of the moms, clearly, when I do it.

Q: How so?

A: Well, I have this image in my head, or it's more like say there's this screen behind me, and on it is projected my real life, my secret life. And what you see is the parking lot behind the school, where my white, 1989 Ford Econoline van is parked with the engine running, because that way it will be easier for me to abduct all these little girls and drive off onto the set of America's Most Wanted.

That's what the other moms see when they look over at our little reading group.

Q: How do you know that's what they see?

A: Well, not all of them, but I'm pretty sure that's what a lot of them instinctively feel. But I mean, it's [deleted] 9AM in the [deleted] morning, I haven't shaved, I'm strung out just like everyone else, and I'm there with my 2.5 year old son, the last [deleted] thing I'm thinking about is sex with anyone, OK? And I don't drive a Ford Econoline van with plywood bolted over the windows, in case anyone is wondering.

Q: This really strikes a nerve with you.

A: Of course. Jesus. So we'll be reading for about 2 or 3 minutes, then a mom will notice her little girl is over with Spot -- now we've moved on to a counting book from the Natural History Museum, How many mummies are on this page? How many dinosaurs are on that page? that sort of thing -- and Mom Q notices her kid is not at the easel or at the sandbox, and so calls to her: "Sally, do you want to come over and paint at the easel?" which really means, "Can you please leave that pervert and come over to where I can see you?" And Sally is like, "Forget that, mom, cause this is where the action is," and so Mom Q kind of sashays over to about 6 feet away and pulls out a firetruck to tempt Sally away from the danger.

Q: Do you do anything to reassure these mothers that you are not the kind of person they may be worried about? Think about it from their perspective: the media is bombarding them with stories of abducted children, child abuse, horrible stories on TV every night.

A: Yeah, sure. I need to reach out. I try. But then I run into the other problem. The "pack problem". I've thought about this a lot. As soon as they have kids, most moms want to form a tribe with other moms. It's a way to get some sense of orientation when you're going through all this stuff you've never gone through before. I understand that. The thing is, when you form tribes, there's a danger of being tribal. So you have more and more dads, who don't form tribes, and they're trying to engage with all these moms, who do form tribes, and it's like a big culture clash.

Q: Can you give me an example of how this tribalism affects you?

A: Well, it doesn't just affect me, it can affect other moms, too. I've seen that. In fact, if you're a man, you're kind of spared, because you have this other universe you live in, where you really don't give a flying [deleted] what the local mom-pack might think about this or that, who packs the best lunches and all that [deleted]. But the other moms, especially the young ones, they don't have that luxury. If they're not "in" the pack, then they're on an ice floe with a starving polar bear drifting out to sea, and it's mighty tough place to be.

But say you get a brave mom, a real Independent, and she's like, Oh, that dad in the corner, he must feel left out. She then faces the following dilemma. She thinks:

I'd like to be nice to him, because he's being nice to my daughter, thereby freeing me up for boob talk with the other moms over by the sandbox, and of course I am motivated by real and genuine and profound feminine sympathy for another human being ...

... but then a sudden tribal signal scrambles these intentions and she makes the following social calculus:

But if I go over there, he may take it the wrong way and think I'm flirting with him, that I'm being a coquette, yes a coquette, over animal crackers and grape juice and the amorous fragrance of Purell hand sanitizer. Because that's how men are, they see everything that way, but also because I'd kind of like that, actually, because it would be nice for an impartial outsider to make me feel attractive at this stage of my life, plus all this constant baby care is a drag and I need an escape. But in reality the problem is not what HE will think, it's what the TRIBE will think if I do go over there, because if the tribe thinks I'm being a coquette, even if I haven't the least flirtatious intention, then I might be branded with the Scarlet Letter, led out to the town square and shamed on the scaffold, kicked off the island as it were, which means of course that this poor mom -- me -- will then have no one to sit next to at the playground except the nannies, and I don't speak Polish.

And that would be hell, pure hell. And so I'm not going to go talk to him, she thinks.

Q: Do you feel sympathy for her?

A: In a way, yes. These moms, they're nice people. I meet them one-on-one on the outside and it's like we're best friends. Hey, how's Baby Julius doing? Great, how's little Esmerelda? But on the inside, it's like a street gang or something. Even if they like you, they have to focus their energy on maintaining their rank in the gang. Chatting-up stay-at-home dads at parent tot class gets them zero cred with the tribe. Zilch.

It's like I'm a Pacific island and they are Britain and France fighting over who gets Samoa and who gets Fiji. I just smile and keep planting my yams while they work it out.

Q: We're out of time.

[End of session]

Friday, October 09, 2009

In The Company of Moms - Part 1 of 2

There are a lot of ways for a man to be in a group of women. A man could, for example, be taking a class. It doesn't matter what. Any extracurricular interest aside from black powder riflery, auto repair, or stock picking, will attract more women than men. Especially past a certain age.

I'm not making this up. As with all my opinions, I got this one from the New York Times. Men tend not to take classes. Women tend to be oversubscribed. In the journalistic explanation, the old stereotypes come into play: men, at least Manhattanite men, don't want to publicly learn something new. They prefer to achieve private mastery which is later revealed to the world in all it's perfection.

This is not an issue for me. So I've spent a fair amount of time with groups of women in dance classes, in tennis classes, in alpine skiing classes, and evening adult-education classes, pushing my glasses up the damp ridge of my nose every five minutes or so. And of all of these classes, the only one that came close to achieving gender parity were the pre-natal and birthing classes.

There are still other ways. A man could be working as an office temp who, because of relatively good typing skills (learned in a class, also full of women) and a degree that connotes a tolerance for spending hours in a chair, looking at computer screens, and not talking much, one could for these reasons get placed in the secretarial pool of a large corporation full of, generally speaking, women.

A man could also have an office job downtown, working for the County Clerk, the Recorder of Deeds, or the Public Library. Although the last occupational subset does not overlay the first two in the sense of yielding exposure to the white-sneaker-over-nylons-for-the-commute-to-work class, it does reliably guarantee a man at least 2 or 3 luncheon sojourns to Wendy's every week in the exclusive, or almost exclusive, company of women.

And of course, there are ways for a man to be in the company of women that I have not yet experienced, such as being 60 or 70 years old in a time of war when the vast majority of able-bodied men are either dead, damaged, or in enemy POW camps.

All this being said, however, once a man hits a certain age, gets married and has a kid or two, the already rare occasions for being in groups of women become vanishingly less frequent. When, through some freak aberration of personal life history and global economic mutation, you find yourself like me the one dad in the parent-tot class, you realize that the situation is of a different kind, with new rules, its own vibe, and that everything you thought you had figured out about how to be the one guy in a group of women gets tossed out the window.

Because you're not really with a group of women anymore. You're with a group of moms, and that changes everything.

To be continued:
Tuesday Moms and Thursday Moms, or,
Angels and Mean Girls

Monday, October 05, 2009

Announcing Dads Change the World, a Parents' Salon, and

Three announcements:

1) I've started a new series over at my Mothering magazine blog: "Twenty-Five Ways for Dads to Change the World." Here's the introduction and here's the first entry, "Attend every prenatal class and doctor's appointment."

2) I'll be reading with Daddy Dialectic contributor Tomas Moniz at Book Zoo in Oakland, California, to celebrate the release of the fifteenth issue of the Independent Press Award-winning 'zine Rad Dad: November 6 at 7 pm.

3) My new employer,, launched (softly) last week. The basic argument of Shareable is that there is a generation coming up whose sensibilities have been shaped by peer-to-peer file swapping, social media, and open source programming, and that sharing is actually becoming necessary (and even profitable) in offline areas of life due to a combination of technological innovation and ecological crisis.

So at we'll be pulling together stuff like Zipcar, equally shared parenting, Kiva, Facebook, cohousing, Burning Man, etc. all under the same umbrella, in order to explore how a specific worldview (that we can generate value by sharing what we have) is being implemented by different people working in different areas of life and the economy. We're just playing with that idea, holding these things up together so that we can see what they have in common and how they can be replicated. For a better sense of Shareable's philosophy, see Janelle Orsi's essay, "Four Degrees of Sharing."

Also of possible interest to Daddy Dialectic readers: "What's your carbon Footprint?" in which I ask: Can the California Academy of Sciences help families see themselves as part of the solution? I talk with tourists about the impact of the museum's climate change exhibit.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Lactation Tips With Christopher Walken

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.

Simon Hodgson