Once upon a time, I loved babies. All babies. They looked so cute, so innocent, so pure. They came into the world without any vested interests or malicious thoughts. Untainted souls. I loved babies the way that other people love cats or dogs. Just because they were so adorable. That was enough.
We live in a time when cuteness has become a supreme value. Practically a whole moral doctrine unto itself. In a capitalist world of clashing civilizations, cuteness does not demand anything from anyone. It exists as the antithesis of all the ugliness and madness that surrounds us. If the world were populated with nothing but kittens, puppies or babies, there would be no wars, no ISIS, no gossip or intrigues. Ego would be a thing of the past. Does a Persian cat have an inflated ego? Does a Chihuahua seethe with envy over its friends’ successes? Can a two-month-old infant cut off heads?
The more narcissistic and obsessive people become, the more focused on their livelihood and survival – the more they seem to worship creatures with limited self-awareness. Kittens, puppies and babies represent some kind of infantile aspiration to return to a pure and unspoiled childish state. Oh, if only we could stare at the ceiling all day long or play contentedly for hours with a stuffed animal.
Modern life is noisy and intense. Peace and quiet hide in online video clips of puppies, kittens and babies. When I watched clips of babies on YouTube, my eyes would well up with tears of emotion. A baby making a funny sound or smearing his face with chocolate – this is the true apogee of the human condition. The cutest thing there is. The safest, most comforting sight. The most Zen. It’s the essence of boundless optimism. It makes you want to live.
All that was before I had one of my own: Ever since I became a father, I love my baby and my baby only. There is no room for other babies in my life. That’s done. Over. All the warm and fuzzy thoughts I used to harbor about babies in general – suddenly went poof.
There are no more cute babies. None! Except for mine. All the rest are nothing special. I have no patience for them whatsoever. They look disgusting, ugly, stupid, mean, greedy. Their aim? To hurt my baby. To be nasty to him. To humiliate him. To compete with him. To be better than him.
They want to infect my baby with illnesses. Yes, they have free will. The free will of criminals. They’ll drown him in the sandbox, they’ll step on his head, they’ll pull his hair, they’ll bite him, they’ll pee on his stroller and cover him with their turdy germs. That’s what they were born to do. I can’t understand how I ever used to love babies. What is there to love about them?
Other babies no longer exist in isolation. Every other baby is a baby that exists in ceaseless comparison to my baby. He means nothing otherwise. Every other baby is a strategic threat. I project onto my baby all the negative values I accumulated as an adult. All the competitiveness, the ruthless striving, the rivalry, the pettiness, the penis envy and jealousy. It’s not his fault. It’s the fault of materialistic Western society that turns a man into a werewolf. It did it to me and it will do it to him.
Life is a never-ending struggle between the forces of good and evil. A bloody boxing ring. A 100-meter dash. My baby is not about to come in last.
The child of my good friends has two teeth already and mine doesn’t have even one? That makes me crazy. How is this possible? Ah, I know how: Their baby is a complete idiot. He’s one of those very physical, active types; you can already tell he’s not too brainy. Really, he has a face like a Sumo wrestler. My baby is an intellectual. He’s not in any rush to grow teeth because he’s working on a Ph.D. in tongue studies.
My baby has a high fever and the neighbor’s kid hasn’t gotten sick even once? Impossible! What am I doing wrong? Okay, I get it, his parents are Mizrahim. They never get sick. They’ve still got that immunity from Morocco. Their genes are more suited to the Middle East. Forgive me for having an Ashkenazi baby. Seriously.
I sent my kid to a swimming lesson. He clung to a float and cried the whole time. There was another tyke there, a blond and muscular little fellow, with hair on his chest, wearing a Speedo. He swam like a fish in water. The swimming teacher sang his praises. “Beautiful! Great job!” He executed perfect somersaults in the water and giggled like a drunk dolphin.
“Why’s he so pleased with himself? I hate that baby. He swims better than our baby does,” I said to my wife. “I feel like drowning him.”
“Are you competing with a baby?” she asked.
“No, he’s competing with us.”
“Your child isn’t even aware of it. He’s having fun in the water.”
“Fun? Who’s talking about fun? You want him to make something of himself, or do you want him to be a loser? Look at that baby,” I said to her, pointing at the miniature swimming champ who had just dived to the bottom of the pool, to more cheers from the teacher. “He’s already learned all the tricks. He knows how to get applause. What a sneaky little jerk.”
“But he’s just a baby,” she persisted.
“Hitler was just a baby once, too.” Yes, I pulled out Hitler. Then it was time to get out of the water.
I’ve realized something. I don’t like babies, because babies grow up to be people.