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Dad's Side: The Alphabet Theory

I have a selective memory. I can go to the store to buy diapers, but instead return with potato chips and lightbulbs. In fact, on various occasions I have come back from the supermarket to find that I have forgotten to buy not only diapers, but also the baby bottle liners and baby food I was asked to pick up. My wife really appreciates this.

When I actually do remember that I have to buy diapers, I forget the brand name and the size I'm supposed to get. Same goes for all other baby-related products. I've purchased four-ounce bottle liners long after we had moved on to eight, and I once stood in the baby aisle for more than ten minutes trying to remember if I should still be buying jars of single-ingredient solid foods or if our daughter was already sampling pureed mini meals with two or more ingredients.

My wife, Susan, and I call our dilemma the "alphabet theory." Basically, if she asks me to do something related to our children or family life and doesn't spell out each step for me in very explicit terms, it won't get done.

And I have a feeling I'm not alone.

I'm sure that many new mothers despair, thinking that their parenting partner's ignorance means that he hasn't bothered to fit the baby into his life. This man must simply not care about his children, you might think.

And maybe you're right. After all, maybe the man you married is a cretin. But hopefully (and more probably), he's like me  -- not a creep, just a bit of a clueless cluck. (Feel better now?) In the spirit of my wife's and my alphabet theory, I'll try to give you the ABC's of why we dads sometimes have a wobbly memory when it comes to childcare:

A is for Amnesia. First, some men really do have bad memories, and I'm not afraid to admit that I have rotten recall. If I ever had to pick somebody out of a lineup, I'd be terrible at it. I remember being 10 years old and playing with a new kid in the neighborhood for two hours one day. We agreed that we'd meet after lunch to continue our game. But when he showed up that afternoon he was wearing a different outfit, and I had absolutely no idea who he was until he called my name and motioned for me to follow him. It was then that I knew I had a problem.

Geoff Williams is a Babytalk contributing editor