Dear County Agent Guy

Old, young friends


My wife and I are at an awkward, in-between age. Many of our contemporaries have become grandparents, yet at the same time, we have young friends who are having babies.

This can lead to some interesting gift buying decisions. One day we might be purchasing a baby present that conveys the message, “Congratulations, and here’s hoping that your diaper issues are minimal.” The next day might find us purchasing a retirement gift that conveys pretty much the same sentiment. It all depends.

I have nothing against babies, although in my opinion, they should be born at about a year of age. That is when babies start to become interesting; you can teach them tricks, they’re pretty much self-propelled and are learning how to talk. The part about learning how to talk can be a powerful incentive for a guy to watch his language. That’s always a good thing.

I grew up among kids. I found them to be fascinating subjects for study and even made friends with a few of them. But, after I achieved adulthood, the whole idea of children lost its luster.

That is, until my wife whispered into my ear one evening the news that she was expecting.

The revelation caught me totally off-guard. “Expecting what?” I sputtered. This, I quickly learned, is a woefully inappropriate response.

Children — at least this one specific child — suddenly became the focus of our entire existence. My wife purchased enough baby clothes to outfit an entire hospital nursery, and I squired her around to an endless series of doctor’s appointments. At one point, the doctor showed us a sonogram which, to my eye, contained nothing but a collection of formless blobs.

We were told that these nebulous blotches were our child.

“In that case,” I said, “I want my money back. That doesn’t look like anything.”

That’s when I discovered that there is a wide range of thoughts that should never be verbalized in the presence of an expectant mother. Especially in the presence of the one to whom you are married.

As punishment for my numerous blunders, I was forced to attend Lamaze classes. With my wife, of course.

The instructor began by telling us all about the birthing process. I was a dairy farmer, so none of the information was new to me. Many of our classmates listened intently, asking numerous questions, exuding an aura of wide-eyed wonder. It appeared that up until then they believed that babies were delivered by The Stork Express.

Our son was born on time and with minimal bother, at least as far as I was concerned. My wife would probably tell a much different story.

As soon as our son arrived, I asked the all-important question that’s on every new father’s mind: Will we be able to claim him as a dependent on this year’s income tax return?

Turns out that this was yet another of my many ill-conceived questions. It also turned out that the answer was yes.

Our eldest son was born very late in the year. I assumed that we would be allowed to claim only 6/365th of a deduction for him since he was born six days before New Year’s Day.

Leland, our tax guy, had a very different view regarding this issue. 

“If he didn’t live with you, who did he live with?” he asked.

I liked the way Leland thought.

It wasn’t long before our second son came along. The following two decades rushed by in a blur of icky diapers and skinned knees, too much work and too little money, visits from the Tooth Fairy and visits to the pediatrician.

My wife would no doubt contest the fact that I had anything at all to do with any poopy diapers. But if that were true, why is the image of a horrifying diaper changing ordeal permanently seared into my brain?

OK, so I changed one stinky diaper once, but the experience was enough to change me.

It’s nice to have friends who are our age, people who know what AARP stands for and purchase anti-aging products in bulk. Pals who don’t need to have Watergate explained to them and know that Alice Cooper is actually a guy.

But it’s also nice to have friends who would throw a body check to snag a case of Pampers that are on sale and think that six hours of uninterrupted sleep would be an over-the-top luxury.

It takes monumental faith and vast amounts of energy to bring a child into this world and raise him or her. But, it appears that growing older requires no effort at all.

Jerry Nelson is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].


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