New and upcoming dads, have no fear: I have invented two maneuvers that will make holding your child fun and easy. Perhaps I’m overstating the case when I suggest that I invented the maneuvers, as they have assuredly been used for centuries, if not millennia. But I describe them here for the benefit of others nevertheless. I do believe the names for the maneuvers are original.
Some background information will be useful, primarily to upcoming dads, as new dads will have discovered some of this for themselves. First, babies are not footballs (though there is a nursing position called the football hold and I have discovered a yet-unnamed transitional maneuver that’s a vaguely footballish hold — more on that, perhaps, when the muse of baby-holding inspires me to invent some new names). They’re more like little ten-pound sacks of potatoes with occasionally wildly-gesticulating limbs. That is, they’re at once rigid and limp, still and kinetic, distinctly and indistinctly shaped. This makes holding them a challenge sometimes. Second, babies do not cotton to being dangled like tennis racquets by one doughy limb; they require a smidgin more support. Third, when you’re trying to hold a rigid/limp, still/kinetic, (in/)distinctly shaped baby, you’re hard pressed to get much of anything else done unless it can be done with feet or lips. (Happily, this means you can kiss the baby and walk the baby, both of which behaviors delight the baby.) And fourth, babies like to get lots of attention, including lots of silly talking-to. I mention this last bit of background information for two reasons. First, it turns out that even the most reserved of men are prone to launch into a babble of the inane and the absurd when talking to their children. I have so far covered various schools of thought with my child, ranging from theoretical physics to philosophy to grammar to techniques for teaching difficult concepts like sameness and difference to randomly silly things. I have also sung made-up-on-the-spot songs about bodily functions and sitting in my lap and having fat little cheeks. And I’ve managed to suggest that my child is the first Black Panther to be seen wearing a pink layette. Second, it was during one of these one-sided conversations that I conceived of the names for the maneuvers. So the baby, being the cause of my stream-of-consciousness rambling, gets at least partial credit for the origination of the names.
Which names happen to be, as the title suggests, “The Chicken Wing” and “The Modified Chicken Wing.” This last is also known as “The Half Nelson.”
The Chicken Wing provides good burp-inducing support for the baby while freeing up one hand for doing things like trying to unscrew lids off bottles or tying shoes or reaching down from the steering wheel to shift gears. (Are you awake?) I usually perform The Right-Handed Chicken Wing, holding my forearm, vein side down, at about nipple height (the loosely-cupped hand as if in a position to milk the nipple, in fact) and roughly parallel to the ground. The baby’s bottom rests on the top side of the arm, and her chest and stomach rest on the shoulder. Jiggling the baby high up on the shoulder using this maneuver is sometimes good for inducing hard-to-produce burps, and the move affords the baby an unobscured rear view and the freedom to crane her neck around. Watch out, though — if she doesn’t have pretty good neck strength, she’s liable to go pitching over sideways in pursuit of a runaway head.
Because the high arm position necessary to perform a good Chicken Wing can cause arm fatigue, you will also want to learn The Modified Chicken Wing, or The Half Nelson. Again, I prefer the right-handed hold, and to switch to the modified hold, I simply open up the palm of my right hand to receive the fist of my left hand. The auxilliary (in my case, the left) arm should form an oblique angle with the primary arm so that maximum support can be had at a cost of minimum auxilliary arm fatigue. If there were no baby curled around your shoulder during this hold, you might bear some resenblance to eye-bulgingly flexing Hanz and Franz. Obviously, this maneuver ties up both hands. Accordingly, it is best used as an occasional companion to The Chicken Wing rather than as a primary hold.
I hope any fathers (or mothers — these holds have not been tested on mothers to my knowledge, incidentally; I suspect having bosoms would render the holds difficult) with other maneuvers to suggest will chime in.