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Second Tour
part 1
by Will Nuessle

So, you decided to re-enlist, soldier? Good man! We need more fathers like yourself. Congratulations on your second child—here is where things get real interestin’.

You will be expected to complete a series of missions, and I’ll warn you right off—they won’t be easy. But if you (and more importantly, the children) survive, you will have been tested by fire (and merconium.)

Welcome to the second level of hell, son.

Welcome to B.A.B.I.E.S.[1]

Your training ground, Campaign A: a two-week road trip. The participants: you, your significantly pregnant wife, one just-over-two-year-old child. Hereafter referred to as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, or corporately as Team BABIES.

Mission One: Forward Deployment

Congratulations on accepting your assignment! To reach your initial destination, hereafter known as Landing Zone, hereafter referred to as LZ, you will be required to spend several hours in an airplane preceded by several hours in an airport with Bravo and Charlie. Team BABIES will need to leave the house no later than 0300 hours; mission is considered a fail if any member is left behind.

For safe and thorough air travel, Team BABIES is required to transfer the following from home base to the LZ and beyond: collapsed Pack ‘n Play, travel stroller, Alpha carryon, Bravo carryon, Alpha suitcase, Bravo suitcase, diaper bag and D.O.T. Approved-Up-To-60-Pounds car-seat. All items must be accounted for at all times, though it is acceptable to make the airline deal with as much as reasonable.

 Regardless of when Team BABIES arrives at the airport, they will miss the airport shuttle by thirty seconds and wait for twenty minutes in below-freezing temperatures. Alpha is discouraged from cracking jokes to ‘improve troop morale.’

Upon reaching the airport, the self-check-in station will be broken; Team BABIES will be required to stand in a twenty-minute Check-In line, followed shortly by a thirty-minute Security line. Alpha and Bravo are encouraged to remember that they get to board the actual airplane ahead of those more fortunate passengers without small children; Alpha and Bravo are discouraged from celebrating this fact openly.

Just-over-two-year-old Charlie will demand to be helpful in the airport and push his own empty stroller. Upon boarding the airplane, Charlie will expect to be fed, entertained, and have the freedom to run around the airplane to his heart’s content. Alpha and Bravo must find the balance between giving Charlie whatever he wants and forcing the plane to listen to the screams when he doesn’t get his way. Mission is considered a fail if Charlie is no longer onboard the airplane upon landing. Mission is not considered a fail if every other person onboard the airplane hates Alpha and Bravo.

Upon landing, Team BABIES must secure their belongings, rent a car and navigate ATL, the busiest airport in the world. Charlie, having been up since 0300 and definitely not sleeping on the plane, will be especially helpful. Bravo is reminded to drink more water than she feels she needs. Alpha is to be forgiven if he thinks fondly of the days when he was single.

Mission is considered a success if all Team-members and equipment safely navigate Atlanta traffic to reach their destination. The Team is encouraged to enjoy their Chick-Fil-A lunch; they have definitely earned it.

Mission Two: Bivouac

Charlie, having been up since 0300 the day before, is of course awake by 0500. In order to allow Bravo to sleep, Alpha will be responsible for Charlie. His mission is to change, feed and amuse Charlie in his sister-in-law’s house, A.K.A. “The House of a Million Echoes.” In addition to the silent house, there is a large friendly dog who is not yet used to visitors. Mission is considered a fail if any family members besides Alpha and Charlie are awakened by the subsequent chaos.[2]

Mission Three: Trauma Mitigation

During the course of the two-week deployment, Charlie will smack his head on the following things: the Tennessee hotel room door; the hotel nightstand; the turnstile at the Hot Springs Tower; the door to the Petrified Forest Museum; the Mississippi hotel room door; a chair at the Louisiana gelato restaurant; the door to the Tokyo wing of the New Orleans World War II Museum; the Alabama hotel room door; the chair in the Atlanta airport waiting area; the seat of the ATL to DEN airplane and the restroom of the ATL to DEN airplane.[3] “He left a piece of himself in every state.”

Alpha and Bravo are responsible for drying tears, checking for eye dilation (the nightstand smack will result in significant robin’s-egg swelling) and general triage. Mission is considered a fail if Charlie requires hospitalization.[4] Mission is also considered a fail if Charlie catches Alpha or Bravo laughing at him.[5]

Mission Four: MREs[6]

After negotiating Memphis rush-hour traffic with a whiny toddler, Team BABIES will finally find a steakhouse, conveniently located next to their evening hotel. After more than an hour of the worst service imaginable short of being actually showered in food, the Team will reconvene at the hotel, long after food service is shut down for the night. Extremely pregnant Bravo and extremely two-years-old Charlie will have to content themselves with purse snacks; Alpha will try to calm down long enough to sleep. Mission is considered a fail if Alpha sneaks out at 0300 to set fire to the “restaurant.” Mission is also considered a fail if Alpha’s Google/Yelp reviews use words he does not want Charlie to know.

[1] Building And Bettering Into Excellent Siblings
[2] Mission was a fail. Sorry, dad!
[3] Seriously, the child’s skull must be rock solid
[4] He didn’t
[5] Yes, we’re terrible people. But by the eighth or ninth time it really had gotten hilariously ridiculous—like Isaac was doing a Three Stooges bit all by himself
[6] Meals Ready to Eat

Excerpted from 'Fire at Will II: Will Tell Jokes for Food'

go to part 2