I was absolutely willing to put together a slide show of pictures of swans I found on Google Images and set it to Aerosmith's "Don't Want To Miss A Thing" but Jesse told me not to waste my time.
I had just begun to digest this horrible news when I heard the little song over the speakers that plays all throughout the hospital whenever a baby is born.
"Oh god," I murmured. "Someone is going to have to tell that baby about the swan."
"I wouldn't want to be the one to break that news," Jesse responded soberly.
"I know. The baby will be heartbroken. Only in the world for a few minutes and already faced with something as awful and unfair as swan death."
"The world isn't a fair place."
"Do you think the baby will be invited to the swan memorial?" I asked.
"I doubt it. If I wasn't even invited ..."
"You're right. Wow, that's a double whammy. 'Hey, new baby, a swan is dead but you're not important enough to go to its memorial and pay your respects.'"
"That's a lot of bad news for one baby to handle."
We laughed, but then I started to imagine what kinds of things you would say to a newborn baby if they had the same capacity for understanding as adults. If they understood English perfectly (though they still couldn't speak it); if they grasped concepts like death, loss, abandonment, love, hope, and selflessness ...
Here are some Dos and Don'ts of speaking to newborn babies in this situation:
DO: Tell them that they are loved, and list the family members who are most excited about their birth
Who wouldn't want their first experiences in the world to be a recitation of "Mommy loves you, and Daddy loves you, and Grandma loves you, and Grandpa loves you, and ..."? I wish I got to start every single day that way! What a positive note to kick things off on!
None of these people love you, though. They have no idea who you are.
Seriously, you could die tomorrow and they'd just eat their bran flakes like it was any other day.
DON'T: Tell them that unfortunately, their Great Grandma just died last week so they'll never get to meet her
"... and Uncle Bob loves you. Great Grandma Jane would have loved you, but unfortunately she died last week. Actually, the coroner said she probably died two weeks ago, but she lived alone and nobody thought to check on her, so she just sat in there decomposing while her cats ate her corpse for a week! Ha ha, what a crazy world! Anyway, Great Grandma Jane was a wonderful lady. Boy was she funny. She had the best stories. I can't remember any of them right now, and really you kind of had to be there when she told them because it was like, her inflection or something that really sold them.
But yeah, she's dead and you'll never meet her. Bummer, right?"
Man, what a dick move. You must be the kind of person who talks up how much fun a party was to people who weren't invited! "You guys seriously missed out!! The strippers were all making out with each other!"
DO: Tell them what a joy it is to be alive, and how every day will be an exciting new adventure for them
Put a positive spin on the sometimes-scary but never boring adventure they're about to embark on! Every day you'll see something you've never seen before!
I mean I guess eventually you'll get older and have seen most things, but we don't really need to get into that just yet. You've only been out of my body for like 40 seconds, after all.
This guy can't WAIT. When he discovers the internet and how many weird videos there are of people putting things in their butts ...
DON'T: Tell them about the tragic and unnecessary pass interception that cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl
I'm an adult and I'm still not ready to live in a world where this happened.
DO: Sing them a soothing lullaby
The world is scary when a baby experiences it for the first time. A lullaby will make them feel better.
DON'T: Sing them "F*** It (I Don't Want You Back)" by Eamon
This is just the chorus. The verses are even worse:
This song is not appropriate for a newborn baby. Between the coarse language, advanced concepts like monogamy, cheating, and betrayal, and the even more coarse referrals to sexual activities ("you even gave him head" is a line from the song), nothing good can come of exposing your newborn to this type of music. Just don't do it.
DO: Tell them you love them!
DON'T: Tell them about the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, The "Rape of Nanking", the Spanish Inquisition, etc.
Babies don't need to learn about this kind of thing until they are AT LEAST three months old. It is preferable to wait even longer, though. I mean, can you imagine being mere hours old and suddenly finding out that a guy named Hitler hated Jewish people so much that he built camps to systematically murder them and burn their bodies to ash? And that thousands of otherwise perfectly-normal people participated in this scheme?
Why, that would probably turn me off the whole "life" thing right from the start. Much better to start your life out thinking about all the love and happiness there is in the world, and then only add in the bad stuff a bit at a time. "Yes, there are people out there who beat their loved ones, and that is awful. BUT -- have you ever seen a car get stuck in a snowbank and then five complete strangers come together to help push the car free for no reason other than because they wanted to help? It sucks that there are people who hate others because of the color of their skin. BUT -- what about the people who drop everything to run towards a national disaster in the hopes of helping people? What about the people who devote their lives to improving the world a little bit?"
What about the people who recycle aluminum??
As long as people are still recycling aluminum, you know the world can't be all bad. I still have plenty of faith in humanity.
This brings a tear to my eye.
But most of all ...
DON'T: Tell them about dead swans
DON'T TELL ANYONE ABOUT DEAD SWANS. IT'S TOO SAD.
Don't wanna cloooose my eyeeeeeeees ...
Don't wanna falllllll asleep ...
'cause I'd miss you babe ...
and I don't want to miss a thing!
I'M RIGHT THERE WITH YOU BUDDY.