Clipping a baby’s fingernails is about as much fun–and is about as easy—as shaving a cat. Have you ever shaved a cat? I have. My husband is allergic to cats and when we met, we got a long-haired calico together for some reason. But her excess fluff was making him sneeze like crazy, so we gave her a meow-litary-style buzz cut. It made a huge mess and we were both covered in cat hair.

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I’m never doing that again.

Another thing I wish I never had to do again is clip my baby’s fingernails. Have you ever clipped a cat’s nails? I’ve done lots of feline grooming, apparently. Clipping a baby’s nails is as awful as clipping a cat’s nails. Maybe even more awful, because when you clip a baby’s fingernail and you accidentally get a little section of skin, you can literally feel it in your own chest. It’s like clipping your own heart. And there’s not really an easy way to do it.

For those of you unschooled in the baby nail clipping arena and who have possibly never seen a baby nail clipper, let me enlighten you a little bit.

Baby nail clippers look just like regular nail clippers except that the clipper part is teeny tiny. You know, the size of a baby pinkie. But for some reason, it’s 18 times as sharp as an adult nail clipper. You can cut through a soda can with it, just like in the commercials. Baby product companies make an easy $10 cranking out safer, easier to use versions of the clippers, such as a baby nail clipper with a magnifying glass on it, which is almost a practical joke. Others have giant plungers so you can see the tool that you are handling with ease but what about the metal clipper part? That’s still super tiny and impossible to see! You almost have to use surgeon-like precision to clip a baby’s nails.

So, step 1 for clipping a baby’s fingernails is: go to medical school. Step 2 is become psychic if you’re not already. Even a little bit of psychic ability to find the nail will help.

baby's fingernails

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And that’s why for step 23, a full stomach is necessary. For steps 24-29, you’re going to need an encyclopedia, a pair of goggles and a trash bag or some other kind of receptacle. Are you a “save my baby’s first fingernails” kind of parent? Then, step 30: Take a trip to Michael’s to pick up the following items:

– photo album

– small storage bags or containers

– tweezers

– glue

– decorations

Once you have all the items you will need (the craft stuff, a medical degree, psychic intuition, 3-4 different kinds of nail clippers, a full stomach, a wet washcloth, a dry washcloth, a roll of paper towels or a box of tissues, a first aid kit, a smock, a license to operate heavy machinery where applicable, bail money and the rest of the items advised), you’re just about ready to move on to step 31: Lay all items out in several rows across your bed and move onto step 32.

Note: They should take up most of your bed and some of the floor.

With the baby out of the bath, you’ve taken care of steps 33-45. Though some might insert step 46 here, take a nap, that step is optional. However, it is advised for some, as it’s important to be well-rested, energized and prepared for the task still at hand—cutting your baby’s nails.

Step 47: Bring the baby to the place where you plan to cut his or her nails. I prefer using my bed, because it provides a comfortable area in which to work, a place to rest my brow mid clip, and adequate lighting. The lighting, though not the kind you might encounter at a dentist’s office or in an interrogation room, it’s what I have to work with. So I turn on every light in the room and turn up the dimmer switches for all of them, steps 48 and 49.

At this time, privacy is important, as any distraction can cause this surgery-like procedure to go haywire and the last thing you need is your little future cellist to have one wooden finger tip.

So make sure anyone who doesn’t need to be in the room is not there (step 50). This is a great excuse to rid yourself of mothers-in-law, pets, other siblings and your own angels and demons.

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Finally, as step 100 approaches, you are ready to begin the removal of the child’s fingernails. Note that step 100 may also double as step 189 in some or many cases.

If the child’s finger is bleeding, you have missed the fingernail and instead clipped the skin, which is a clear indication that you probably skipped or rushed through step 124. This is a very common error whether you were in violation of the step or not.

Yet, missing the baby’s fingernail can be infuriating to both you and the baby, who shows his disapproval by wailing like a scorned banshee.

Place the child’s fingertip into your mouth and use your saliva to soothe the baby’s finger (step 125). If you don’t want to consume a baby’s blood, you shouldn’t have been clipping her nails to begin with (step 126). Take some solace in the fact that according to legend, the child’s blood will keep you young forever (step 127).

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Singing to the child is a way to calm him or her while you figure out your next steps. Anywhere from 10-40 songs is suggested (count each song as a step) until the child is asleep (step 178), you’ve exhausted your entire musical repertoire (179), or have turned to YouTube karaoke to find more songs (180).

Let’s assume the child is asleep, and pick up from step 178. As your delicate offspring gently snoozes, grasp his or her tiny hand in one of your own monstrous ham hocks for step 181.

Re-check to make sure that every light in the house is on, and that you are holding the tiny flashlight in your mouth that you ordered on Amazon, which also has new watch batteries in it that you also had to order on Amazon (steps 182-185). Turn on your headlamp with your free hand and get in close to the baby, but don’t shine the light in her eyes! You don’t want to wake her up, or you’ll have to go all the way back to step 100 and start anew, which you may recall, also doubles as step number 189.

Though it is not advised to consume alcohol when operating heavy machinery or baby fingernail clippers, a few sips can reset your mental state and quell some of the anxiety that Xanax or even a low milligram Valium might temper too much.

In some cases, double vision helps but this is not one of those situations. As we round out step 296, you begin to understand why more clearly, and the sweet drops of Montepulciano have never tasted as good as they do in steps 297 – 300, when you place your baby into the loving arms of another family member or caregiver, finish your wine and think about trying again tomorrow…or never. Voila!

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(Image: iStock / Radist)