As author, I have a certain attitude toward each of the 7 elements of the cartoon (the ???, each of the three arrows, each of the three outcomes) (8 elements if you count my title and text). The cartoon's all about me as a father, and thereby more generally about parents at large, fathers especially.
It's not a diagram, in other words; there's something I'm saying here, beyond the simple laying out of the facts.
Now, if you aren't a parent or a strong parent-sympathizer, a) what I'm saying won't mean much to you and b) it'll probably take some real effort to get. I'm relying heavily on the spark of recognition from fellow parents, the way they'll instinctively read their own parental voice into the cartoon.
So whether it's worth the effort to you to understand what I'm saying, well, probably not, but I have to leave that to your judgement as a member of my audience.
Larry! This is fun. I hope you're not too too frustrated.
It's a story, not a joke. In fact it's three stories that make up one story, kind of like Sliding Doors or Femme Fatale or Run Lola Run if you saw any of those.
Fit character in an unstable situation -> escalating to crisis and resolution -> landing at last in a stable situation.
There are two characters, the baby and the implied parent. The mother in panel 3b isn't a character, unless you figure she's the implied parent in all the other panels. (I don't figure that, but you could.)
What you need to bring with you to read the story is: a parent's instinctive identification of the situation as existing between the baby and the implied parent. The unstable situation at the beginning, the crisis, and the stable situation at the end - they aren't between the baby and her or his bodily functions, they're between the baby and the unpictured parent.
If you want to add nuance to the reading, get the age of the baby, and realize that the baby's not teething yet, but will be soon, and imagine how the illustration will have to change to accomodate that development. Heh.
Once upon a time there was a peaceful, sleeping baby. His dad was reading in a chair and he was sleeping bundled up in his little bouncy seat. He was smiling in his sleep and sometimes he chucked his little mouth - he was having happy nursing dreams.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. His mouth went down and his eyebrows furrowed. What was happening to him? He wasn't sleeping peacefully any more, he was on the verge of something terrible. Maybe he whimpered a little - anyway his dad looked up from his book.
"Stay asleep, baby boo, stay asleep" his dad said, gently, also desperately. "Please just sweet jebus stay asleep, I have to read this for class, and my arm is going to FALL OFF from holding you. Just sleep for ten more minutes. Please? Please?"
BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE.
That's the content of the first panel. Unstable situation!
lpl go "Kicker:"*
VB go "exactly!"
KSB go "Thank you for scaring me"*
BL go "The other way around"*