I was primary caregiver to our son. This meant that I was also primary disciplinarian, Sayer of “No,” Destroyer of Fun.
It’s no picnic parenting a headstrong, contrary child. Ideally a parent can redirect a toddler to a non-destructive activity. But sometimes, you just gotta say no. Then you have to back it up with consequences. Otherwise, you’re raising a privileged monster who flouts the rule of law and does whatever the hell he wants. (You know, your basic born affluent white man.)
Take pets. Baby D loved our cats. He only learned to crawl in order to chase them. He had to be taught to pet them instead of sit on them. Then he had to be taught to pet them in the direction of their fur. Once he learned that, he had to be taught not to pull their tails at the end of petting. “Make a hole with your fingers and thumb, when you reach the tail,” I’d instruct Baby D. “Then let the tail slide through your fist until it’s free! Ta-da!”
I spent every day training Baby D to not pull on dogs, other children, plants, or electrical cords.
If I wasn’t telling him not to pull those things, I was telling him not to bite those things.
Hit those things.
Throw those things.
There were timeouts and tantrums.
All that fun began about 5 AM. Naps? One. Length? Half-hour.
There were many, many days, when we waited on the front steps for
reinforcements Daddy to come home.
Baby D’s face lit up the second he saw Daddy. Here was the fun person! The person who pretended to be a bucket truck and lifted him in the air! Or rolled on the floor as a steamroller!
“Dada” was Baby D’s first word, of course.
And once Dada was home, Mama held no more interest for Baby D.
Mama was okay with that. Mostly. Baby D and I had our own games. But they never seemed to have the same level of physicality that made Baby D shriek with delighted laughter. “More! Dada, more!”
Dada was also responsible for bath time, which involved more laughter and infinite tsunamis over the tub edge.
There were times when Mama seemed to get all the mopping and Dada got all the fun.
Until Dada took Baby D to Hawaii. Without Mama.
Those of you without kids are all, “Wait. A Hawaiian vacation? That seems like MORE fun!”
Those of you with kids are like, “Quelle horror! A vacation with a toddler is not a vacation!”
Andy had five days as the primary caregiver (his parents were no help at all). He lasted five hours before calling me and ranting about “my” obstinate child.
He called every day, in fact, to vent his frustrations.
But it wasn’t all bad. Baby D and Andy did have some fun times at the beach.
I got a little more sleep than usual, despite sick pets and worrying over whether the boys would survive each other.
But we were all relieved on the day Andy and Baby D came home. I waited impatiently at the airport, waving like a lunatic as Baby D’s stroller appeared.
I’d been hoping that Baby D would be at least as excited to see Mommy as he was when Daddy came home from work. Instead, he just stared as I pulled him into my arms.
I covered him with kisses and said, “Hi, Baby! Mommy missed you so much!”
Baby D said nothing for several seconds while I cuddled him in the corner of baggage claim.
Then a fat little hand reached up and caressed my face. “Mommy,” Baby D said, almost as if in awe. “Mommy.”
For five minutes, in a small corner of LAX, my little boy touched my face and wonderingly whispered, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” As if I were a miracle.
A Fun Dad is a great thing for a child. But you know what?
I’ll take Miracle Mommy.