I’ve been writing this column for three years, and I have largely focused on the moms out there. Dads out there, are you rattled, too?
Dads get flustered and overwhelmed just like moms, but different things get male noses out of joint. Just the other day, I sat in a Mexican restaurant enjoying the bliss that is a plate of chicken flautas topped with guac.
After a couple of minutes in my cumin cocoon, I began to wonder what had become of father and son. They’d gone to the restroom. A few minutes earlier, a waiter summoned me at my husband’s request — the Pull-Ups were in the car.
With that remedied, what was taking so long?
The guys returned, and my husband looked like Kermit the Frog with his face all folded in disgust.
“Was it bad?” I asked.
“He didn’t go,” said the frog. “I waited and waited, and he didn’t go. He just wanted to waste my time.”
The flauta in my mouth should have but failed to prevent my commentary. “I don’t think he put that much thought into it,” I suggested mildly.
That’s when I got the salsa stare. It had been an ugly experience where a hungry man had to do battle with a son wanting to touch every germ-ridden surface with the efficiency of someone hunting for a secret passage.
I can hardly take myself to the bathroom, so I’m glad that this is largely my husband’s job.
Just this evening, I was walking through the Publix parking lot and discovered my fly was down. I pulled my sweater low and tried to right the situation. Good, Christine. Get her up before the security camera at the entrance spots you. I did but then realized the security camera on the outside ATM had caught the whole thing.
Our child also has a love of buttons; more specifically, pressing them.
This is a little infuriating for me, because he’ll come up and press my laptop keyboard as I’m writing. Dad has an iPad, though. He’s been waiting all day to read that one story on ESPN.com, but Elliot’s little hand comes in and swipes the story away. Another brush across the touch screen, and he’s got dad’s tale of a pro-athlete choking on Donny Deutsch’s garden gnome locked deep in the bowels of the Library of Congress.
“What,” I ask, like my partner’s snit is a cat turd in my freshly raked Zen garden.
All I see is Elliot cuddled in his lap, snug as a bug.
It’s not that we don’t understand a man’s right to be angry or even annoyed, but we scope out our peace and defend it.
We got over our own snit minutes ago. Plus, fellas, we’ve got so much oxytocin running through us that we’re bonding with houseplants and pencil sharpeners half the time.
It’s got us empathizing with our young as much as we can, and then we move on to grieving for half-eaten Fruit Roll-Ups and bananas.
When we make peace over it, don’t you come in here and cock it up. Men only get surges of oxytocin during orgasm. Too bad.
We’ve spent all day long caring. We’re tired of caring. Well, all right. Give us a little red wine, and we’ll try to care some more.
Really, most dads work as hard and care as long as most moms.
Dads are at the park wiping runny noses, fixing snacks and doing the potty thing, just like us. They’re facing tantrums and trying to teach and tell bedtime stories. They’re allies who parent with a slightly different accent.
Dads don’t always make it clear when they’re worried, and moms don’t always see through our own haze to understand.
I guess the only thing we can try to do for each other is be aware, not just of the kid but each other.
Recognize each other’s tells. We do it for the children. Aww, you’re rubbing your ear. That means you’re tired.
Let’s look at our spouse, too. When mom puts her hair in three ponytails, I take over for a while. When dad starts a bitter search for every screwdriver he’s ever owned, that means he’s cooked.
Let’s take our own advice and try to shake more things off than we take personally.
Let’s encourage each other by granting solitude, me time, renewal.
Then, as a family, let us all go out and make fun of other families not doing it as well.
Christine Lucas writes about being a first-time mom and adventures with baby. Contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org