Anyone who lived through the ’90’s knows the face. Mouth open. Open-palmed hands firmly smushing each cheek. The quintessential “oh no!” expression. It’s the face Macauley Culkin makes in the Christmas movie that’s basically about a little boy torturing misbehaving adults without consequence. That face? That’s me sometimes when I’m home alone with Declan. The other night Colleen went to the store and the phrase that kept running through my brain as she got ready to leave was, “What’s in my arsenal?”…as if I was going to war.
30 minutes, a rejected pacifier, a diaper change, another diaper change, two outfits, an ill-advised attempt to put him in his crib with the lights out, a not-quite-warm-enough bottle, an abandoned vibrating chair, and numerous concerned looks from the dog later… it felt like one. By the time Colleen got home, I was ready to tag out. At this stage, the simple truth is that mom is more important, more reassuring, more of what a baby needs. In another couple of years (hopefully sooner), the playing field will be more equal. But, for now, I brace myself for war. Sometimes battles will be won, alliances forged, camaraderie established. Other times, all will be laid down on the battlefield and victory will still remain elusive. Reinforcements, it will become apparent, are necessary. A dad’s arsenal is sadly devoid of that ineffable mom quality… and, oh yeah, of boobs.
But that’s not really the whole story. Mom isn’t magic, either. All the best intentions and intuitions, the most thorough research/google searches won’t change the fact that babies can be inscrutable creatures of surprising lung capacity and chameleon temperament who can find cause to smile at you one second and then scream at you the next. And moms often get the brunt of it. Their arsenal may be bigger, but their battle is longer and the demands on them greater.
And maybe I bring more to le résistance than I think. On another recent night, Declan and I passed the time by: dancing, farting, and kicking. Charming? No. Effective? Yes. Another time, we hopped into the bath and I put my songwriting skills to good use by making up a don’t-fear-the-water song with plenty of cowbell AND another amelodic train wreck consisting of the words “Declan is a very good boy” that he seemed to dig.
So I have no problem answering the call of duty (and, of doody). Colleen and I are a team. We sacrifice for one another and for Declan. Take the lead sometimes, and the back seat others. It’s nice to know that when one of us is running low on reserves–when the requisite armor of patience is worn thin–the other one is ready to hit the front lines. Love is a battlefield, after all. Pat Benetar said it so it must be true. And now that I’ve referenced two lame things (which I actually don’t think are lame) from two different, distant decades, I’m officially a parent. Turn down the music. Get off my lawn. Where did I park my minivan?