Thursday, September 8, 2011

Daddy: 1, Mommy: 0

A set of parents is supposed to be a team, but let’s not deny the fact that you are basically set up by society (i.e. your friends, family, co-workers, Facebook) to have it be a competition.  It starts when you are pregnant.  If it’s a girl, the mother must be happy, if it’s a boy, the father must be happy.  My husband actually wanted a girl first and was elated when the sonogram confirmed my fear that in 13 years I’d be crying because my daughter would want me to drop her off a block away from the mall as not to be seen with me in front of her friends.   
After you confirm the gender of your beloved, it’s a contest to see who gets more of the “she looks like you” comments after birth.  And let’s be honest, as much as you may love your mate, you are rooting for yourself.  You want this little person to be a prettier, smarter, thinner version of yourself and if they have bionic parts that make gym class less socially awkward, all the better.
My husband doesn’t like this idea of parenthood being a “competition.”  He reminds me we are on equal ground at all times, but I think on some level he knows he is wrong, especially when my daughter cried when I told her no last night and ran to Daddy.  There it is again, another set up:  Good Cop, Bad Cop. 
Being a parent is like any job you may have, someone brings something different to the table than someone else and at different times.  Unlike most jobs, parenthood is a job that unfortunately keeps changing.  It’s like getting settled into a routine only to have your office get flooded, your project go in “another direction” and your boss quit all in the same day.  It’s constantly starting over and just like a job, each parent will be good at something the other isn’t and adapt to changes better than the other.
My husband works at home and watches our daughter and though I want to be home with her myself I’ve come to realize my husband bares the qualities that are essential at this stage of her life:  patience; forgiveness; and creativity.  I’ve already addressed the fact that I have a Type A personality in my first post and I will admit I can hold a grudge and not “let things go,” which makes forgiving my daughter for keeping me up at nite a daily challenge.  I am, however, a known creative person who thrives off of the energy of others.  But, anyone who has made it to having a 6 month old can agree, there really is no room for either of those things.  The beginning is all hard work with little pay off since kids can’t really smile until about month 5, at which point you’re convinced its “just gas” because that’s what people tell you.  And the creativity, well if it means creating a puppet out of the wash cloth to ensure I can clean my child’s face after dinner without screams, then I’ve won a prize.
To illustrate my point further, I will share an experience from a few weeks ago.  I came home as I do every night after work and spend time with my daughter which usually consists of me sitting on the floor, getting somewhat absorbed in an iCarly episode while she plays with her toys.   My lack of interaction annoys my husband and I’m instructed to “go play with her.”   So I’m thinking okay, let’s go bake cookies, color, play dress up and…oh wait we can’t do that because you’re one and just discovered your  thumbs.  Unenthused, I try to breathe life into Elmo and Telly on her plastic Sesame Street set.  She is engaged for half a second before she crawls up on me and pounces on my belly reminding me I have no time to do crunches.  Now this is the new game that lasts about a hot second.   
We move onto reading a book with Elmo (of course) and it’s the nursery rhyme “Rockabye Baby On the Tree Top.”  It has disturbing images of a squirrel baby in its cradle hanging from a tree as Sesame Street characters interrupt on the pages asking questions about the story or unrelated inquiries like “where do you sleep at night?”  Stop interrupting Oscar and let’s get on with it.  
On the last page, Elmo asks the reader what his or her favorite part of the story was.  So I ask my little love bundle, “So, what was your favorite part of the story?  When the squirrel mommy and daddy ran to the baby on the ground, realizing they irresponsibly left her unattended in a cradle and tree branch that were clearly not up to code, hence breaking and having her plummet to the ground?  Yeah, I liked that part too.  That’s what toy companies call the start of a massive recall.”   
And there, we have bonded.

A few days later my good friend sends me a picture of sandwiches she just made for her 2 year old at her request for a meal that resembled their two dogs.  They were star shaped sandwiches folded in half to look like legs.   One was pumpernickel for the brown dog and one was white bread for the yellow dog. Brilliant.  I’ve known this friend of mine since we were 12 and I think about how fun and creative she is but how it has likely taken her this moment, 2 years in, for her true talents to shine.
So where does this leave me, the mother feeling like she is waiting in the wings to use the tools of creativity while Daddy’s fun points increase?  I reconsider my definition of the word.   Maybe creativity just comes in the form of finding a way to keep myself sane, my child amused, and everyone quiet for a few moments.  Keep expectations low and no one will be disappointed.  And, if I’m really lucky, creativity can give me some control in dire situations, like when my daughter is crying in the backseat of a car while Daddy is getting us food and Cookie Monster and Monkey puppet have a dance off to Pitbull’s “Give me Tonight.”
Perhaps we, as a society, should focus on making it less about a competition of which parent does more work, is more fun, or better adapts to change and more about who gets more dirty diapers.  Because in that area, I’m proud to say my husband is clearly winning.

1 comment:

  1. Really brilliant, Nic! I'm proud of you! (And, apparently, British.) I can't even tell you how much I relate to what you said about sitting on the floor and getting engrossed in the tv instead of "playing" with a child who has no real ability to do so. I've been feeling an incredible amount of guilt over that exact issue and I don't even know why. And god forbid I change said channel to, say, the Today show so I don't literally die from boredom then the guilt is way worse. I really wish we lived closer 'cause girl, we are more alike than I even realized. :-)