Monday, July 10, 2006

I’m Back: Daddy Duty

Now that Kara has returned to work (today is the first day of school in her year-round district), I’m back on full-time daddy duty. I enjoyed my vacation off as much as Kara did: Sure, she got the early shift, but I had the late shift. I’d sleep into nine or so but I’d also be the one that fed Matthew at three in the morning. I actually don’t mind. It’s cool, quiet, dark and peaceful. He sits there and drinks his bottle, I rock him in the chair in his room and he’s asleep again in 20 minutes. This morning, I fell asleep doing it, however. I had gone to bed around 1:30 and he was up at 2:45, waiting for me. Then I’m up again at 6:45 to start my day shift.

It’s not all that bad anymore. Natalie takes care of herself. We play when we can, we laugh when we can, but she is very understanding when it comes to the time I need to make Matthew his lunch or mix him up a baby cocktail for the afternoon nap (which he is currently doing). Matthew is very easy going, but he has his moments. Around noon, he couldn’t settle; he had just woken up, I had just finished feeding him peas for lunch (I’m glad I ruined my appetite on discards when I cleaned out the pantry the hour before), all was dry downtown. He was, what I would call “fussy,” and for him means a little put out at being where is doing what he’s doing. I get the impression that he simply wants to walk or crawl at least.

This morning, we went to story time at the bookstore, and Natalie was very excited to go. I told her she had to go to the bathroom before we could go, and she insisted that she didn’t have to. I impressed upon her that it wasn’t fun to use the bathrooms at the bookstore and if she suddenly had to go, we would have to come home. She seemed fine with the arrangement, and as I’m carrying her across the parking lot I hear what sounded like a popcorn machine go off in her pants, which didn’t really surprise me with all the apple juice she’s been drinking lately. To top it off, when we opened the doors to the bookstore she looked at me with a smile and said, “Going potty in the bookstore is fun. They have big potties.”

So that’s how it’s going to be.

They had already started once we made our way to the kids’ section (the story teller is very punctual), so we found a spot on the floor in the back. Matthew stayed in the stroller and was quite happy chewing on my watch, and it leaks so badly now that after only a few minutes, the insides are all steamy and wet (such a quality time piece). Of course, it goes without saying that on a random Monday morning, Matthew and I were the only men in the room, naturally, as there were about 15 kids there and half as many moms, very few of either group were listening. Natalie sat in my lap and tried to catch up with the story. It was Dr. Seuss, so that was impossible; I majored in English and I didn’t know what was going on in the story. Something about somebody doing something in an impossibly hasty meter Seuss loves so much; you can’t read any of his books fast enough it seems.

Well, it took two books to lose Natalie. Matthew was happy eating up the minutes (almost literally), but Natalie was squirming all over the place. She would turn around for a kiss, squeeze my cheeks together and stick her hand in my shirt pocket to see if anything appeared since the last time she dug down in there. Nope, nothing.

Then, the very least expected thing happened. From the stroller, over the sounds of him gnawing on my watch and filling the insides with corrosive drool, Matthew started to grunt. It wasn’t really grunting, I mean, he started to growl, groan and grumble like a little monkey lifting a Moped. Bear down, one, two, three times and then a smile sweeps across his face.

Just great.

We’re 30 minutes into story time and Matthew’s up to his ankles already. What am I supposed to do? I certainly wouldn’t change him right then and there; I won’t be that parent, but I had to do something fast, because, maybe it was psychological, but I could trace a faint wisp of malodorous contaminant drift my way. My olfactory senses have never been completely reliable, so what I’m smelling must have been less than 10 percent of what was really floating around.

Then I noticed we were alone, like the one kid who rips one in class, my neighbors started to disappear. The lady in front of me got up to chase her kid and the mother to my left got up to stop hers from spinning around one of the carousels. Sure, it was completely chance that everyone in smelling distance decided to vacate the area, but it did mean we could stay a little while longer.

It was a fine line I was trying to cross… rather the intersection of three fine lines. One, I didn’t want to disappoint Natalie, as she was looking forward to going all morning; two, I didn’t want Matthew to have to sit in his own poop any longer than necessary, as I’m sure when that stuff starts to cool, it can’t be comfortable; and three, I didn’t want them to call in a toxic waste disposal team to burn all the books within 10 feet of where we were sitting because of some methane contamination. Plus, it’s untactful to bombard people’s senses with that sort of thing. Sure, it’s okay to spray perfume samples on them as they walk through the mall, but even this is something the mothers in the room (though they’d probably understand) wouldn’t want to tolerate.

Just then… oh, and the whole while this is going through my head, Natalie’s all over the place, on one side of my leg, then the other, squirming in a number of positions. So, just then, she stands up, turns around and announces that she’d like to go home now. What?

“I just want to go home now.”

I wasn’t going to wait for her to change her mind. “Okay.” We got up, wheeled the stroller around and headed for the door. “What’s the matter?”

“I have to go potty.”

"Does your tummy hurt?”


We made it back to the house, and she couldn’t get out of the truck fast enough. I actually saw her doing a little “hurry up, hurry up, hurry up” jig by the front door while I was fumbling for the keys. It all went well.

Later, she refused to consider a nap, even to hear the suggestion of one... or the secretely veiled coaxing of one. Matthew was happy in his bouncy chair while I took the opportunity to finally rake up all of the little toys and things and put them away in their respective bins in the upstairs playroom. Natalie wanted me to read to her a book or two as well. No problem. It was a Little People pop-up book about transportation. First page, I read the little paragraph about trash trucks and ice cream cones,and she started to open the doors on the page.

“Daddy, you have to say what the yellow bus says!”

Completely innocent: “What does the yellow bus say?"

Again, but with more urgency, “You have to say what the yellow bus says!”

There was nothing written anywhere near the yellow bus, so it must have been something mommy does with her. “I don’t know what the yellow bus says… tell me.”

That was it. It was over. With her two hundred dollars she got for passing Go!, she bought Water Works. Matthew was all smiles at the show. Bounce, bounce, bounce, arms waving. So, Natalie spent some time in her room, where the screams reduced to sobs and finally muffled sniffles. Hugs were had by all and I carried her downstairs to watch “Little Bear.”

Now, she’s asleep on the couch, and my Daddy Duty is nearly complete. Kara gets home at four and I think I should go out and buy some light bulbs or batteries.

We already have a lot of light bulbs and batteries, drawers of them.

On the working agenda for tonight is my usual gig in addition to a biography about Porsche for a German magazine in Pennsylvania, of all places. Until tomorrow.

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