My day starts with a “Jeez, don’t drop the baby” moment. It ends with me dreaming of Hooters. Just another typical stay-at-home dad day.
One of the most frequently asked questions right after I tell a person that I’m a stay-at-home dad is “So what do the two of you do all day?” I never know how to answer because there really isn’t one simple answer. There is also never one typical day. Sure we do similar things each day but there is never a set schedule of events. This isn’t a nursing home with bridge at 11 am, crafts after lunch and bitching about your children abandoning you until bed time.
The kid and I do things together. Well, he does things and I watch just to make sure he doesn’t stick a plastic zebra down his throat or try to change the TV with his face. We also talk. A lot. I do most of the talking since he hasn’t said his first word. I talk and he listens. It won’t always be this way because he’ll stop listening in his teens and I’ll probably stop talking long before that because I’m too busy with life. This will be the only time I’ve got his full attention (not counting the minor distractions of toys and trying to suck on his feet).
I talk to him because there is really no one else to talk to. I rarely leave the house, and when I do, it’s not for very long and only to run minor errands. I exchange pleasantries with the gas attendant, the check-out lady at the grocery store, and the mailman if we run into each other on my porch. That’s really the only human interaction until the Permanent Roommate comes home from work.
So the kid and I talk.
“Well, I see your mother has dressed you like an effeminate lumberjack again. Is that an ascot sewn onto the front of your overalls? Where the hell does she get these outfits and how can I get them to stop accepting our charge card? She is gone, so I’m going to change you into something a little more guyish. Jeans and a onsie with Bob Marley on it. Much better. Now you look like every single guy I went to college with. Let’s go have breakfast.”
I carry him down the steps as he attempts to grab everything and anything on the way to the kitchen. This is also the first “Jesus don’t drop the baby” moment of the day as I stumble down the stairs with my eyes blurring on every step. It’s easily one of my biggest fears, second only to the store where my wife shops for baby clothes opening a men’s department.
“And on the menu this morning, a huge cup of coffee for your father and a delicious bottle of powder and water for the young man. You’ve got a choice of a side of sausage or one more scoop of powder. Double scoop, excellent choice. You sit in your exersaucer and I’ll make us both something to drink. Let’s just hope I don’t mix them up. Last thing you need is caffeine. Last thing I need is a bottle of powdered milk. Unless I’m out of creamer then we’ll reassess the situation.”
The exersaucer is arguably the greatest invention in baby care since the pacifier dipped in bourbon. For those not in the know, it’s basically a seat surrounded by toys and animals designed to keep the baby occupied long enough for the parent to sneak away and get one of those bourbon soaked pacifiers to suck on. It’s also good for plopping the kid in front of the television for a little while for some free babysitting. I return to the room shaking a bottle. The child, thinking the bottle isn’t for him, but wanting to let me know he wants to make it his, starts jumping up and down, moaning and screaming like a teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert with a backstage pass. At least that’s how I’d image they act, I’m usually stuck up in the nosebleed seats carving his name into my wrist with a blunt object. I’m just kidding. I’ve never seen Justin Bieber anywhere but my dreams.
“Ok, ok, calm down. This is obviously your bottle. Well, it’s obvious to me, it’s not as obvious to you considering you’re jumping and gyrating like an extra in a Step It Up movie. Let’s sit on the couch. You take your bottle while I quickly change the channel. Don’t get me wrong, I love Elmo as much as the next guy but dad can’t start the day with things that make him dumber. His head is already 80% cocktail sauce from the lack of sleep and if I have to count every wart on that frog I’m going to choke myself with one of the blind cords.”
The kid gulps the bottle and stares right into my eyes. I watch TV but he gets my attention. I stare back at him. My first thought is always how I never thought I could love another person the way I do this little bundle. My second thought is I wonder what he is thinking about while looking back at me.
“I didn’t always look this rough. This is partly your handy work. I used to sleep, eat and, work out. I was mildly attractive. Now I’m overweight, I’ve got massive bags under my eyes and I honest to Jesus can’t remember the last day I didn’t wear these warm-up pants. I think they might have molted into a layer of skin.”
We both sit in silence and enjoy each other’s company. It’s the only time of the day he isn’t crying or talking gibberish because he doesn’t know any other ways to express himself and because his mouth is full. It’s also the only time of the day I’ve got things under control.
“Well, you ripped through that bottle. Want to burp? Here I’ll pat your—WHOA good one little man. You sound just like your mommy. So what should we do now?”
I attempt to put him back in his exersauser to hopefully make myself some breakfast. He contributes to the conversation for the first time all morning.
Which roughly translates to.”Jesus Christ you lazy bastard. Play with me. How long are you going to put me in that torture device while you scratch your nuts and chug coffee? I only play with those toys on there because they scare the hell out of me and I think it’s better to appease them than to make them mad.
“Ok, ok, let’s play on the floor. Let me get all your toys and surround you with them like some type of baby gate. Then, if I zone out or walk away for a second there is something to keep you from possibly crawling out of the room. Whichever you pick is—where are you going? Daddy is over here. Where are you crawling to? How could you totally ignore the toy gate? Yes, that is a nice entertainment center, but it’s not a toy chest for little children to play on. Well it’s not yet, but at the rate you’re going with the amount of toys in this house, it probably will be in the next six months. Your mother and I will have to box up the flatscreen TV just to have a home for all your plastic zoo animals.”
“Really? I hadn’t heard that about her. That’s crazy. Where did you hear that? You’re kidding. Man, you think you know a person.”
“Interesting move. So you think it was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick? I’m sorry that’s incorrect.”
“MA! DAT! DDDDDDDDAT! DATDAP! DAT!”
“Agreed, Rachel Ray is starting to look more attractive by the viewing but I’m going to chalk that up to the lack of actual women in my life on a daily basis and also to getting up every hour on the hour last night because you’ve been using your head as a battering ram against the crib. Truth be told, and since we are discussing chicks, I’m also lustfully looking at some of the women on your kid’s shows. I think one crept into my masturbating thoughts the other night. She looked good but she kept on insisting on counting the floors tiles and naming words that start with H. It’s a real mood killer.”
Boredom is obvious. I’m sure he is not having fun either. Time to make household chores look like fun.
“You know what buddy, mommy has been asking me to check the floors because of a few nails sticking out of the floorboards. She doesn’t want you getting hurt while you’re crawling around. This is probably one of the only tasks requiring tools that dad can handle so how about we pound down some nails? I’ll hammer the real ones and you work on your little Fisher Price tool set. Good job buddy. Hopefully you’ll be better around the house than your old man. I’m not much of a ‘Mr. Fix-it’ I’m more of a ‘Mr. Break-it-mess-with-it-like-I’ve-got-a-clue-break-it-more-then-call-a-real-Mr.-Fix-it’ kind of guy. I come from a long line of customers of handy men. Maybe I’ll send you to some type of toddler carpenter class so you’re not as [WHAM!]..SONOFA!”
A stench fills the room in the air where the kid’s words once occupied. He’s pooped his pants. Time for the first changing of the day.
“Look, I’ve seen mom do this and she is incredibly thorough in and around the penis with these wipes, which is fantastic from a hygienic stand point, but how she goes about getting into all the nooks and crannies it’s crystal clear she doesn’t own a penis of her own. No you can’t count mine. Men’s genitalia just don’t bend and stretch the way mommy thinks and frankly my crotch hurts every time I watch her clean you up. It’s like you’re a Stretch Armstrong doll.”
After a few moments of playing, the baby starts to bob his head and nod off like a drunk uncle during Thanksgiving desert. It’s time for the first nap of the day.
“Alright, let’s get you down to sleep. Want dad to read or sing you a song? I’ll be honest, I’m not caught up on a lullabies. How about something from the Springsteen catalog? Too up-tempo? Zeppelin? I could sing kids songs but I only know one-tenth of the right words so don’t expect to hear the whole thing. I could just do that thing where I make up the words but then I always end up getting to a word that rhymes with something perverted. Mommy says I’ve ruined many songs with my ad-libbing. She can’t listen to her favorite Christmas song Winter Wonderland anymore with changing the words to ‘Walking ‘round in women’s underwear’.”
He goes down without a fight while I sneak away to shower, shave, and begin to look like a functioning human being. I’m soon distracted by the computer, Tiger Woods golf on Xbox, and a living room that looks like it needs a napping man to really complete its look.
“Hey buddy, how was your nap? I missed you dude. Let’s get out of this house. First we should eat though. Any preferences for lunch? These baby food choices are better than my options. Have you had this peach cobbler? Is peach cobbler necessary for a 9-month-old? Shouldn’t you just be getting the basics like corn and peas? Wow, those peas smell like cat piss. Peach cobbler it is!”
He eats, so I eat, because he’s developed this habit of staring at me whenever I’m eating and he isn’t eating and it’s mildly off-putting. Animals are easy to shove away from a full plate of food because they really shouldn’t be chowing on people food at all but when a baby is staring at your food you can’t just lock him in another room or smack him on the nose with a magazine. You can’t smack a baby with a magazine right? Of course not, just checking. Look, I don’t know everything, I’m new to this whole job.
“I know it wouldn’t be a meal without dad dancing around for your amusement. I’ll pop on the music but you can’t tell mommy about this, deal? Now I know I can’t be as goofy as mommy, but that’s just because dad wants to hang onto the fact he has some shred of humility left. Dad dancing like fool to Neil Diamond is going to be amusing now but in a couple years when I do this same routine it’s just going to be sad. For both of us.
Brunch is complete. Cabin fever creeps in.
“So where are we off to this afternoon to kill some time? The mall. Possible. Put that on the back burner. What else you got? Barnes and Noble. Solid. Love looking at books but you’re very hit or miss in a bookstore. Sometimes you love it and other times you last a couple minutes in the stroller before you’re yelling like gambler at a cock fight. Target? The old man does love Target but I don’t have an extra hundred bucks to blow because I can’t say “no” to anything in a Target. Hooters?!? Well that’s a curve ball son. I like the way you think. Let’s save that trip for when dad’s single friends are around. If we take a you and a couple of your uncles to Hooters, the girls will circle the table and lunch will be on the fellas because of the extra attention. I think I like the mall idea the best. Tons of stores. Crowds of people for you to stare at and be glad you didn’t end up with a different family. The possibility of a giant chocolate cookie AND a buttered pretzel has dad moist with anticipation already.”
Let’s have a talk while dad drinks this coffee and gorges on these brownies. I want to talk to you about all this attention you get from women. Agreed, it astounds me too, but it’s not always going to be this easy. I’m not saying you’re not going to be handsome. There is a better than average chance you’re going to be a good looking man, though I wouldn’t know. I’m your father and I’ll probably always think your good looking even if you’re ugly. It’s just how it is. You’ll see when you’re a parent. Every kid can’t be good looking, and they ain’t. Trust me. But every mom and dad thinks their kid’s face should be on the Gerber jars.
What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah. Broads staring at you. It’s not always going to be this easy to talk to women. Right around puberty, girls are going to stop talking to you altogether. It’s because they like you. I know. It makes no goddamn sense but it’s the way the world works. Now, you’re probably thinking ‘that’s fine I’ll just go and talk to them.’ WRONG! That’s what they want you to do. What you have to do is NOT talk to them. Yes, I know, makes even less damn sense than them not talking to you but you’re going to realize nothing about women, men and relationships will make any effing sense.
We’ll talk more as you get older but my first word of advice with women is ignore them and they’ll love you for it. Another tip—but this is for much much later in life—is to take your son to the mall. Honestly, I’ve never had this many attractive women talk to me and I know it’s only because I am hauling a cute kid around. Actually, when you hit your early twenties, rent a kid for a day and go to the mall. You’ll have women falling all over you, especially when they find out the kid isn’t yours. Yes, you can talk to them then. Of course that doesn’t make sense, what did I say before?!?”
After 20 laps and 11 cookies it’s time to head back home. The kid is strapped back into the car, facing the back window, and talking to himself. It’s mid-afternoon with most of the world at work so naturally the worst drivers on the planet have all taken to the roads. I accidentally let some expletives fly. Isn’t the first time but I feel it’s time to address the situation.
“So the first time you curse, you’re naturally going to want to blame me. But don’t, because I’ve got ways to get back at you. Remember the dance to Forever In Blue Jeans in the kitchen this morning? Bet all your classmates will get a kick out of it when I chaperone your first school dance. Your mother and I will know you heard it from one of us but you can’t blame either of us. We’ll blame each other. I’ll know who you heard it from just by your first choice of curse words. You mother is a fan of ‘shithead,’ ‘jerkoff’ and ‘piece of shit’ while I like to dabble with the mother-effers. Of course, you do drive with me a lot, so your first complete sentence could very well be ‘Jesus Christ will you go!’ which I’ll just blame on your grandparent’s religious influence.”
We are home.
“Now what? I’m not sure. Any suggestions? Is there something you’ve been wanting to do today? Organize your toys? Do some of your laundry? Prank call Nanny and Pop-pop at work? That was always fun for dad. Here let me put you down here and…
“Alright, change of plans, you’re not going on the floor. How about back in your exer…”
“No exersaucer. Noted. Crib? Are you tired? You might be tired. Hell I’m tired and I really haven’t even done anything today. Between you and I, it makes me feel a little less like a man if I can’t make it through half a day with a baby without feeling like I’ve gone three rounds with an ultimate fighter. I’m sore, I’m sluggish and I’m pretty sure your head-butt to the face from earlier today is going to leave some type of bruise under my eye. Let’s try the crib for a quick snooze.”
“Yeah, figured. Well the only time you’re not crying is when I’m holding you so I’m guessing you want me to hold you and walk you around the house. Always fun for dad, lugging around a 20 pound child. My own exercise routine. Suck it Billy Blanks. It’s kind of nice out. Little brisk but it won’t kill you. How about a walk around the block? The fresh air will do us both good. This is our neighborhood. Probably not forever but until we can afford a bigger house. You’ll live in this place just long enough to love it, all your friends in the neighborhood and your school and then your mom and I will move you to a completely new home because your mother wants a walk-in closet and I’m obsessed with getting a man’s entertainment room.
The real reason is, this house is a little two small for the four of us. That’s my way of telling you that you’re eventually going to be a big brother. Mommy and I will probably have another kid. You’re not going to be a baby anymore and there will be a new baby in the house. You won’t need the crib anymore. You’ll get to move into a big boy bed and get all new furniture. You’ll love it. This is all up in the air though. Mommy and I change our mind about having another kid every other day. Actually, we are against it every night when you wake us up. Not the first time, but usually by the fourth time going into your room to rock you back to sleep, I’ve convinced myself I’d be insane to want to do this all over again.
I’m not really the one who needs convincing though. Mommy is leaning towards another child. We will let you know either way. If you notice mommy and I making more noise in the middle of the night, it’s probably because we decided to get you a little brother or sister. How that happens is a talk for another time. Also, ask your mother how it happens. I’ll eventually be the one to explain it but the look on her face when you ask is going to be phenomenal. Make sure to do it when other people are around. In a crowded store or a dinner party. That’s gonna rule.”
The kid is asleep half way down the block. I could take him home but I keep walking.
“Hey bubba. You passed out in your stroller. I brought you inside and put you in your crib. I’m only telling you all this because you’ve got the look on your face of a drunk man who just came out of a blackout. Guess what time it is? It’s 5 o’clock. You know what that means. Yup. Any minute now. Let’s go wait for her on the front porch. She likes when she pulls up and the two of us are waiting. Just don’t tell her anything we talked about today. It’s between us guys. Mommy doesn’t have to know. Especially that Hooters stuff. Keep that between us and your stuffed animals. Our secret. Don’t tell that stuffed turtle though, he looks like he’s got real loose lips.”