Before she closed the door, she uttered two words that were both sincere and sardonic. "Good lu-uck!" And with those two sing-songy notes, she was gone. Silence followed, broken only by the unmistakable and adorable baby babble coming from Penelope's mouth. She was clueless as to what had just happened. No mom. No boob. Unless, of course, you count me as a boob.
It was just the two of us. Well, the three of us, including Luna. My wife had a work event she couldn't miss. She works at a college. A university, thank you very much. It was a little thing called commencement. So she had to be there, maternity leave or not.
Now, I've been alone with the baby several times before. That's nothing new to me. But those times were for an hour or two. NEVER for this long. Eight hours. I was so looking forward to it, too. To proving myself. To conquering this little, yet mighty, mountain. This would be the most fantastic and fearful thing I will do as a father to this point. It's just me and you, kid. Mano-a-mini. Eight hours. It felt like 80.
The other thing my wife said before her exit, was prophetic. Prophetic in its irony. "Be a good girl for daddy." Yeah, not so much with the being a good girl for the daddy. Oh, how I wish those words could have held true. Penelope was so misbehaved, through no fault of her own of course, that she could have smoked a cigarette and kicked the dog and I would have bought her an ice cream cone.
When our eight hours together had finally ended, I couldn't speak. I couldn't stand. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I was close to tears. This sweet, innocent, lovable little girl broke me down. You can see it in her eyes. Once she realized mom wasn't there, she took full advantage. "The quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard." Yeah, I was sacked a good half dozen times throughout the day, and my offensive line was not helping me either. I felt the pressure of the pass rush the entire game.
She ground me up into chuck meat, molded me into a patty, threw me on the grill, and ate me for lunch with a side of fries and a pickle. My ass was hers. I was Dustin Hoffman from "Tootsie," defeated and bewildered after babysitting Jessica Lange's toddler for the evening. I didn't think it would be easy, but I never imagined I would be more devastated than a boy who just learned his mom threw out all of his baseball cards. How could she be capable of bringing me such pain? Such anguish?
I actually have shin splints from watching my daughter. I run 20-25 miles a week, without incident (except for the occasional fall) and I get freakin' shin splints from standing all day and rocking this grunting, whimpering, bundle of burps? Are you kidding me?
My object was simple: keep her in motion, keep her asleep. We drove to the Short Hills Mall (Mother's Day is coming), walked the dog three times, and toured our 900 square foot condo more than a real estate agent looking for a cozy commission. But sleeping wasn't the problem. When she was awake, she was my mortal enemy. All fussy and annoying. Squirmy. Miserable. You couldn't sing to her. Couldn't play with her. Couldn't amuse her. Cranky and difficult. Like her father. Awwwww. Maybe that's why she was like that!
But I did manage to cook dinner. That's something I can hang my hat on. Quite an accomplishment. My wife had a warm, home-cooked meal waiting for her when she returned from a long, hard day of work. Ain't I a dream? In fact, all three of us: myself, Penelope, and Luna had all satisfactorily and sufficiently pooped and eaten all day. I did manage to keep everyone alive and functioning. Not bad.
This all makes me realize one big thing: Mothers are amazing. They're the hardest working, most underpaid, under appreciated people we know. I am fortunate enough to have married a woman who has now become an extraordinary mother. She's got it all under control. The eating, sleeping, pooping, bathing schedules. She pays the bills. She wears the pants. I'm not afraid to admit it. I'm fine with that, because with all of the breast feeding, she is rarely wearing a shirt. So she can wear all the pants she wants.
And a lot of them out there do it alone. They may be single, or they may have aloof, lazy husbands. Hey, guys, turn off the TV, look to your left and gaze upon the most wondrous blessing that God will ever bestow upon you. Not only did you trick some beautiful girl into marrying an insensitive slob, but she has carried, given birth, and is now nurturing your child. So put down the Sports Illustrated, stand up and give that woman a big hug and a kiss and say "Thank you." She can do it alone, but why should she have to? I learned the hard way I can't do it alone.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. You deserve a day all to yourselves.