All of her young life, Penelope has spent the vast majority of her waking hours with her mother. Sadly, I've already missed out on some things. That's to be expected. So don't cry for me, Argentina. Because things are about to change. The understudy is stepping into the spotlight. By this time next week, mommy will be back at work. And daddy's ready for the role of a lifetime.
Enter the man whom my wife is always referring to in the third person. "Daddy's going to change your diaper." "Daddy's going to give you a bottle so I can pump." "Daddy has to call the mechanic so we can get the car fixed." Yes, it's very passive aggressive. At times, I feel like the live-in help. I'm Alice from "The Brady Bunch" without the snazzy powder blue uniform. Of what concern was it to Penelope that the car needed repairing?
Then there are the countless conversations that begin with my wife saying the four words that have come to signify her parenting superiority: "Just so you know..." As in, "Just so you know, you have to shake the bottle after it's in the warmer, to distribute the milk evenly." "Just so you know, she gets fussy when she's tired." Thanks, master of the obvious. "Just so you know, you shouldn't hold her over an open flame." I'll try to remember that one.
There are probably a lot of parents out there who would not trust me to babysit their children, unless my more mature better half were present. That is because they know that I myself am an overgrown kid. I mean, seriously. This blog? My weekly little toy that I play with and share with my friends on the internet. Then, consider my running habit-turned-infatuation that has me training for the NYC Half-Marathon in August.
Recently I told my wife that it's time for new sneakers. It's not a vanity thing, I need them. But I had to push it. I had to say I want two pairs. One for everyday use and one special, orange pair for races. Yes, orange. Go 'Cuse. She responded as if I were seven: "No, honey, you can pick out one pair that you like and if it comes in orange, you can get it in orange." OK, mommy.
I still want a second pair, and Father's Day is right around the corner for those of you who haven't picked me out a gift yet. Hint hint.
But both me and Penelope will have to do a lot of growing up on the fly, and in a hurry. Once again, like when she was born, our routine is going to be turned upside down. And just when we were settling in! Funny how that works out, isn't it? Penelope is going to have a lot of daddy in-your-face time. And she's picking up on things. Feelings. Moods. God forbid, words! Yet here I am, father figure to my beautiful daughter. The man to whom she will compare all other men in her life. You've got a lot to live up to, boys!
I've been working on sharpening her tough exterior so that she is impervious to sarcasm. When she starts crying, I give her a "I hear you hon-eeeey." If she persists, I ask her if she has a fever, and if so, then she needs to take a "chill pill." When those cries are due to hunger, I don't use a pacifier to hold her off. No, until my wife is ready, I stick my nose in her mouth. That's right. My big, hairy, pointy, Italian schnoz. As you might imagine, my wife does not endorse this behavior. Penelope, on the other hand, actually likes the nose. It must feel like a nipple. But after those first few amusing seconds, the novelty wears off for me, and pain sets in. It gets scary.
When my wife is ready, I can't just hand the baby over. What fun would that be? It has to be a presentation. A celebration. A ritual. I hold her up in the air like Simba in the opening scene of "The Lion King" and sing "The Circle of Life."
When she's happy, it's fun to test the limits of what she will allow me to do to her until she gets annoyed. See what I am? I am her tormentor! In the beginning, I would put her tiny foot in my mouth, to show how small it was. Or how big my mouth is. Yes, the same foot that she occasionally sticks in her own poop. I am sad to report it doesn't fit anymore. Well, it does, but not without causing me to gag a little. Then there was the week when I had that mystery stomach ailment. Gee, I wonder where that came from?
I also constantly smother her with kisses every chance I get. I'm talking full-out mauling. Like a grizzly bear raiding a picnic basket. When I'm done, she looks dazed at first, like a fighter who was just sucker punched. I only know one way to love her. Hard and heavy.
I also sing her the songs from my personal, cranial i-Pod, simply because I am not capable of belting out a nursery rhyme without thinking of the Andrew Dice Clay versions. I am transported to 1989, when I would listen to the raunchy comedian's hysterically vulgar reinterpretations of Mother Goose's classics on my boom box in my bedroom. "Little boy blue... he needed the money!" And that is the cleanest example that is fit to print on a baby blog! That's OK. Mommy can sing her nursery rhymes, preferably without me present, since I chuckle every time I think of "Hickory Dickory Dock." See? How immature is that?
And another thing about nursery rhymes: I am confused as to why "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" shares the same tune as the ABC's song. Now sit back, and sing both songs in your head for a minute..... Why is that? They couldn't come up with a different melody for one of them?
When I sing to her, I mostly stick to the big three. My favorites. Sinatra, Springsteen, Joel. And sometimes, when she's really cranky, James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend." Not only because it's sweet, but because when she's screaming and thrashing, it's amusing to sing the first line: "When you're down, and troubled, and you need a helping hand, and nothing is going right..." I'm a little evil.
One time I was singing her Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight," and she's looking right at me, eyes opening and closing as she was falling asleep. When I was finished, she opened her eyes for a second and I said, "That's the song we're going to dance to at your wedding... or your civil commitment ceremony." As a parent, you have to be prepared for anything.
And I am as prepared as I can possibly be. There are going to be some rough moments. Some fussy days. But I knew that when I applied for the job. While I am of the belief that maternity leave should be unlimited, or at least longer than three months, and should include something for the father as well, we live in a "live to work" society. The downside is, less mommy time. The upside? Make room for daddy. The third person is now going to have his own first person point of view.
Hold on tight, little girl, it's going to be a wild ride!