All last week, I downplayed my wife's return to work. When she would get upset about it, about the change to our routine, about the unknown, about how Penelope would respond, I would reassure her. Tell her everything is going to be OK. Because I knew it would be. I am a visionary, a seer. I can predict the future! Penelope will be fine, I would say. I mean, come on, she's in my hands! And my mother-in-law's. My wife's mom did a pretty good job raising her, no? The jury, however, is still out on her brother.
But I think I was in a little bit of denial. I knew the baby would be well taken care of, that I could handle her, despite that one catastrophic day last month that made me want to run home to my mommy and rest my head in her lap so she could stroke my hair and say "It's alright, honey." What? You never needed comfort from your mom before? I'm an Italian male. Enter your favorite cliche here. My wife's lucky my mother doesn't rent an apartment in our building.
The truth is, I really enjoyed having my wife around all of the time, and I didn't want to think about a return to normal. At least, our definition of normal, which is to say, seeing each other sporadically during the week, but all day just on Sunday. It was so much fun while it lasted. The best three months of our marriage.
Usually when I come home from work, she's asleep. The only one who's awake to give me love and attention is the dog. Not that I dismiss it. I'll take those frantic kisses that send her tongue curling up my nose. But during maternity leave, I got the wife, the dog, and up until most recently, the baby too! That was a treat. It was a triangle of love. A love triangle, if you will. And now it's over. Boo hoo.
We used to say our contrasting work schedules are good for our relationship. There is less time to argue, less chance for potential disagreements. It is less likely I will stick my giant-toed foot into my loud mouth and say something that I would spend an entire day rectifying. But you know what? I'd rather have an entire stressful day of bickering with her than one in which I do not see her with her eyes open.
I'll remember all of our meals at the coffee table, passing Penelope back and forth more often than we passed the salt and pepper. Juggling her and the utensils like some crazed circus performer.
I thought it was great that we curbed our television viewing so much that we had piled a month's worth of "Lost," "Heroes," and "Grey's Anatomy" onto our TiVo. I'm still working on getting through "CSI." And how funny was it that for three days a couple of weeks ago I avoided radio, TV, and newspaper accounts of "The Sopranos," because we had not watched it yet, only to read about Christopher getting whacked in an editorial about the New Jersey Nets of all things. The writer compared the team's unceremonious exit from the playoffs to Christopher's death on the show. Are you kidding me? He couldn't use another, more lasting pop culture reference? I wanted so badly to spoil it for my wife, just out of spite. But I didn't.
I loved the impromptu play sessions with Luna, when we finally had time to be silly with the dog like we used to pre-baby. Then there was the first time I tasted breast milk. It tastes eerily similar to Penelope's spit up. Ewwwww!
I'll never forget my wife's hysterical reactions every time I came dangerously close to putting Penelope on one of my boobs. And all of our walks, the four of us, to get breakfast, or smoothies, or whatever. Those trips to Babies R' Us to get stuff we "need." (Oh, how I wish there was a backwards "r" on the keyboard for when I type "Babies R' Us.")
Most of all, I'm going to miss her just being there. Her smile. Her voice, even when she's asking me to do something, or asking me if I know something that she already knows. Her patience with her babies: Penelope, Luna, and me. Her wisdom. Her.
Thanks for the best, most entertaining, most wonderful, most exhausting three months of my life. Your job better know how lucky they are to have you. Your family certainly does.