According to the school calendar, summer is just about over. And so tomorrow, my wife heads back to the classroom to prepare for another wave of children arriving on Monday. I’ll be taking Thursday and Friday off from work to substitute parent at the house.
I need to mentally prepare for this time with him. While it seems effortless--watching my wife parent, she's already been warned that there is a chance that she may come home and find me in tucked into a tight ball, rocking in the corner of the room, finger-paint and yogurt in my hair as the dogs and the kid take full reign over the house.
I’m kidding, sorta. But it is true that my wife is the better parent. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it's the truth. Maybe it’s her teaching background, but she’s better with all the structure and calm. She plans out little activities, each piece of the day carved into neat blocks, always ready to jump in with a "teaching moment". With me, it's anarchy.
I try to watch her, to learn some of the tricks. Like when he gets sidetracked, trying to climb into the fridge or the dog food under the cabinet (don’t judge), she’ll just announce happily that we’re, “all done now!”, and he’ll actually do what she wants him to do. It’s like she speaks in a way that he understands. I speak….clown.
He’s pretty much talking now. With his bench mark at 15-20 words, he’s easily at thirty, maybe more if you count those gurgling sounds he makes when her runs. He’s a lot of fun, and he’s still trying to find his voice— like this morning when I almost had him saying ET phone home. We’ll get there.
But he’s got quite the temper on him, and sometimes I panic. Of course, my wife knows how to coax him out of a fit. Just the other night, I had to get him out of the car, and he let the world know that he wasn’t happy about it. He kicked and screamed, thrashing and flailing as his face went cartoon-devil-red and his tear ducts were all systems go. I looked at my wife. While I’m not completely useless, this was one doozy of a tantrum.
Then my wife calmly left the room, only to return with Patrick the monkey. She handed our son the monkey and I watched as he wrapped a chubby arm around Patrick and then his thumb found his mouth. I sat on the floor, watching as she rocked him back to a normal human being.
I can make him laugh. But she can calm his world.
But my poor wife, last night after putting him to sleep, she walked in the room and fell on the bed. “I’m going to miss him,” she said with moist eyes, and I thought about how she’s spent every single day with him over the summer. How he clings to her sometimes and they go on grocery shopping trips and she lets him carry around a balloon and he sees the dog food and starts barking. Her little pieces of the day with him are getting smaller.
But back to me. With the end of summer comes another year of school. And beginning next week, I’ll have to get up nearly an hour earlier only to strap him in the car and haul him off to day care. It’s weird to think how I was just carrying him around everywhere in his car seat and now he has to walk or run wherever he goes. Man, I guess we have our moments, too.
After all, it’s not a competition, and even if it was, he’s clearly the winner. Besides, like I tell my wife, I'm doing the best with what I have. And I’ve got a whole bunch of love for that kid.
But still, wish me luck...