Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dear FWNK.

The other day, a friend of mine was complaining how he never sees his buddy anymore, ever since his buddy had kids. He was a little peeved that every time his buddies got together and invited this guy with the kids, he was a no-show, citing his kids as “his excuse.” Apparently, he’s the one who puts them to bed every night. Henceforth, I shall call him Wonder Dad. My friend started the conversation with me by asking if Little Miss’s dad is home every day to put her to bed, to which I answered, yes, unless his job keeps him away, which happens about 30 percent of the time. I’m not sure if he was genuinely curious or if he just wanted someone to side with him, which meant mine was the wrong answer.

I felt the need to defend Wonder Dad, even though I’ve never met the guy. Sure, we don’t all have our same reasons for doing the things we do, but fellow parents tend to unite on certain things, especially when “under scrutiny” by our friends with no kids (FWNK).  Who knows, perhaps Wonder Dad hates being there but is mandated to go home by his iron-fisted wife. However, I’d like to err on the side of faith and think that he is there because he wants to. Because that’s where I would want to be. Well, not with his kids. With mine. (Duh.)

In my explanation to my friend, I described my typical work day. On a 24-hour day, I actually get to spend a measly two hours with Little Miss -- from the time I pick her up from daycare until bedtime. Sadly, I never see her in the morning before I leave for work. And in those two hours, much of it is spent making her dinner, feeding her, bathing her and preparing her for bed, which leaves us precious little time to play and bond. On the weekends, we finally get some quality time together as a family but most of those hours are spent sleeping, napping, running errands, doing chores and what little that's left is spent on what is now deemed as fun (e.g. museum outings, toddler classes, birthday parties, playdates and kids’ concerts).

Does that mean parents don’t have their own lives outside of their kids? Sure we do. We just go about it a little differently than our more carefree counterpart. Spontaneity is a luxury, unless we are staying with Little Miss' grandparents (a.k.a. built-in babysitters) for the weekend or during the holidays, which affords us a rare “hmm…what shall we do today?” that makes us positively giddy with pleasure. And it is by our own choice that we revolve around the baby’s sleep schedule -- I for one do not understand parents who drag their kids with them everywhere and then complain that they're cranky and overtired. We learned earlier on that a well-rested baby is a joyful baby, which translates to happy parents. Even if it means dining at a restaurant at 5:30 together with the senior citizens, so be it. We don't like cranky kids any more than you do, even if they're ours. And sometimes, especially when they're ours. 

I guess that’s why they make babies so incredibly cute. It makes all the disadvantages of child-rearing seem benign. I mean, who else but parents can talk about poop and vomit ad nauseam over tea and scones? And to trade in Happy Hour with friends for our version of Happy Hour at home (similar euphoria, different drug) seems like a small price to pay. A Little Miss smile is my stress buster. A Little Miss laugh is akin to raining roses. Through her, I see the world with new eyes, and I fall in love all over again. Just like I did with her dad when I saw the man he is with her. Little Miss’ very own Wonder Dad, who busts his ass at work every day just so he can come home to her every night. He doesn’t always make it, but he almost never opts out of seeing her to bed in lieu of a social event. His choice.

We both look forward to the two hours (he usually only gets one, if that) and treat it as sacred family time because we know that after that, once she’s in bed, we can go back to adult world. That’s when the social events, hair appointments, bill payments, video gaming, yoga classes, spontaneous candlelit dinners, conversations into the wee hours of the night take place. We are not devoid of life, it just takes place at a different time, and sometimes, on a different plane. Our priorities may have shifted, but we’re essentially the same people. We only hope our FWNK can understand and meet us half way.  So we can’t meet at 6pm for drinks, big deal. The martinis and beer don’t run out by eight, so why couldn’t we just meet a little later? It’s na├»ve to think that parents who no longer partake in their pre-baby social activities do so because they have other familial “obligations”. Many times we choose our family not because we have to, but because we want to.

Yesterday, at Little Miss’ bedtime, I tucked her under her blanket and gave her her sleep buddy, Monkey (yes, it's a plush monkey -- I never claimed we were very original), which she kissed and hugged as she did every night but when I said goodnight, she responded with, “Daddy, daddy,” who had a late evening meeting and couldn’t make it home. Even at 14 months, she knew he was the one who usually tucked her in, and she knew to ask for him. But at that age, I didn't know how to explain to her in a way that she could understand why he wasn't there. So when someone who loves you unequivocally and unconditionally, like you are their whole world, is waiting for you and missing you when you’re not there, and if you had the choice, tell me dear FWNK, why would you want to be any place else?

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