As the father of a three-year old, the concept of a lazy weekend is distant memory. Saturdays, are for chores and errands and Sundays are for family time. My Saturday include taking Cristian to My Gym class, getting the car serviced, before rushing home to wash several loads of laundry.
Cristian sat next to me playing with his tablet, while I waited for the car. While I waited, I started up a conversation with a guy named Barry, sitting across from me. We chatted about cars, and baseball and summer plans. The conversation shifted to children once Cristian got up from his chair and started exploring his surroundings. Soon he was, turning laps around the waiting room, climbing on chairs, and charming everyone with his 1000-watt smile.
Barry told me his wife was pregnant with their first child. After offering congratulations, I told him, “Your life is going to change.”
Smiling like someone with no clue of what’s waiting for him he replied, “Everyone is saying that.”
Chuckling and shaking my head, I said, “No seriously. Everyone told us too. We thought we understood, but we had no clue. It’s something you won’t truly appreciate until you’ve been there.”
While we waited for our cars, I brought Barry up to speed on Baby 101. “The first night is overwhelming — it gets better once you get a system in place. After a few days, your friends are going to want to stop by and see the baby. Some will whip out iPhones and post selfies on Instagram, others will offer to bring dinner, and a few will want to help. Don’t be shy about the help, accept any that’s offered,” pointing at Cristian, “those offers disappear long before they reach his age.”
“As new parents you are gonna to want to experience every moment. I get it, I was there once too. The most important thing I’ve learned in my three-plus years is not to forget to make time for you and your wife, just the two of you.”
He sat silent for a moment, processing what I said and smiled. “I haven’t heard that one. It’s the best advice I’ve gotten so far.”
Later that day, while I was folding laundry, I replayed my conversation with Barry. Giving advice is easy, following your own advice not so much. Esther’s my best friend, we enjoy doing things together, but being raising a hyperactive three-year old isn’t easy.
Over the past year, we’ve offered the other a parenting break when the toddler-induced stress level became too much. One of us goes for a run, while the other goes to the bar to pound tequila shots. Scheduling date nights is more challenging.
Babysitting Cristian isn’t for the faint of heart. I’ve mentioned our adventures in babysitting and contributing to the GDP of a specific third-world country. When our regular babysitter isn’t available, we’ve reached out to family and friends and found our support system crumbling faster than America’s infrastructure.
It doesn’t help that Cristian is getting stronger, smarter and harder to distract. We used to drop him off and sneak out while he played with a toy. That doesn’t work anymore.
On our last date night, he sensed something was up when the babysitter was already there when he got home from daycare. I thought I made a clean break, slipping out while he worked on a puzzle in his room. When we got home we learned he threw a major tantrum when he couldn’t find Daddy.
Finding this out made me a little sad — and a little flattered too — he usually throws that kind of nuclear tantrum when he can’t find mommy, not me.
Lately we’ve adopted the Marine credo of Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. No we’re not distracting him by teaching him how to binge watch episodes of Teletubbies for a few moments peace — he does that already. We’ve learned to make the most of opportunities
After our first parent-teacher night at Cristian’s preschool, we made the most of having the babysitter and checked out a local Asian-Fusion restaurant. I don’t know what I enjoyed more, teriyaki chicken and a few innings of playoff baseball or that the Asian waitresses and bartenders we’re doing their hair and makeup like the women in this predominately Italian neighborhood, so they could blend in.
So if you are curious about parenthood and are feeling adventurous contact me and my better half and I will be happy to indulge your curiosity, while we enjoy dinner and a movie. I’m not holding out hope though, Barry stopped returning my phone calls.