Why do fathers always refer to watching their own children as "babysitting"? Is it only T? For a dad who loves his girls as much as T does, you'd think he'd really look forward to spending some quality time with them. I think it's not necessarily the bonding, but the work that comes along with children (dishes, laundry, bath time, diapers, fixing meals), that incites fear into the hearts of husbands everywhere. And it doesn't matter how many times T has "babysat" the girls, he has no clue as to what constitutes their daily rituals.
"Okay, are you looking at me?" I'll say before I leave. "Focus, please." I stand in between T and the television.
"Yes." he replies, even though he has sort of a glazed over look in his eyes. He is thinking about sports or you-know-what. They all do.
I run down the schedule for the girls' evening. How much milk to give the baby, what time to feed them, who goes to bed first, that sort of thing. I even make it easy for him and find the "special occasion" Gerber raviolis for Natalie--a food so disgusting, but so beloved by preschoolers.
"Did you get that?" I ask, pausing for a breath, and looking at the clock. If he would just remember this information, I wouldn't be forced to subject him to this lecture.
"Uh huh." he says. "When are you coming home?"
"I haven't left yet, T." I reply. I launch into my rehearsed speech on how I have readied the girls' rooms for bed assembly-style. Bath items prepared, pajamas, pull-ups, diapers, combs, bedtime stories, blankets, and stuffed animals are all lined up and ready. The dog could put them to bed, really.
"I have to give them a bath?!" Now I know he is actually listening, although I think all he heard was "blah blah blah dinner yadda yadda eight o'clock yippy skippy bath."
"Yes," I reply. "They've been running around all day, and they're dirty."
He sighs resignedly. "Okay, but do I have to wash Natalie's hair?" Anything to decrease the workload.
After some more negotiations I am on my way. Thirty minutes later, my phone rings.
"Wonder who that could be?" I comment sarcastically to my friend, J. She smirks.
It's T, frantic. "Is the turkey in the fridge okay to eat?" he asks. I think T has a secret fear of eating rancid lunch meat, being poisoned, and dying. I alleviate his fears, and hang up.
The phone rings again some time later. "How many tablespoons of cereal does Michaela get?"
"Where's her fruit?"
"Where do you keep Natalie's vegetables?"
T sounds worried the last time. "I asked Natalie if she wanted to go to bed, and she said 'no.' What do I do?"
I explain to him that our preschooler is taking advantage of his weakness, and that bedtime is not negotiable. (Natalie will make a swell corporate negotiator some day. She has killer instincts.)
When I arrive home, the dishes are piled in the sink, there are toys all over the floor, and the dog looks hungry.
"How did the girls do?" I ask.
"They did good." he replies, looking up from the latest issue of The Book of the AR-15. He looks completely exhausted, and I feel pity for him. Poor guy.
A mom would have fed the girls, changed some diapers, bathed them and washed their hair, read a story, sang some songs, tucked them in, done some laundry, washed the dishes, put up the toys, folded the laundry--all while completing a dissertation. All in a day's work, right, ladies? But we can't give the guys too much grief--those girls love their daddy!