Thursday, August 10, 2006

What I did on my summer vacation.

Yesterday, at the pool, Jeff and I had the following conversation:

J: "Keep Jordan away from that kid. He's a total bruiser. Just look at him, the little punk. He slammed Jordan's hand in the door of the play house."

S: "Ohmigod, did you say anything?"

J: "His mom apologized and everything, but the kid just looks like he's a punk."

S: " I love that you've learned which kids to stay away from on the playground. That's such a mommy thing to know."

As Monkey, Sr.'s paternity leave winds down, I've been reflecting on what this experience has been like for him. I don't think it's turned him into more of a "mommy," (ala Mr. Mom) nor can I say it's made him a better father. He's always been a great father; he didn't need paternity leave to improve him. What all the extra time may have provided is just that - extra time to spend with the monkeys, and all that the opportunity entails.

I daresay it's a rare thing to take a full month off for paternity leave. In this respect, we've been lucky that Monkey's firm offers this as an option. From my perspective, it was a big help having the old monkey around to tend to the care and feeding of the brood. But apart from the basics, he also got a chance to spend a lot of one-on-one time with the little guy for hours during the day while Miss Mina and I got to know one another.

It's not easy spending long stretches of time with a very active toddler. Sure, there are fun moments - hearing the little guy laugh, watching his face break out into a huge, delighted smile when he splashes in the sprinklers, listening to him as he practices singing the A-B-C song. Those are some seriously cute moments.

But ... there are also some seriously not-so-cute moments that can try the patience of even the most dedicated parent. Those hours during the day have to be filled with some activity; and coming up with new and exciting distractions takes creativity. For much of the month, the heat wave kept us away from the parks and swings, while we sought the sanctuary of air conditioned bliss. But little monkey can only tolerate so many hours in his playroom, and only so many renditions of Baby Einstein's vocabulary drills. And then it gets ugly. In fact, it gets FUGLY. The toddler foot-stomping tantrums, the molars-coming-in fussiness, and the general malaise that descends upon any kid forced to spend too long indoors can cause a parent to pray that the bedtime hour comes soon. I know. I've been there. And there have been nights when 7:30 could not have arrived a minute too soon.

Added to the equation is the element of sleep deprivation brought on by Miss Mina's constant need to eat. While I wearily get up and attend to her never-ending appetite, the Old Monkey awakens too. He'll get me some water, he'll take the baby for a burp and diaper change after her meal, or he'll simply scoot over a little more on the already too small bed, and make room for the new monkey to lay between us. That's her favorite spot to sleep (just like Oscar!) and a sure fire way of getting her to go back down, which is critical at that dangerous 4:00 am hour when day and night become one and the same.

So, given the amount of work involved, I would hesitate to call this experience a vacation. There have definitely been fun times. There have definitely been trying times. I know I would have had a hellishly more difficult time adjusting to a newborn without Monkey, Sr. here to help. So, for that alone, I am thrilled we've had this month. I'll leave it to the old monkey himself to express in his own words, any other thoughts about the experience. I can honestly say that I wish it could have lasted longer.

Miss Mina's fists of fury will take on any punk that messes with her big bro.

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