Last night my wife Kate and I did our usual goodnight routine with our toddler Max. Last night during Max’s bath we splashed each other and played with the rubber duckies. I sang his favorite songs while we changed him into his pajamas. Kate read him two books. Then comes the best part, where I get to tuck him in! First we find “Muffin” his stuffed bunny and he hugs it so hard I’m sure the head will pop off! Then I place the blanket over him and “tuck-tuck-tuck” him in like a little burrito. Next we have to kiss all the animals; Wu Shock, Black Bear, Turtle, Apple Bear, Blue Dog. Pink Dog, and of course Chester the big dog who goes “woof-woof-woof!”
Next comes the kisses; Eskimo, Butterfly, and the Dada kisses. Dada kisses are on the nose, eyebrows, cheeks, and forehead. They come at the request of Max and occasionally I am asked to kiss Blue Dog or Apple Bear as well.
Then I say my nightly rhyme, kiss him one more time on the top of his head, and head to the door where I stop and say “I love you.” Max then says back “I love you too.” Next I say, “I love you more.” Normally Max would then compete with me to argue who loves who more…but last night he did not respond. Once more I said, “I love you more!” A slight pause then a small “Love you,” came from the crib. So I moved on to the main event where I show max with my arms (as if I had caught a big fish) how much I love him and say “I love you thiiiiiiiiis biiiiiig!” Any other night…this is his favorite and we could play this game back and forth till the end of time. Except tonight. After shouting my love to the mountaintops Max did not reply by telling me how big he loved me. No…instead he very matter-of factly (and almost coldly) said, “Night-night Dada.”
And so I left his room wondering if this is how parents with older kids feel when they still want to cuddle their children but their kids are embarrassed to be seen in public with them. “No PDA” (Public Display of Affection) I used to tell my mother. She’d say, “We’re alone…can’t I please have a hug?” I’d shun her and proclaim that there might be someone with a telescope somewhere. No PDA.
Till now I was worried that my boys would put me through hell by being little devils since I was such a trouble-maker to my parents. Karma. Now I’m worried that karma will come back to get me with “No PDA.” That would be the biggest punishment of all time for all the things I put my folks through. No more hugs? No more “I love you thiiiiis biiiiig?” No more Eskimo kisses? Please slow down Max, Dada isn’t done snuggling you. I understand you have places to see and things to do…but could the toy cars wait for just a moment while I get one of those Hulk-squeeze hugs I live for? As I tell you every night, quoting the book Love You Forever:
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
I left Max’s room and sulked downstairs to Kate who was happy to give me a hug. Its great…but not the same as the one my little man gives me when I’m carrying him to bed. We flipped on the video monitor and saw that he was laying with his feet propped up on the wall, tossing animals around, and clapping. My night-night routine was keeping him from playing alone by night-light. I wanted to go back into his room and play whatever game he was playing too. I want to get flash lights and stay up late reading comic books. Being a dad to a son is gorgeous because you get a child and a buddy. I just hope Max thinks of me as his buddy too.