Last night was my first night alone with both boys. Ever. Max is 2 1/2 now and he’s super easy to play with, get fed, entertain, and get to sleep. He’s a kid, and can therefore understand reason. Dodge is 6 months old and sees me as the other parent without boobs…we have a good daytime relationship. I arrived home at just before 6:30 to relieve our friend who was watching the boys till I got home. Kate teaches late on Thursdays so this was the inaugural night of the rest of the semester. Immediately Dodge looked at me and realized there would not be a boob in his near future…he puckered up into his sourly sad face and began whimpering as he looked around for his mom. Max kept trying to head-butt Dodge and wanted to play catch with him (we do call him “Dodge-Ball”) so I cheated and tossed Toy Story 2 on the ole TV and plunked Max down in front of it with his dinner while I took Dodge upstairs to bed.
Dodge screamed in my face for a while, reluctantly took the bottle, cried every time I sat down, and after an hour of rocking…he finally closed his eyes. Being a utilitarian man I decided to sway back and forth 100 times and then set him down. I began counting in my head. 1, 2, 3, 4… Dodge got heavier in my arms. My left arm went numb, I got that burning sensation between my shoulder blades, and suddenly I remembered it all from Max. How does Kate do this every night? Its exhausting! …97, 98, 99, 100. I set Dodge down in his crib and tip-toed out of his room.
I went downstairs where Max was sitting hang-jaw in front of the TV and had not touched his dinner. I quickly shoveled some food in his gaping mouth and answered questions about Toy Story 2. “Yes, that’s Buzz Light Year.” “That’s Woody, he’s Andy’s toy.” “No, you can’t play with Andy’s toys because they’re not rea…Andy’s not here.” “Yes, the movie ends abruptly at a commercial break with Buzz in the elevator shaft.” Then Max showed off his OCD and threw a tantrum because the TV was still on as I was trying to take him upstairs, “The TV has to be off Dada! I want it off!!!” Fine…I turned the TV off. By now Dodge was really starting to work up a good cry so I changed Max into his PJ’s, grabbed Dodge from the nursery, and we all crawled into Max’s bed to read books. Dodge doesn’t like the books and started wailing again and now Max was getting wound up. I make an executive decision that the best thing to do is set Dodge down and let him cry for a few minutes while I got Max to sleep and then I can focus on Dodge.
As I walked into Dodge’s nursery barefoot I slammed my left pinky toe into the metal leg of a filing cabinet I have not yet moved downstairs into the office. My toe popped out-of-place and made a little Y-shaped peace sign with the toe next to it which caused me to shout in pain. Dodge cried more. I put him in the crib and hopped out to the hallway where I kicked my foot against the wall to pop my pinky toe back in. “Pop.” It both hurt and felt fantastic at the same time…mostly hurt. I slammed the door and howled in pain. Max called out to me. I limped into his room still recovering where Max asked me, “Are you yelling at Dodge?” My heart melts, “No sweetheart, Daddy got a ouchy toe and it really hurts.” Max replied, “You slammed the door…you shouldn’t slam the door Dada, it’s no, no, no.” This is a rule we set for him and he’s right, “You’re right Max, I slammed the door and its no, no, no…I’m sorry…Dada’s sorry.” Dodge’s cries subside a bit from the room next door. Max listened to them…then scolded me. “Don’t shout at Dodge Dada…he’s little.” I wanted to get defensive because I wasn’t shouting at Dodge but at the same time I was so proud that my little 2-year-old understood that dodge needed to be protected. I explained that I wasn’t yelling at Dodge, that I had dislocated my toe and was shouting in pain. Max reminded me, “And you slammed the door.” I apologized for the door again. Max looked at me sideways and one last time reminded me, “Dodge is little Dada, you shouldn’t yell at Dodge. He’s just little.” I agreed and told Max it was our responsibility as a family to take care of him.
After a few books and one song Max understood that I needed to go take care of Dodge and reluctantly went to bed on his own. Dodge had ramped up to full-blown tears now and was doing that head-jerk sniffle thing that makes me feel like a failure as a parent. I carried him and rocked him till he calmed down to just screaming in my face and pushing away from me. I gave up and took him downstairs and flipped on the Chiefs game on the TV. Dodge was captivated. After a few minutes he let me sit down and didn’t cry too much and finally settled in to watch the game without tears. Thirty seconds later…Kate walked in the front door and said, “Looks like you boys are having a fun night.”
I’m a pussy. My left arm is on fire today as I fully pulled some random muscle in my bicep from holding Dodge all night. My toe is starting to change color but feels slightly better which is comforting – I have broken that one twice before. I feel weird having been scolded by a 2-year-old…especially since I wasn’t shouting at Dodge but I did slam a door. The fun part? I get to do this every Thursday! I usually just put Max to bed…I had no idea how much work Dodge could be. Alas, as Kate said, “Everyone is alive so all is well.” I still felt like a total failure.
Then…today, I got an email from Kate that brought me to tears. Its a video of Dodge laying on the changing table saying his first word. “Dada…Dada? Dadadadada…” Thanks little man…Dada needed that. Looking forward to next Thursday. Happy holiday weekend!
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