Mateo in the mirror
Most evenings, Nicole and I tag-team the nightly Mateo maintenance. But when one of us is out of town, it all falls on one person. This week, that person is me. I’m really not complaining though. OK, that was a lie. I am complaining. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my son. He’s totally the bomb-diggity. But taking care of his little ass (literally) is a lot of flippin’ work! People who act like taking care of babies is all cake and butterflies are just plain crazy. Being a parent is a full-fledged job! Only with this job, the boss is an incredibly demanding 16 lb tyrant who expects you to obey orders, but doesn’t speak a lick of English! You’d think cleaning his butt at 5 am in the bathtub after what I like to call a “shitsplosion” would earn me a promotion or some sort of recognition in this company. But no, all it does is give me a whale-shaped bath tub full of poop water.
Somewhat ironically, if I were reading this blog post a year ago, I would have told myself to “Suck it up champ! No one forced you to have a baby!” My D.I.N.K. quasi-elitest attitude would have blocked any semblance of sympathy for the situation. I still respect that position although I do see things differently now.
So I thought it would be fun for the sake of commiseration or perhaps just a preview of things to come for friends who are about to have kids (‘ahem! Funk!), to review a typical night alone with Mateo.
5:00 pm – I pick Mateo up from Grandma’s (yes we are extremely lucky). We play, read books, roll on the floor, punch the dogs, and then watch a toy train go in circles for a while. Mateo then gets upset because he keeps trying to grab the train and is always a second too late. He decides he’s too cool to sit on daddy’s lap and wants to sit on the floor to get closer to the train. I abide his wishes and despite my hands supporting his sides, he tips forward and does a slow-motion face plant into the plastic train track. A pride injury really. Tears. Elmo to the rescue! Damn it! It’s only 5:15! Where are the dogs?
6:15 pm – Under extreme protest, Mateo hangs out in his crib for a few minutes while I prepare his bath and his bottle. At this point, he’s getting very cranky because he’s sleepy and tired. But the bath ain’t ready until the floating turtle thermometer tells me it’s ready!
6:20 pm – I struggle to remove his onesie. I say struggle because at this point, he’s like one of those water wienies I used to play with as a kid. He twists and turns and I can’t seem to get a good grip. Eventually I manage to pull in his flailing arms and get the thing over his big little head. Of course he hates this so we get a few loud cries. Once nude though, all is right with the world. Armpit raspberries bring raucous laughter and giggles that make me feel like a stand up comedian. I’m killin’ it! That is, until my always present stubble rubs just a little too hard and the laughter morphs into something that sort of resembles a whining cry.
6:25 pm – Like any good stand-up comedian, I quickly recover by acting out Mateo’s favorite super hero movie: The Adventures of Naked Superbaby. The general plot is simple: Mateo fights crime by flying around in the nude and pees on the villains from above. He seems to think it’s funny.
6:27 pm – Naked Superbaby flies into the tub for a well-deserved and relaxing bath. He grabs his “boyhood” with his left hand and splashes me in the eye with the other. He then sees his rubber bath dog and decides, like most things he comes in contact with, it belongs nestled deeply in his mouth. As I try to wash all of the important baby parts, he starts uttering the words, “ma ma ma ma ma” repeatedly in a mocking and menacing tone. Not sure what he’s getting at.
6:30 pm – Mateo let’s me know he’s done with his bath when he thrusts his mid-section up and over the little seat and proceeds to excrete oddly-scented bubbles into the water. Nice.
6:32 pm – Time to dry. I wrap my little bundle of joy into a towel that features a hood in the shape of a lion’s head. The hood thing never quite works out and it just gets in the way. Why the hell do we even have this thing?!?! I then lay him on the padded countertop and dry him off, Spagnuolo-style: I blow dry him. The boy loves it, just like his pop. Hey, you can’t blame a guy for wanting a dry undercarriage.
6:35 pm – Back to the nursery where I slather on gobs of goo that supposedly protect his little buns overnight. One day, I will remind my son how I used to lube him up before bed. I think I’ll save that one for his first girlfriend. Anyway, at this point, he’s like a little greased pig and I need to fasten the diaper. Nicole is the resident greased pig catcher thanks to her Missouri roots but unfortunately, I’m from Trenton, NJ. So I distract my little man with a little talking Master Yoda and finally get the diaper on. I hope it holds.
6:40 pm – Time to eat. I can tell it is time to eat, not only because of the clock on my iPhone, but because of the 7 month old baby screaming in my ear with that perfect pitch that resonates the ear drum just right. I have never heard a banshee’s scream, but I imagine this is pretty close. I quickly grab the kid, the pillow, and the bottle in one (almost smooth) motion and finally, all is quiet.
6:43 pm – He drinks hungrily while I struggle to position a book on top of the pillow. I decide to try to hold the bottle with my left hand and grab the book with my right. When I look back, there is formula up his nose and his lips are smacking together longingly. Oops. A quick re-position and we’re in business. I begin reading a tale from a Disney storybook collection. Unfortunately, the way things are situated, I can barely read the words and there is no way I can flip the page. So I strain to read the same page over, and over, and over. Just to make it more interesting for myself, I try to read it differently each time. Not sure the kid notices. Thankfully, his eyes are getting heavy. I’m in for an easy one tonight!
6:50 pm – When Mateo is at capacity, he generally doesn’t push the nipple out of his mouth. Instead, he leaves it in there so it fills up his little cheek pockets and the formula begins to flow over his lips and down his neck. That’s how I know it’s time to burp. He usually burps fairly quickly without much help. But tonight, he has something special for me: his patented burp/fart/cough maneuver. I was really impressed but also a little baffled at how he pulled it off. My baby is so smart!
6:55 pm – I put him in his little wrap sac thing that makes him look like a starfish. Normally this is pretty uneventful when Nicole does it. But tonight, he’s a squirmy wormy. Finally I get him zipped up and hoist him up to my shoulder. Let the tired crying begin! I hold him for a few minutes patting his back gently. He then proceeds to lovingly smack his head into my face repeatedly. I swear this kid reminds me of Bonk from Bonk’s Revenge (old Turbo Grafx 16 game). After this somewhat painful exchange, I lay my sweet little boy in his crib. He’s still crying a bit but I hear a constant shuffling on the mattress. I can’t see anything (blackout curtains), but I have to imagine he’s doing some sweet 80’s style breakdancing in there. Within a minute he somehow has his head wedged into the corner on the other side of the crib.
7:00 pm – I move him back to the center and begin patting his butt and the farts start rolling out with gusto! From here on out, I’m just pushing buttons and turning knobs. This is the part Nicole usually takes care of while I’m in the kitchen making dinner, and I’m not afraid to admit I’m a little lost. So I flip the boy onto his back thinking the face in the mattress can’t be comfortable. He immediately rolls himself back over onto his belly with an angry grunt. Boy knows what he likes. At this point, I put a reassuring hand on his back because I don’t really know what else to do. And suddenly out of nowhere, silence! I grab the empty bottle and trip over the dog on my way out, but thankfully I made no noise. I close the door behind me and emerge into the world a little shell-shocked. Kind of like when you go to a really scary movie in the afternoon. You come out feeling really weird and surprised to see daylight.
It was a tough battle, but I was victorious. And my hard work will be rewarded with a prompt and punctual 5:30 am wakeup. It could be worse though. At least he is sleeping through the night. And tomorrow, we’ll do it all again.
I am sure all of you experienced parents are nodding your heads and laughing at my parental “noobness”. And those of you who aren’t parents probably gave up on this post 5 paragraphs ago. But I hope it was at least a little entertaining getting a glimpse into what it’s like to take care of Mateo. I never even held a baby before my son so I have nothing to compare this experience to. I make lots of jokes about it, but being a father has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Being a parent is something I don’t take lightly and it was absolutely life-changing, as it should be. But one thing I have learned in my time on this planet (I say this because I plan to visit other planets in other lifetimes), is that the best things in life come from challenges. Quitting my job and starting The Wood Whisperer was risky as hell and incredibly difficult. I was sweating bullets the night I went on one knee in the surf in Carlsbad, Ca and asked Nicole to marry me. And now I am challenged every day to not only care for my son, but to provide him with a framework that allows him the opportunity to become a responsible world citizen and a productive member of society. The rewards for this are substantial! From the little things like his infectious smile to eventually watching him embark on his own path in life as he becomes his own man. Hopefully, for his sake, he’ll be a little less hairy than his dad.
Well, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there! And Happy Father’s day to me too I suppose. Wow that feels weird to say!