As a teacher, I have been very lucky to have had the summer off to spend with my son Gabriel. He’s five months old, with a smile that would cure cancer. Being a stay-at-home dad while my wife brings home the bacon has been a great opportunity to learn. For example, I’ve had to develop some new ways of doing things:
The Five-Minute Rule
If Gabriel is given a toy, he will lie there on the floor and play, make noises, drool, perform raspberry solos, and enjoy himself — for five minutes. After that time, that toy is, for all purposes, dead to Gabriel. I must bring him a new toy or binky to satiate his need for fun, otherwise he will whine, cry, kick, scream, curse, and threaten my life.
So, each day, I have several 5-minute windows to complete certain things I need to do, like eat and shower.
Each morning, I place Gabe on his play mat and turn on the music and flashing lights. This is when the five minutes start. I rush to the kitchen, start the coffee maker, pull a mug out of the cabinet, pull a bowl out of another one, zoom over to the cupboard for the cereal, the fridge has the milk and half-and-half, coffee goes in the mug, spoon in two sugars, pour the half-and-half, cereal and milk into the bowl, and three minutes are up. Two minutes left to eat and drink my coffee. After another minute, Gabe begins to stir. Captain, I need more time!
I spend the final minute going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, entertaining Gabe, and having breakfast, the whole time humming the damn songs coming out of his play mat. Most days I’m successful in getting my breakfast down before the screaming starts. I may choke or pass out from exhaustion, but I’m fed.
Showering involves washing my hair and lathering up with soap simultaneously, which probably resembles a naked man dancing with himself. I may jump out still a bit soapy and ashamed of myself, but I’m showered!
So, the rule I created for myself is: If I can’t figure out how to do something in five minutes, it doesn’t get done. No wonder my house is a mess.
During the day, I am a pretty fun dad. I can produce a fine zerbert, tummy tickle, goofy face, and incredible jig to many a Disney song. I can stop a crying Gabe with funny noises, and change a diaper while singing about the smells my son has just produced.
But come 8 p.m., I become someone different. I become something I never knew I could become. I transform into “Boring Daddy.”
“Boring Daddy” doesn’t put his son to bed, he bores his son to submission. No one wants to play with “Boring Daddy.” He walks Gabriel in a circle from living room to the dining room to the kitchen without uttering a word. All that is heard is a steady shush, like a wind along the beach. Gabriel always faces out, seeing the same things over and over and over and over again.
After about 10 minutes, Gabe lets out a sigh, seeming to give in. He closes his eyes, and drifts into Sleepytown. “Boring Daddy” has apparently triumphed, and Gabe is placed into his crib for the night.
As soon as Gabriel is placed into his crib, his eyes pop open. He was not sleeping, just biding his time. He’s awake, and he will have his revenge.
Suddenly, a realization comes to “Boring Daddy” …
My Son is a James Bond villain
My son may be plotting against my wife and me. While strapped in his rear-facing car seat, Gabriel will often glare at us through his mirror with an angry, furrowed brow. My wife often can’t look back, because she fears that he’s furious with her. The odd thing is: He can see only the back of our heads.
He seems intent on hurting us. He pinches me, kicks me in the groin, head-butts me, and stares at me while making a slashing motion across his neck. He pulls my wife’s hair, gums her cheek, kicks her in the gut, and I think he stole her ATM card. When we are injured, he laughs and laughs.
Gabriel uses his bouncer like his junior military command center. He picks up the toy apple like it’s a grenade, and bites the top, like he’s pulling out the pin. Then, he throws it at me, and smiles.
I swear he’s out to get me. Or maybe he’s teething.
Either way, help me.