Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Third-String Parent Takes the Field
If asked what I’d want to list if I were sure that no mothers were listening, I’d probably say that the best thing is that I’m backup.
In the sport of parenting, I’m the quarterback who had a fine collegiate career but can’t expect much success in the pros because I’m only 5’10. Even so, I still get the Super Bowl ring because my wife is the Tom Brady of child care.
Actually, since I live in Korea, I’m actually the third-stringer, because Korean grandmothers often come to live with the family after the new baby is born, and my mother-in-law’s stature in this game could be compared to that of Peyton Manning’s in his arena.
Sometimes it’s unfulfilling not to get onto the playing field more frequently, but all too often the cries and occasional shrieks coming from his crib bring to mind a 300-pound linebacker with barbed wire tattooed around his bulging bicep. Therefore, I’m usually content to sit on the bench and cheer.
But what happens when the first and second strings are on the disabled list? That’s a question I had to answer on a recent Friday night after my mother came to visit. My mother-in-law took this as an opportunity to get out of the house and visit other family for a time, leaving her grandson’s care in more Caucasian, but still capable hands.
For much of that week very little changed; my son’s mother and American grandmother took care of him as I stood on the sidelines drinking Gatorade and studying the playbook. Then, we decided to take my mom out of the house for just a day to see the Korean countryside, just so she could say she’d seen something in this country besides the inside of our apartment and the interior of the baby’s diapers.
We got back around 9:30 p.m., and the still-jetlagged Caucasian Grandmother was on the DL shortly after that. My wife, having not slept much the previous night (I hear that’s common) and been out much of that day, began responding to his cries with decreasing urgency.
Sensing my opportunity to get some playing time, I picked up the ball and ran with it. Well, not run so much as walk back and forth while holding him and whispering “Shhh” and “It’s okay!” while he grabbed and pulled at the hair on my arms and chest. After a few minutes even this was no longer placating him, so I decided to sing him some of the lullabies I knew.
When I realized I didn’t know any, I considered singing all the ballads I knew.
When my ballad knowledge also proved deficient, I chose to sing any song on my iPod shuffle that was not built around power chords.
The serenity that he could attain from this was also short-lived, forcing me to try for the pacifier and the baby chair that rocks back and forth electronically. I honestly don’t know how I was able to make a whole hour pass this way, but somehow I did, constantly readjusting the angle of his electronically rocking seat and helping him to reinsert his pacifier five seconds before he would spit it out again.
One might call this the parenting equivalent of running out the clock.
Finally, after an hour had gone by, it was something of a relief to note that his diaper needed changing. After 60 minutes of fruitless guessing as to what might be contributing to his state of discontent, it was a blessing to see a tangible problem that could be seen, and certainly detected using other senses.
Unfortunately, his crib and extra diapers are located in the bedroom, making it impossible to address my wailing son’s needs without taking him within earshot of his mother. To my surprise, just one hour after her eyelids appeared leaden, she seemed rather refreshed and ready to give him the change of diaper and feeding he needed before falling asleep again.
“Thank you,” she said. “Because of you, I got to sleep for another hour.
“You are a good father.”
So, again, you may ask what the best part of being the father of a newborn son is. To the list of things I’ve already mentioned, I have a couple to add:
First of all, people don’t expect a lot from the third-stringer.
Second of all, the starter on this team is unbelievably resilient.
Here I am with my son and the electronic rocking chair, whatever it's called in actuality.
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