The coolest thing happens when I open my front door.
First, of course, I get ambushed by the dog. Once I can shake her, I look beyond the phalanx of baby gates to see Man sprint-crawling toward me, screaming “Dada!!!” with delight. He crawls so fast he burns his knees. He grins as if he’s seeing a clown on stilts.
As soon as we meet, we’ll play nonstop for at least a half hour, rolling around, jumping in the air, diving on the couch and otherwise concussing ourselves. I’m laughing, Man is laughing. We give airplane spins around the living room floor, Man shouting with joy.
Later on during the day, Man will make an effort to hang out with me. He’ll “request” to be in my arms when my wife is holding him. He’ll crawl over toward me when his mom is diligently sitting on the floor with his toys. Needless to say, this drives my wife crazy.
“I spend 24 hours a day with him, seven days a week,” she’ll say to me, “and all he wants to do is be with you!” My response? Well, of course he wants to hang out with me – I’m just a Big Dumb Animal.
She’s the one who—for the most part—feeds him, changes him, tells him when it’s time for sleep…she’s the Mom with a capital M. He loves her—he couldn’t live more than five minutes without her and he knows it—and therefore she is singularly the most important person in his life. She teaches him, she nurtures him, she cares for him—he knows it and he loves her for it.
But I’m that other guy who’s around, and I’m much bigger, hairier and wilder than she is. She likes to read books and play with his musical Ferris wheel. I like to throw him around like he’s a rag doll. I bite his belly until he laughs so hard he blows his nose. I play Pop Goes The Weasel and at “Pop!” throw him so high in the air he once brushed the ceiling. (It’s fine, honey.)
And plus, he knows I’m not the Ultimate Authority. He knows I’m going to defer to Mom on the big stuff, and he and I can just horse around in between. I’m just a Big Dumb Animal—kind of furry, crazy enough to throw him around, and pretty stupidly clumsy when it comes to actual child-rearing. And since I’m the Big Dumb Animal, he cuts me a lot of slack.
Feeding time for Mom is often a challenge, but he typically eats for me. I don’t do anything different—I cut up food and give it to him—but he sits in his chair and he eats it. I think he knows I’m just the play-around guy, the backup quarterback at best, and he just wants to hang out and do stupid stuff too.
Man and I went on an all-day field trip to see my grandfather a couple of weeks ago. When I got home, my wife asked, “Did he cry?”
“No,” I said.
“Did he nap?”
“Yes,” I said. “The whole ride down.”
“Did he poop?”
“No,” I said.
“He never got cranky?”
“No,” I said. “We were just having fun the whole time.”
She muttered something under her breath and shuffled out of the room.
I don’t think my wife should be all that concerned that Man sees me as a Big Dumb Animal. She should probably be more worried about the fact that he’s becoming one himself.