Friday, May 12, 2006

Mother's Day

The Wife, before she was The Wife, loved kids. It was one of the first things I learned about her. She had a niece on whom she doted, and she always noticed little kids when we were out.

The Wife is amazing. When we started dating, I remember getting large pizzas and her matching me, slice for slice. That’s incredibly rare in the dating world. Her relationship to food is like a guy’s, yet she’s still a head-turner after two kids. How she does that, I have no idea.

Marriage was a relatively easy adjustment. Parenthood was the tough one.

When The Boy came along, everything (pronounce every syllable slowly) changed. Looking back to our pre-parenthood days, I’m astonished at how much free time we had. It’s simply unthinkable now.

Nature plays a cruel trick on new parents. Your moment of maximum cluelessness coincides with the baby’s moment of maximum dependency. Add sleep deprivation and the normal worries of new parents, and you have a recipe for insanity.

The first two years of parenthood were really hard. The Boy was spirited from the start, and the two-career marriage led to constant time shortages, kid-handoff-crises, oh-my-god-he’s-sick-again-I-can’t-call-out-again crises, round-robin pinkeye (if you don’t know what I mean, consider yourself lucky), and a bottomless pit of guilt. The Boy was in daycare during the hours we both worked (we staggered our shifts to the extent that we could), so he brought home every virus and germ his little body could carry.

When The Girl came along, we threw in the towel on the two-career thing for a while. There’s only so much stress you can carry. Besides, by the time you pay for two full-time daycares, it’s almost a wash. It’s tight, but as long as the cars hold out and nothing catastrophic happens, we can do it.

So my M.B.A. professional wife is a stay-at-home Mom, at least for a while. Even marrying a gender-conscious academic guy who had a single Mom himself couldn’t prevent the pull of cultural gravity.

It drives her crazy sometimes. Trapping a smart and lively mind in a routine of legos and “no, you can’t watch cartoons yet” and “don’t tackle your sister” is cruel and unusual. As hard as rubber chicken season is for me, it’s so much worse for her. When I’m out late, she’s flying solo with the kids all day, and stuck with the housework, too. There are times when it’s almost too much.

Rubber chicken season is almost over, so I’ll be able to reintroduce myself to the family. The Boy starts kindergarten in the Fall. The Girl is lower-maintenance than The Boy, and as they get older, certain things get easier. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

And she’s a fantastic Mom. She keeps her sense of humor, even when others couldn’t. The kids are wonderful, which is largely her doing. I knew she was pretty and funny and graceful when I married her. I didn’t know how strong she was.

Some decisions are just right. Seven years ago, I made one of those.

Happy Mother’s Day, honey.