Last week Jack and I went to a friend's house for a playdate. My friend and I had a lot of catching up to do, having not seen each other in several months, and after we covered the major bases, our chat turned to what it so often seems to on play dates - husbands, or, to be more precise, fathers.
I promise we don't sit around bitching about our husbands for three hours straight on play dates. In fact, a lot of the time we're talking about how great our husbands are, how much they love their children, and how grateful we are when they come home at the end of the day. But let's face it, moms and dads just do things differently. Case in point: my friend's husband was allowing their daughter to stand up in the bathtub. They'd been discussing "rules" lately, trying to establish a few ahead of time so they could be on the same page when something comes up. Bath time had not been discussed, however, since to my friend, not standing in the tub seemed like a pretty obvious "rule." Slippery surface, wet baby, large quantities of water, porcelain tub ... it just kind of seems like a no-brainer, right?
And then. Yesterday John was giving Jack a bath. When I walked by the bathroom, Jack was standing up in the tub. "Sit down," I commanded. "No standing in the tub." Jack dutifully sat down. "Oh," John said. "I didn't realize that was a rule."
WHA!?!?! Seriously guys, is this not one of those things everybody knows?? For future reference, Dads, NO STANDING IN THE TUB is a rule! Learn it, memorize it, enforce it.
Earlier today, John and I were strolling around the Old Town waterfront. It was hotter than hell, Jack kept insisting on running towards the water, and I had finally given up and retired to a shady bench. John was holding Jack by the Potomac, watching the boats go by, when I called over to him that it was getting late and Jack looked pretty overheated. "You sure do worry a lot," John said to me. "Of course I do," I replied. "I'm a mom."
When we got home, Jack gave John dinner while I swooned on the sofa. I finally peeled myself off the couch and went upstairs to put a few things away while John made pizza dough, when suddenly I heard Jack crying. A lot. I waited a moment, trying not to immediately go into mommy panic mode, but when the crying didn't stop I knew something was wrong. I ran down the stairs and into the kitchen, where John was standing with Jack next to the sink. "He cut his finger," John told me. My eyes flew to Jack's left hand, where the blood was dripping off his middle finger. John's shirt was covered in bloody smears. Jack was hysterical.
Naturally, so was I. I realize it doesn't help to be a blubbering mess in these situations, but I can't help it. I'm a mom. I couldn't see past the flap of skin hanging off my son's finger or hear past his cries of "owieeeee!." Have you ever watched "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo? During the celebrity interview, James Lipton asks a series of questions, including "What is your favorite curse word?" and "What profession would you not like to have?" I'm sure I'm not the only person who has come up with their own answers to these questions while watching the show ("Shiza," and "Professional mover," personally), and I always got annoyed when a guest would answer "What sound or noise do you hate?" with the predictable, "The sound of my child crying." Come on, I would think to myself. Surely you hate something more than that. An alarm clock is so much worse than a baby crying! What I didn't understand then - what no one can understand until they're a parent - is that the sound of your own child crying in fear or pain is literally the worst possible sound. I get it now, I really do!
When Jack got his finger slammed in the door this afternoon, I was immediately angry with John, trying to assuage my own guilt for not watching Jack myself by blaming John for the accident. The truth is, it could have happened on my watch (It didn't...but it could have... theoretically... I guess). Accidents are just that - accidents. John didn't mean for Jack to get hurt, and I know he felt worse about the situation than I did. So, first of all, I'm sorry John. I know it was an accident, and I'm sorry I made you feel bad about it. I know the day will come when Jack gets hurt while I'm watching him (theoretically...I guess) and I would hate it if I felt like you blamed me for it.
But the truth is, I can't help it. I am physically incapable of not worrying about the safety of my child 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And when he's hurt, I'm physically incapable of remaining calm and rational. Why, you ask me?
Because, is all I can say. I'm a mom.