September 13th, 2011 | by Matt | Published in Uncategorized
One night last week, around 11 p.m., I was about to get ready for bed when I heard crying from Sasha’s room. Once upon a time, I would’ve just ignored this—cry it out was our strategy back when the kid was being sleep-trained, over two years ago. But now, middle-of-the-night tears sound different, more serious, and so I tiptoed into Sasha’s room to find out what was the matter.
And there she was, sitting up in a corner of the bed, her head covered in sweat. She was still crying, and trying to talk, so I picked her up and gave her a hug, and held her for a few minutes, and then put her back down. Her eyes were closed by the time her head hit the pillow, and she was asleep by the time I was out the door.
As I closed the door gently, my wife, Jean, looked at my from the bedroom and said, as she has before, “Baby whisperer.”
Now, I don’t claim to have any greater putting-kids-to-sleep power than any other father, but there’s something amazing about being able to soothe your kids’ night terrors quickly and calmly, without letting them get up and run around and watch an episode of Dora the Explorer at 1 a.m. while eating at least two popsicles. It’s deeply satisfying to be the ultimate parental rock on which your children’s emotional security rests. But with that incredibly sentimental, maybe even maudlin feeling comes another sensation:
A feeling of power.
That is, I am becoming the only one who can so easily soothe Sasha’s problems. She is dependent on me in that way—Daddy is the guy you want to hug you at midnight, or to bandage your scraped knees, or whatever. It’s a big shift, really, from how things were originally, when I was just an adjunct to Mommy, whose constant presence and milk-production facilities gave her the automatic ranking as Numero Uno.
Now I’m staking my corner. Yes, Mommy will still be around far more often than Daddy, but now, even though Sasha barely knows it, there are things I can provide for her that maybe the other parent can’t, or can’t provide as well. Ha! Take that, other gender!
Of course, I don’t really experience this as a battle for Sasha’s affection. But engendering in her that kind of dependence, well, that’s addictive. What else can I convince her I’m essential for? Presents brought home from abroad? Help with homework? Boy trouble (or girl trouble)? Honestly, this is all a fantasy right now—I have no idea what the future may bring, or what sort of roles Jean and I will inhabit as Sasha grows older. But I’m looking forward to having it defined, to knowing what I’m good at, where I can improve, and when I can join in the call for Mommy.
And, somewhere in the back of my brain, there’s also the knowledge that, one day, neither I nor Jean will be able to help Sasha face whatever nightmares arise in her life. (Nathan touched on this yesterday a bit.) But—and here we cue the sniffles and teardrops—I’m hoping that our comfort and advice have prepared to deal with them on her own.
Go on, click away in disgust. You feel the same damn way.