Last night I was alone with Eitan for most of the evening.
I usually work late on Thursdays. One of the families I visit doesn’t get home until after 5:00 and because of scheduling, I usually don’t get to them until 5:45 at the earliest. That means that I don’t usually leave before 6:30 or 6:45, which, in turn, means that I don’t get home until around 8:00. I get maybe a half hour to see Eitan and most of that time involves bathing him and getting him ready for bed. I’m not looking for sympathy here; I’m just explaining how Thursdays usually go.
Last night was a little bit different. First, I finished my visits a bit earlier than usual, so I got back to my neighborhood just after 7:00. I met Trudy and Eitan where they had gone out to dinner with our soon-to-be sister-in-law and we walked home together. On the way, Trudy spoke to one of our close friends on the phone and, when she got off, she told me that our friend had a family emergency and that she was going to go help her through it. She asked if I minded putting Eitan to bed and being by myself for the next few hours and I said it was fine. We got home, Trudy left and Eitan and I were left to our own devices. Eitan helped me do laundry,1 I bathed him and got him into his pajamas, we transfered the wet clothes to the dryer, I read Eitan some stories and put him to bed. Yes, he cried a few times for Mommy and I had to distract him by pleading for help with the clothes or making funny faces or singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game2 but we both got through the evening fine. He went to bed late because of the laundry and because we got home late, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Trudy got back home around 10:45, we talked for a bit about our respective evenings, watched some television and went to bed. And, as you could probably tell from the title, at no point did Trudy thank me for watching Eitan.
This may surprise you, but I was happy she didn’t.
Let me be very clear before I go on: Trudy goes out with some of the moms in our neighborhood every so often and she always says thank you for watching Eitan while she’s gone. Every time. The thing is, I usually feel weird when she thanks me. I don’t think she intends it that way, but I hear the phrase “Thank you for watching Eitan” and I think of a babysitter or someone doing a favor for someone else. But I’m not a babysitter. I’m not someone who gets paid for a few hours and then I’m done until next time.3 I’m a dad. I’m supposed to look after my son. I’m supposed to goof around with him. I’m supposed to teach him to do laundry and bathe him and sing with him. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the best father or husband that I could be, but I know what my responsibilities are as a dad and I take them seriously. Plus, responsibility or not, I liked having some time alone with Eitan. It doesn’t happen often because I’m usually at work so I try to capitalize on the opportunities when they come up. I like having the chance to flex my parenting muscles, not just because it helps me keep the confidence that I can do this whole fatherhood thing, but also because it shows Eitan that he can be alone with me and he’s still going to be kept safe and sound.
I understand the point of thanking people when they do things, even if they’re doing things they should have been doing anyway. Good supervisors make it a point to acknowledge a job well done because it shows the workers that their efforts are being noticed and appreciated. It keeps morale up and encourages similar effort in the future. I know that Trudy thanks me for looking after Eitan when she goes out because she is home with him all the time and it’s helpful for her to have a break, so she wants to acknowledge that I’m helping her take that time to recharge. But there was something about last night that made me prefer that I wasn’t thanked for watching Eitan. Part of it was that Trudy has told me that she feels guilty sometimes going out and having a good time without me and last night was a difference circumstance. Either way, I think I felt better that it seemed like it was assumed that I would do my job as a parent even without the follow-up message.
It’s always nice to hear “thank you,” but this time, it was actually nicer not to.
1. “Helped me do laundry” is code for “alternated between putting clothes in the washing machine and running around the basement figuring out the highest pitch he could reach with his voice.”↩
2. We’re going to his first baseball game this weekend. I’ve sung it to him before but I wanted to make sure he’d be prepared. I’ll probably put the video of us singing on the blog’s Facebook page, so keep checking there and you’ll see it.↩
3. I’m also not a teenage girl. Just in case you were confused.↩