A Father's Journal / Lessons in responsibility
When Laura and I had our first child 15 years ago, Laura had plenty of doubts about me as a father. I had no doubts about her as a mother.
Her first concern was that the newborn baby should never be in the bed with us. She was convinced I would roll over a crush Caroline. I didn't want the kids in the bed either. I had heard stories of children almost staying there through college. But I resented the fact that Laura knew I would roll over and crush the child. She had no worries that she would crush my daughter, just that I would do it.
I explained that in the previous generations, not one of the thousand and thousands of people in my direct line got crushed. Or else I would not be here. Since the first Lawlor swam out of the primordial ooze and decided walking upright could be fun, we have always prided ourselves in our non-crushing of children.
A few months after Caroline was born, Laura had to go out of town for a few days. Unbeknownst to me, she had people lined up to check on me every evening. On the first night, the Cataldis visited. They were our neighbors and rarely if ever dropped by together, at the same time. That tipped me off. Finally they admitted that Laura had asked them to nonchalantly check up on me. That same night, Barbara and Carl from Norwalk "dropped by." They never did that before and have never done it in 15 years since. After they left, I just sat back like Ebenezer Scrooge waiting for the next ghostly spirit. Right on time, some friends Laura used to work with "visited". I had only met the wife a few times, and the husband kept calling me "Pete."
"So Pete, is the baby sleeping through the night?"
Correcting him, I would say "I'm Thomas, and she only woke up once."
"Yeah Pete, my kids slept through the night from Day One."
I was worried that if he was the third spirit, he would show me my tombstone with the name "Pete" on it. Proving either that I died with no friends or with friends who where poor spellers. The next few nights, just one or two specters appeared. After Laura arrived home, the hauntings miraculously stopped.
When Caroline was 18 months old, I took her on a week long solo on a trip to California. We were celebrating a year and a half without being crushed. My wife was so worried about the trip she packed us every day's clothing separately. She packed wet baby wipes, but not just a few. She crammed in a package and a refill package. Our baby sitter, Betty, also packed some refills. I could have wiped down everybody on the plane at least twice.
Laura also packed boxed milk that doesn't need refrigeration. I had four quart boxes and six individual boxes. I tried to tell my wife that they sold milk in California. But she would not believe it. We completed the trip with no problems. I did jettison the extra milk and baby wipes with my sister to lighten my load for the return trip.
When Laura leaves even now, she assumes I have still not learned. She will explain to me things like "the girls have to eat." I know the girls have to eat. The girls know they have to eat. Laura just assumes we will all forget to eat. A few years ago we forgot to bathe, and she will never let us forget it. But we have always eaten. Laura expects to come home to see us exactly in the same position as when she left. Laura assumes that we will forget to do anything. Sometimes she's not too far off.
Now when my wife leaves for a few days she types up detailed instructions about everything for me. Bathing, eating, cello practice, and karate practice all make the list. Here a sample:
"Wednesday, 6:15 pm Thomas comes home."
It tells me two things. I need to come home after work. I might get confused and forget. The second thing it tells me is I need to refer to myself in the third person.
My wife has a big trade show coming up in June. We are already practicing bathing.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.