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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Daddy Syndrome

The title of today's post isn't meant to be sexist, but rather is supposed to indicate that what follows is based on my experiences from the 'daddy seat' in our family.  I'm sure that in many cases one could just as easily call this the 'Mommy Syndrome'... the point being that in all but the most rare families one parent has probably experienced some version of what I'm about to describe (and the other one... the 'primary parent'... will be reading this and shaking her/his head in disbelief):

My lovely wife Zahava has the mixed blessing of being able to work from home.  I say 'mixed blessing' because on the one hand she is the one who gets to see much more of the kids in the mornings as well as the afternoons than I ever do.  On the other hand, even though Zahava spends much more quality time with the kids, it also means that for roughly half of her work day there are things other than work (meaning the kids) vying for her attention.

I'll readily admit that I couldn't possibly do my work from home in the afternoon if I also had to contend with doling out afternoon snacks, checking homework, wiping runny noses, etc.  But the downside for me is that I don't know my kids (and their routines) nearly as well as Zahava does. 

I get little hints of this imbalance in the family relationships from time to time... when the kids inform me, "Ima (mommy) doesn't let us have candy and coffee so close to bedtime", or "No, Abba (daddy)... Yonah can't  use the toaster by himself".  I mean, c'mon... I'm not a mind reader.  Throw me a bone!

Well, today I got the full impact of the Daddy Syndrome because I hit the 'daddy trifecta': I was off from work... Yonah's daycare provider was sick... and Zahava had a meeting with a client in Bet Shemesh.

How hard could this be, right?

Everything started off OK.  I drove the big kids to school and came back to find Yonah basking in the warm glow of his breakfast.  As Zahava made preparations to leave I was feeling pretty confident... this would be a piece of cake!

As soon as Zahava closed the garden gate Yonah lost his mind.  No amount of picking him up... hugging & kissing... or singing made a dent on his tantrum.  His crestfallen expression between sobs made it very clear that "I want my Ima, and you can just go wherever the hell it is that you hide for 12 hours a day, thankewverymuch!"

After about 15 minutes he finally started to run out of steam and allowed me to plop him in front of Sesame Street video while I washed the breakfast dishes. 

Once the dishes were done I tried to engage Yonah in a few games.  Clearly there must be some magical combinations of things he likes to play with (in a very specific order) because most of my efforts were rewarded with him pushing anything I offered away and scowling at me from under furrowed brows.

A quick check of my watch told me that it was probably time to give Yonah a snack. 

We started off with the beverage.  He glared at the cup of milk I offered.  Clearly either I was giving him the wrong cup or the wrong liquid.  I wasn't in any mood to try all the combinations of cup/liquid, so I simply shoved the sippy-cup into his hands and waited for the explosion.  After a few dirty looks in my direction he decided to humor me and started to drink.

However, everything else; the wonderful apple slices... apple sauce... yogurt... carrot kugel... cake... chocolate spread, etc. I served up caused him to shake head so violently from side to side that I thought it would start spinning around.  Each offering that was placed in front of him was unceremoniously tossed to the eagerly waiting dog... and finally Yonah gave one final shriek to serve as a blanket refusal of all future offers. 

After another 45 minutes of 'playing' (Yonah batting me away like an annoying fly), I decided to resort to one of his favorite videos.  That bought me about half an hour of silence, but then he started to get fussy again.  I figured it must be time for his mid-morning nap.

20 minutes (and countless trips into the nursery) later Yonah was still standing in his crib crying so hard he was hiccuping, and I was ready to pull out my little remaining hair. 

By some miracle Zahava had a break in her meeting and decided to call me just as I was contemplating leaving a note and running away.  I explained that I had tried to put him down for his nap and that he wasn't interested in sleeping.  I could hear the patient exhalation on the other end of the phone (that exasperated sound that only mothers can manage) followed by her calmly explaining to me that it had been months since Yonah had taken a mid-morning nap.  I mean really, how dumb can I be that I didn't realize his nap time wasn't until early afternoon?

OK... so by now it's 10:45 and I'm still in my PJs and I have a crying toddler who is now completely coated from nose to knees in his own snot from hysterically protesting the unscheduled detention.  I figured that since I needed a shower and he couldn't be left alone (not to mention that he clearly needed to be hosed down), I decided to take him into the shower with me.

I used to have a cat before I was married.  When Zahava and I first started dating I found out she was allergic so I made the mistake of trying to shower with the cat in order to wash the offending dander off the cat.  Trying to handle Yonah in the shower reminded me a lot of that experience with the cat.  True, I lost less blood this time... but I think Yonah made up for that by repeatedly grabbing the most accessible thing in order to steady himself. 

Just as I decided that we were both as clean as we were going to get, Yonah decided to poop right there in the shower. As if the shower stall wasn't already slick enough, we now began a whole new round of him slipping and using sensitive parts of me to keep himself from falling.

Once we were both dry and dressed (and I'd managed to mop up the puddles in the bathroom, bedroom, office and nursery with our towels), I decided to take Yonah up to the local park to play.  Luckily this was a fairly idiot-proof outing and Yonah was able to mostly entertain himself.  On a few occasions I tried to coax him into doing this or trying that... but mostly I felt like anyone who passed within earshot must be able to tell that I was not the 'primary parent'.

By the time we got home it was time for lunch so I put on another video and set about making all the stuff I was sure he would like:  Grilled cheese sandwich, sliced fruit, applesauce and milk.  He turned up his nose at all of it and sipped sullenly at his milk.

When Zahava got home from her meeting, Yonah was finally pawing listlessly at his sandwich and had actually taken a bite... but his droopy eyelids indicated that it was finally his (real) nap-time.  The only problem was that he wouldn't swallow his bite of grilled cheese... and no amount of coaxing would get him to spit it out either. 

After protesting his regularly scheduled nap for about 15 minutes (screaming lustily around that uneaten bite of sandwich) he finally drifted off to sleep.  I know, I know... all you 'primary parents' are screaming at your monitors now about choking hazards and irresponsible fathers.  I checked to make sure he's still breathing but I am going to assume that either he finally swallowed the bite of grilled cheese or his little salivary glands did their work and dissolved the offending bit. 

The point of this little story was not to vent about what a day I've had (OK, maybe a little of that), but rather to point out that in almost every family there is one parent who doesn't know the lay-of-the-land... who doesn't speak the secret language (filled with comforting buzzwords)... who doesn't know the schedule of events... and who feels like a total fraud when sent in to pinch hit. There is one parent who doesn't know the schedules... doesn't know which cup gets used at which time and what that cup is supposed to contain... and who doesn't know the right games to play or the right time to stop playing those games. 

In our house, I'm that parent... and today I got the full dose of Daddy Syndrome.

As I write these last few lines, my progeny in the next room is starting to stir.  Thank G-d Zahava is here because I don't know what he drinks after his afternoon nap (or what cup it goes in!).


Posted by David Bogner on October 16, 2005 | Permalink


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Tracked on Mar 9, 2006 6:05:46 AM


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yeah, when we left, i knew it wasnt going to be as easy as you were looking like it was going to be--laying on the couch, laptop in front of you, yonah lying on the couch watching sharktales...

hm, i gotta finish that movie someitme.

in the shower...? wow. but seriously though, as constanza said in seinfeld "it's all pipes!! *X-ing his hands back and forth*"

Posted by: Tonny | Oct 16, 2005 4:49:12 PM

Zahava, David, are you all okay?

Posted by: Imshin | Oct 16, 2005 4:56:19 PM

This was by far one of your funniest posts! I am wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, primarily from the shower scene...

Posted by: Noa | Oct 16, 2005 5:18:22 PM

Oh, man. This post should come with a warning. When I got to the shower part, I started laughing so hard I practically spit crumbs from my dinner all over my keyboard.

Posted by: Sarah | Oct 16, 2005 6:31:38 PM

You make me proud to be a father. ;) Too bad there weren't any cameras around because that video would have been worth big money.

Posted by: Jack | Oct 16, 2005 7:22:56 PM

Tonny... Once you guys left I had to put the laptop out of Yonah's reach. He loves pressing buttons! :-)

Imshin... Yes, thank G-d we are all OK (although very shaken up that something so terrible could happen so close to us). Thank you (and everyone else who emailed or called) for checking up on us. The bus stop/trempiada where the attack took place is where many of my morning hitchhikers wait for me... it is literally 4 minutes from our door.

Noa... The really funny thing is if I wanted to I couldn't do funny. But for some reason when I just write about life people laugh. That is either a gift... or a sign that my lifestyle could use some small modifications. :-)

Sarah... See my response to Noa. Oh, and it's the showering with Yonah that is totally worthy of a warning label.

Jack... O can tell you were probably a big fan of 'America's funniest videos' )A.K.A. '30 minutes of watching people get punched, kneed, kicked and otherwise assaulted in their privates'. :-)

Posted by: David | Oct 16, 2005 8:58:12 PM

I shook my head and chuckled reading that...as the rest of the "primary parents" likely did. I'll give you credit at least for *trying* to feed Yonah.

When Zoe was little there were been more times than I can count when Chuck had been left "in charge" and I'd come home hours later to find that no one has eaten or had a drink since I left. It just simply never occurred to him. (Although those days are long gone now that Zoe is 9 and will just feed herself, thank goodness.) Homework checking...that's another issue.

Posted by: beth | Oct 16, 2005 9:04:43 PM


I love slapstick comedy and the sad truth is that I did find that show to be amusing. There, the sad sordid confession has been shared with you all.

Posted by: Jack | Oct 16, 2005 9:46:55 PM

I think a day watching the kids is successful if (1) none of them lose weight (2) no injuries are sustained which require medical attention and (3) any damage to psyches and feelings resolves about 2 minutes after mommy (the lovely and talented ball-and-chain) steps over the threshold. You're setting your standards too high. If you just expect less, Zahava will learn to expect less from you. Then the next time she leaves she'll just expect to find Yonah covered in snot and a poop surprise in the shower.

No need to thank me.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Oct 16, 2005 10:05:44 PM

By the way, my almost-two year old is just tall enough so that if I'm holding her and she wants not to be held, she can kick me right in the doodads. At that time my natural inclination is to fall on the floor and roll around for a while moaning, but I can't because I'm holding her.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Oct 16, 2005 10:08:58 PM

David - I almost choked on my coffee reading the shower part of your post. I sympathize though... my now-ex-husband was the primary parent for the first few years of my daughter's life and I went through a few days similar to this myself. The problem always turned out to be something my husband just assumed was obvious, but I had no clue! - Jenna

Posted by: jg | Oct 16, 2005 11:07:12 PM

I don't know whether to giggle or be sympathetic, so I'll do both ... oh, poor you! ::giggle::

Posted by: Rahel | Oct 16, 2005 11:41:37 PM

Did you try a lulabye via the trombone? That would have made a better and more soothing sound then your singing....(just kidding).

Posted by: Jewish Blogmeister | Oct 16, 2005 11:57:08 PM

So, Dr. Bean, here's a little question for you: Has Ball-and-Chain smacked you upside the head yet?

"You're setting your standards too high. If you just expect less, Zahava will learn to expect less from you. Then the next time she leaves she'll just expect to find Yonah covered in snot and a poop surprise in the shower."

Let's just clear this little matter up for once and for all, shall we?
1) my standards/expectations will NOT be lowered (your stellar advise not-withstanding)
2) a poop surprise in the shower STILL falls under Trep's jurisdiction as I don't-do-bathrooms

I am, however, truly sorry your almost two-year old can deliver a swift-kick in the doodads! Hopefully she'll either outgrow it or find a less aggressive way of expressing her sudden impatience with being held! To borrow a line from Elaine (Seinfeld): "I don't know how you guys walk around with those things!"

Posted by: zahava | Oct 17, 2005 12:13:29 AM

As a primary parent feeling unappreciated these days, this post was just what I needed.

Posted by: lisoosh | Oct 17, 2005 3:04:23 AM

Ditto to the shower scene...the unpredictability of your writing is what makes it funnier, David.

Maybe I should say welcome to parenthood...from today's view from the driver's seat, rather than the passenger seat.

Posted by: Pearl | Oct 17, 2005 4:50:23 AM

Zahava: ball-and-chain smacks me upside the head all the time, and will again the minute she reads this. But when I'm good she pats me and gives me treats.

Thanks for your sympathy.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Oct 17, 2005 5:23:06 AM

I love it, I love it, I love it. David, thank you for saving my marriage. I finally get it that my husband isn't the only one afflicted with the Daddy syndrome.

As most women are the primary caregiver, just imagine how much tougher it is for the mom who works outside the home. Exhausting is an understatement.

Posted by: Jaime | Oct 17, 2005 5:44:29 AM

That was hysterical!!! I found myself here at work screaming things like, "NO!! ...you didn't!" or, "he can't still be napping in the morning at that age"... Being the primary parent myself, I found this incredibly amusing. I assume my hubby would simply think, "Thank G-d other people go through that, too!" The real kicker is that sometimes he can do all the right stuff at all the right times, but it's still coming from the wrong person. I can sweep in and repeat what he just tried with glowing results. Sometimes the right cup and liquid aren't enough... Glad you made it through the day.

Posted by: nrg | Oct 17, 2005 10:28:04 AM

At this very moment, my husband is dealing with the same situation with the two girls. Now maybe I can have a tad more sympathy. :) (Just a tad)

Posted by: Robin | Oct 17, 2005 11:30:35 AM

This was a riot...I also nearly choked from laughter (and I don't even have kids). But I do have nieces and nephews who I baby-sit for a lot so I kind of can sympathize. Chag Sameach! Have a wonderful Sukkot!

Posted by: Essie | Oct 17, 2005 3:14:34 PM

"Doodads," hmm...That just doesn't sound serious enough to me.

Several years ago my son managed to kick me quite solidly in the Remote Central Command. It was hard enough that I basically dropped him into his car seat and tried not to collapse on to the car parked next to mine.

For a brief moment I entertained all sorts of ideas and had I not been trying to marshal the troops for a rescue operation I just might have given in.

Posted by: Jack | Oct 17, 2005 4:01:07 PM

Real funny.

My son used to poop in the bath EVERYTIME he was bathed. Phew, am I glad that stage has passed us by!

Have a good yom tov.

Posted by: Shevy | Oct 17, 2005 4:32:38 PM

I used to have a cat before I was married.

I wish I had read this at home, so I could've laughed at the appropriate volume when I got to that line.

I didn't hear about the attack at Gush Etzion until Imshin's comment (not surprisingly). I'm glad you're all ok.

Posted by: Tanya | Oct 17, 2005 6:05:17 PM

oy yoy yoy! there goes my offer of babysitting next time i go to israel for a visit.

Posted by: mata hari | Oct 17, 2005 8:34:06 PM

I had a similar experience when Mrs. B. left me alone with the kids while she went to NY.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Oct 17, 2005 9:04:40 PM

Thanks for the bright spot in my day! The shower "scene" was priceless :)

Posted by: Z | Oct 18, 2005 5:13:59 PM

Beth... You know, you're destroying my image of Chuck as this total Mr. Mom in biker chaps. :-)

Jack... I'm not the least bit surprised. Deep down every guy is a Three Stooges fan.

Doctor Bean... I see Zahava has answered so I'll leave it at that, but as to the kids ringing daddy's chimes... all of mine have put me in the fetal position at least once. :-)

Jenna... And the worst part is how smug they can be when pointing out the 'obvious', right?

Rahel... I'm having trouble feeling the sympathy from over here... could you turn that up a bit?

Jewish Blogmiester... Yes, I tried that. He kept trying to grab the slide (see a trend here?).

Lisoosh... Always happy to use my inadequacies to make others feel better. :-)

Pearl... This was just one of a long line of parenting disasters I've levied through... I just didn't have a journal for the others.

Jaime... I'm happy to help... just cut your hubby some slack some time and tell him it's from me. :-)

nrg... Thank you! I have always felt that even when I follow the instructions/schedule perfectly things don't go the way they do when Zahava is at the wheel. Hope I didn't disturb your office mates.

Robin... Please cut the guy some slack. Take it from me it is really tough on the ego to fail at something that ones spouse makes look easy.

Essie... Thanks... I'm sure you're pretty good with the nieces and nephews. Enjoy the rest of the Chag.

Jack... Like I said above, every father goes through this. All we can do is thank G-d there are no video cameras around when it happens.

Shevy... This is a stage??? I thought it was a one time thing!

Tanya... Reading blogs at work!? For shame! :-) Yeah, that's my guilty little pleasure too. I figure other people get to go outside and smoke a few times a day... why can't I stay inside and surf when I need a break, right?

Mata Hari... I wouldn't ask you to spend the day with him when you come to visit! Don't worry... he's really quite tame (when his mother's around). :-)

Psychotoddler... So it's not just me? :-)

Z... I'm here to help. :-)

Posted by: David | Oct 18, 2005 9:58:04 PM

Very entertaining! Thanks and chag sameach.

Posted by: The Hedyot | Oct 19, 2005 1:27:10 AM

David - Agreed. And it's not as if the smugness is necessary after the emotional beating you just received from your own kid. Luckily... they grow up. And then neither parent can do anything right! - Jenna

Posted by: jg | Oct 19, 2005 4:34:25 AM

wow. So, I guess you can say I am the primary parent. But, lately even though I am doing most of the bonding and most of the time spending, she still seems to prefer him. Last night I was playing with her on the couch and she kept craining her neck to see him on the other side of the room and give him a big gummy smile!

Posted by: Rebecca | Jan 11, 2006 11:59:51 PM

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