Songs have come flooding back to my memory from childhood – Alice the camel is back, Miss Mary Mack has made an appearance, the monkeys are back on that bed jumping like crazy despite doctors orders, I got grouches rolling over, I got speckled frogs going against common advice and going for a swim straight after eating, Peter Pan, Dumbo and Pete’s Dragon have all come flying out of my mouth. I haven’t stopped at children’s songs. I belt out Helter Skelter when she’s crying until she realizes she can’t compete and stares at her crazy Beatle loving mother acting like she’s preparing for X Factor auditions. I softly sing Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash when her eyes start drooping. I croon along with Frank and Sammy Davis Jr. when Eloise and I need to shake off the blues .
I’m quite happy spending large portions of my day pulling funny faces, making animal noises, shaking my body like a scarecrow – as long as it makes her laugh. (The scarecrow move kills at our house by the way).
I can jiggle and rock until she rests her head in the crook of my neck and those pink-rimmed little eyes finally shut. Give her a big mama bear hug when she’s upset and whisper in her ear how much I love her.
But I also knew there would be aspects of Motherhood I would not excel at and the biggest one is accepting Fatherhood and its importance in my our baby’s life.
For the majority of my upbringing it was just me, my mother and my sister. Even before my parents got divorced it was a bit of a tag-team parenting style from what I can gather and I rarely saw my mom and dad parent together. My mother did an incredible job raising my sister and me (warning – gross maternal bias about to be uttered in the next 4 seconds) – one of us has devoted 2 years of her life to serve the Peace Corps in Mozambique and lives each day with compassion and integrity and the other one made a baby so cute and edible there are talks of putting her on the Tour d’Argent menu. I think somewhere along the way though I picked up the idea that parenting is a job that should really be done alone. No need to confer major decisions or deal with your kid playing you and your partner off each other. One family, under Mom.
I realized I felt this way when I would fantasize about my future children and never once was there a father in the picture. So when the Frenchman and I decided to have kids I made a point to force him into my mental picture. And I thought that once Eloise was born I would instantly feel that we were a family. Not so.
For a long time I think I kind of felt like a single mother. Having had more experience with children I naturally took the lead in the first few weeks. The Frenchman quickly learned the baby ropes though and by the time she was a month I thought, we’re a family now, right? But I knew deep down I still felt like this parenting gig was mine and mine alone.
And it’s not that the Frenchman is a deadbeat dad by any stretch of the imagination. He LOVES our baby. Adores her. She is his raison d’etre and he continues to be amazed by her beauty and her strength. But it is me that stays up for 40 minutes at 3am feeding her. It is me that takes her to the doctor for her shots. Me that gets vomited on all day. Me that puts her to sleep. Takes her to play group each day. Dances around to make her laugh. Well – until the weekend that is.
Which is all normal. I am of course the one who is at home during the week getting my government maternity pay (that doesn’t cover the rent) to make sure my child flourishes under my watch. My partner of course goes off every weekday to make sure we can pay the rent, occasionally spoil the baby and not starve.
But as the months dragged on I still didn’t feel that family unity that I was expecting. I Still felt that Eloise and I were one unit and the Frenchman an occasional plus one. Until a few weeks ago. 16 weeks after Eloise was born. I was nursing her in her room before bed. Dim lights, Buena Vista Social club playing softly in the background. In walked Eloise’s father, smiling at the two women in his life. Eloise unlatched herself from my breast to turn and look at her Daddy. He came closer and knelt next to us. She then reached out her tiny hand and began to stroke her father’s bearded face. Slowly. Deliberately. She smiled and then turned back to nurse. And there we were.