May 19, 2008

More Alone Time Please

An atypical dynamic of my marriage became apparent this weekend while I was out enjoying a picaresque Sunday morning on the golf course. I left the house at 8:30 and was back by 12:30, a scant four hours, but in that time frame I started to piece together a new feeling. I was nervous about leaving Annie with my wife.

Don’t think what you’re thinking. It wasn’t that I felt she was incapable of caring for her; I just wanted her to have as much fun as I do with Annie. All morning I had thoughts of Annie skipping her morning nap for the first time in months and behaving like a total monster, even though she never behaves like a total monster. I pictured her spitting up her food and pooping through her diaper, though these are things she quit by six months of age. In short, I was convinced that Annie wouldn’t be the same baby for my wife that she was for me.

I thought about this a lot last night and two reasons for my anxiety became apparent. The first is what I’ll call the new music principle. For a couple of years now I have been trying to convince my brother Lou to listen to Arcade Fire’s first album, Funeral. I maintain that it is the single greatest album ever put together. He has yet to come around, although he recently informed me that the album has at last made it to his iPod. This amount of zeal is the worst way to convince a person to like something, but my need to do this for the things I am most passionate about apparently extends to my daughter.

I get such joy from spending time with Annie. We teach each other something new every day. So all I wanted for my wife’s Sunday morning with her was the same experience. Yes, it does sound like the want of perfection. At first this felt like the desire for my wife to have a calm, uneventful morning. Then it dawned on me that what I wanted was for my wife to do exactly what I do. That’s bad. I learned a long time ago that when it comes to other people caring for your children, you have to let go. I have no problem doing this with the women at Dad’s day out, so why the lingering feeling with her own mother?

This leads to the second cause of my anxiety; I have some scary kind of care giver inferiority complex. I'm aware that my role is unorthodox and that a mother’s bond is unbreakable, so I try to protect my turf whenever possible. I do this on a small scale with tasks as simple as cutting up bananas, and now I realize that I'm doing it on the larger level of overall parenting. What could be worse for Annie? A strong, healthy bond with both of her parents is the gift that our life’s choices have given her. This should be cultivated, not stifled. In the spirit of self realization and improvement, the ending of these thoughts has jumped to the top of my to-do list. The upside, is that this just means I need to spend more time golfing.


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