Saturday Night Fever
Last week, accountability for deadly police misbehavior notwithstanding, was tough for our little household. My wife and I wanted to dig ourselves a hole as soon as possible with a monster Monday morning fight, the kind in which both parties dip into reserve ammunition from tangentially, even distantly related grievances.
We quarrel so rarely it’s kind of scary when we do, like the person who never farts but when it happens, intensity compensates for hiatus. I feel like our fights always end up with version 2.0, 2.1, etc. of the same resolution: We are fundamentally different if not opposite in some ways, and that’s just the way it is. In a small and surmountable way, it can feel kind of demoralizing.
But we got past it 12 hours later with a fluid discussion on the couch while watching “The Voice.” There is no situation my Black doppelganger John Legend cannot solve or at least improve.
I can’t go into details about the fight because I’ll end up presenting my side, and the way I write is not conducive to making the other side look logical. Frankly I want to keep both this marriage and the possibility of having intercourse within it.
Let me just say one thing related to the fight. Parenting, we’ve both concluded independently, is harder than we thought it would be — and we thought it would be extremely hard. Neither of us had any illusions about what was coming, yet our expectations for rest and headspace were still too high.
So we put the fight to bed and cuddled that night, the equivalent of makeup sex at our age and energy level. Tuesday was fine until I got a call from our son’s school saying he needed to be picked up due to a fever. This would be the domain of my wife, who handles the lioness’s share of school stuff because she works from home and is the better parent by far.
But I couldn’t reach her for 15 minutes and decided to leave the office without a car seat or defined plan. As I was walking out the door, I found out from my boss the unfinished thing I had been working on was time-sensitive. And of course, almost the instant I merged onto the 55, my wife called ready to head to the school.
I know that was a boring sequence to follow, but it was a telling start to our first foray with a feverish child. We both tried to work from home Wednesday, and it was so challenging I took Thursday off. I can’t recall taking a sick day from school or work in the last 30 years or so. Of course as a gritty young professional, I occasionally napped in my car at lunch when hung over AF. But requesting a sick day because someone else was sick felt foreign.
Our boy’s temperature kept spiking inversely to his appetite, and he’s not exactly an early adopter of language at age 21 months. It sucked.
Covid’s overbearing reach didn’t help. To bring a sick child to the doctor’s office these days, we were instructed to pull into a spot in a dark parking garage and dial a number. This is how I purchased opioids last time. The nurses had a makeshift cart set up, and I wondered why they didn’t use a more pretentious cooler than the exact same red-and-white Coleman we've been bringing to campfires and ballgames since the beginning of time.
To enable the scary masked practitioner to check for an ear infection, I essentially had to put my toddler in a half nelson in the trunk of our RAV4 while he frayed an impressive decibel range for an impressive amount of time.
The week just sucked, man. If you’ve been there, you know. If I were a soulless small business owner who cared only about extracting the most output per employee, I would not hire a parent of young children ceteris paribus.
This might infuriate the supermoms out there. You can rightly talk about being great at prioritizing and efficiency and project management, but compare your day to when you didn’t have kids and give me a break. There’s a reason why tech companies pay for employees to freeze their eggs, and why women have left the workforce in disproportionate numbers during the Cove. Giving 100 percent of the same energy reserve to two different things violates the law of conservation of energy.
My wife, selfless as ever even when driven to tears, spotted an opportunity to give me a vacation after our rite-of-passage week. She would take the child to her vaccinated parents’ house well before her sister’s birthday dinner and sleep there Saturday night.
The objective was to give me 24 hours alone. She kept calling it a “vacation,” which I bristled at because it’s so depressing for an introvert to consider this natural liberty a luxury. But wow she was right. I almost get teary-eyed myself thinking about that special Saturday night.
I didn’t even indulge in any adult content. My wife made sure I didn’t need to before leaving, if you catch my drift. Sexy time. I really appreciated both that experience and the bonus of saving me potentially hours out of my vacation.
Good god what an evening. If my long-lost bros had assembled around Southern California and showed up on my doorstep with a few 30-racks of B.L. and jars of natural peanut butter and said let’s turn back the clock… I would have taken the peanut butter, patted a 30-rack on the head, and responded, respectfully, let’s catch up on Zoom in the next few weeks. Then I would shut the door and lock it.
During my vacation, I cleaned the house, caught up on administrative tasks dating back three months, made a six-ingredient salad, and watched a little bit of the Mavs' win. I won’t keep you in suspense: The six ingredients were kale, lentils, carrots, beets, walnuts and mozzarella cheese. The plan was to add a seventh, baked sweet potato slices, but I elected to save them as a side for a future meal.
Not coincidentally, my abs looked fantastic. I texted this lighting-and-distance-aided shot to my wife just in case she and her sister went out and met some d-bags with better paternal instincts than mine. That wouldn’t be too hard to find, but she'd be thinking of these peaks and valleys while nestling in a doughy dad bod (which doesn’t sound terrible depending on the temperature).
Feel free to pinch and zoom, especially on mobile — that's what it’s there for. It is precisely what the product manager intended for the functionality, to give you a closer look at things that merit a closer look.
Flexing abs and reveling in solitude is probably easier when you know a wonderful family is coming back to you soon. That said, I was by no means excited to see them again. Even less so when my wife FaceTimed Sunday morning while I was writing the initial draft of this post. Surprise, they were coming home early and 10 minutes away at the doctor’s parking garage office to check out a rash that turned out to be related to the fever.
My 24 hours was truncated. That’s OK. I love my boy. He is so sweet and cute. He slept on my chest for hours during his fever bout, while I tried to stay in the moment against my wandering mind.
To paraphrase Sam Harris, every little thing we do is finite. There will be a last time I pick him up, feed him, wipe his snot, kiss him on the mouth like the G.O.A.T. Taaaahhmmm Brady even when it might appear curious to outside observers.
In a moment of exhausted bittersweet optimism, my wife thought of this amazing quote. We were trying to pinpoint the source and resolved it to be from a song, until later my brother stepped up and realized it was from Andy Bernard’s endless treasure trove in “The Office”:
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
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