Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fathers and Sons

There's nothing quite so wonderful for a new mom as having a husband who is not only excited and actively involved with the baby (as most are), but who is also an experienced dad. In my case, my husband's experience is 17 years in the past, but like riding a bike, it comes back very quickly.

I'm not sure who adores whom more, whether it's Herb crushing on his son or Ryan crushing on his daddy. But it's obvious there's a mutual admiration society going on there.

Herb and his daughter have a very special relationship, and are probably closer than a lot of fathers and daughters are. After all, she lived with just him for 9 months out of the year for most of her life. And even before her parents were divorced, she got special time with him because her daycare was at his work so he could visit with her at lunch and got extra father-daughter time during his commute to and from work. Even aside from his devotion to her, spending that much time together creates a very close bond. But I think the combination of her growing up and not needing him in the same way that she used to and having a son instead of another daughter is making his bond with Ryan something special in its own way, too.

The relationship between daddies and daughters is, I think, based on a bit of mystery on both sides. A daddy has never been a little girl playing dress-up and having tea parties, or a tween girl dealing with clothes and makeup and hair, or a teenage girl trying to understand boys and the world of dating. And a girl doesn't usually look at her father and think about growing up to be just like him. So there's a natural disconnect there that can never be completely bridged.

Fathers and sons, on the other hand, have a different kind of connection. A daddy looks at his little boy and relives his own childhood: wrestling, rough-housing, playing with trucks and dirt and worms and dead things. He knows what it's like to be a boy because he's been one. He went through the embarassment of a changing voice, being shorter than the girls, growing a caterpillar on his upper lip, the public hazards of hormones, and asking a girl for a date for the first time. He can identify. And a son can look at his dad and get a glimpse of his own future, whether it be athletic prowess or a receding hairline. He can see what he may grow into. Even in babyhood, there's a special bond between a man and the child who will carry on his family name.

So I love watching my husband and son together. I love that they already have a special routine together. Every night at around 9pm, Herb takes Ryan upstairs for "tubby time". Sometimes I join them, but for the most part, I leave them alone for their male bonding time. Ryan grew out of the baby bathtub very quickly, so now he gets to flail around in the big tub, making waves and getting squirted with his many tub toys. He loves when Daddy sprays his chest with the showerhead and lets the water spritz over his face - he sticks out his tongue and tastes it, or if it's too much, scrunches up his face in distaste. Daddy even encourages him to close his eyes and hold his breath while he sprays a little water on his face, to get him ready for dabbling in the pool next summer. But the best part of tubby time is the hair dryer afterwards! When bathtime is over, Herb wraps him in one of his towels (the duck, the elephant, the turtle, the monogram - the choices are almost endless) and brings him to the changing table to diaper him and dress him for bed.

But before he gets dressed, he gets dried all over with the hair dryer. He knows the drill by now so as soon as he hears the dryer he melts into a relaxed puddle. When Herb dries his hair and the warm air blows around his face, he closes his eyes blissfully and makes funny mouth puckers as he waves his chubby arms and legs in ecstasy. Once he's snuggled into a warm sleeper, Herb shuts off the lights, turns on the music, settles into the rocking chair, and gives him his last bottle of the day before tucking him in his crib.

I must admit, I'm a little jealous that I'm not the one tucking him in every night. But I know that I have him all to myself almost every day, and I don't begrudge Herb his special daddy time. After all, he is a very special daddy.

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