by Conrad Spencer
I’m a very immature person. Some would argue that I’m exceedingly mature for my age (27), not realizing that my immaturity is masked by a thin veneer of responsibility and worldly knowledge.
The latest example of my immaturity? I got my five year-old son to kindergarten today five minutes early
. That’s right—early
—but for all the wrong reasons.
My lovely wife is at a conference across the state and will be gone for two nights, leaving me, in her absence, as the primary childcare provider. I’m not undomesticated. I regularly cook dinner (I mean actually cook, not just open cans and boxes) and clean house; sometimes I do laundry. I did all these things before I was married and continue to do them today.
Still, because I have to be at work earlier than my wife and have farther to drive, I’m only minimally involved in the morning routine.
My wife went over it all — get the boy dressed, make breakfast, brush his teeth and hair, etc. I perform this routine myself, so getting the boy ready is no big deal. In fact, it’s easier than getting myself ready because he won’t be shaving or wearing a tie.
I acknowledged her directions. She was worried, and I understand that. But when the instructions turned to “Are you sure you’re going to be OK? Are you sure you don’t want him to stay with my mom?” I got annoyed.
There’s this idea that, because I have a penis, I am unable to care for a child, or that such childcare will undoubtedly degenerate into farce. My wife doesn’t really believe
this, but it’s such a common conceit that the idea was swimming around her subconscious, it’s pointed dorsal fin just breaking the cognitive surface.
I blame TV. The men of sitcoms are dumbasses. God help us if those well-meaning but dim beer-bellied average Joes
(with hot wives
) are actually representative of modern fatherhood.
I politely expressed these views, added that I am not a dumbass, and we moved on …. sort of.
Here’s where the immaturity comes in. Because I was doubted
…because I was, on some level, being compared to well-meaning but dim beer-bellied sitcom guy
… I had Something to Prove.
Not only did I have to get the morning routine right, I had to do it better
. This is difficult because my wife is a fabulous mother, but I know that she usually gets our son to the classroom just as the 8 o’clock bell rings — a chink in the otherwise inpenitrable armor of motherhood.
Failure was not an option. Failure would be the crumbling of my fragile ego, a Dantesque descent into cultural stereotype, the very death of part of my soul.
I was up at 6:00, did my morning grooming until 6:45, got the boy up, toasted his Eggo pancakes, started yesterday’s videotaped PBS programming, explained that when the show’s over, so is breakfast. We brushed teeth; we debated wardrobe; we compromised. We got in the car; I sped. He got to the classroom. We hugged. 7:55.
Oh, yes. That’s one pointless, yet pathetically validating, victory for Conrad. To see my son walk through that classroom door and head for the Legos with five minutes to spare, it’s like launching that wad of paper 15 feet to the wastebasket across the room and...Swish. Nothin’ but net