This week I found myself in a (suprisingly) new position: solo parent.
My wife had tickets to the ballet (ohhhhh fancy lady!) and needed me to watch our six-month-old. We’ve left her with family before, and Lord knows I’ve left my wife to look after her before (listen honey, Skyfall isn’t going to watch itself) but this was my first mano-a-baby evening.
Of course, as a full 50 percent of this parenting team, I should be more than capable of caring for our child for a few hours. I even have practice: my wife was out of commission for the first few weeks following a rough C-section, so I was the one doing all the standing and lifting in our daughter’s early days.
I am very proud of my work in those early days of her life, and I feel it helped foster a bond between us. I have also been coasting something fierce on that record. Oh boy, have I ever. So with all that goodwill used up and armed with freshly pumped breast milk, it was my turn to mind the baby for a few hours.
Here is my diary:
4pm: Driving back home with my wife, she casually refers to to the fact that I’ll be “babysitting” tonight, before correcting herself: It’s not babysitting, of course. It’s called parenting. Noted.
5:30pm: With wife getting ready upstairs, I attempt to make a batch of my famous mashed potatoes, based on a time-worn family secret. (That secret? A metric ton of butter.) Baby is yelping up a storm and I get so flustered I botch the potatoes, badly undercooking them. Add more butter and hope all works out, but this does not bode well for the rest of evening.
6:30pm: Wife, looking beautiful, leaves for ballet. Baby is in the midst of a deep nap. I assure wife all will be OK, start watching a movie on Netflix. So far so good.
7pm: Baby still asleep. Pat myself on the back for being a great father.
7:20pm: Baby still asleep. Now kind of worried that the long nap will make it harder for her to get to sleep later, but am not going wake up baby. I’m not crazy.
7:21pm: Baby now wide awake. Well, that was nice while it lasted.
7:35pm: Some fun times sitting on my knee, cooing, laughing and being adorable. Return to thinking I’m the best possible father.
7:45pm: Baby suddenly losing it. Try to feed her from bottle, but she knows that’s not mom. Swats bottle away contemptuously, wails.
8pm: Even though she hasn’t eaten much, I decide to initiate bedtime procedure. Get her changed and ready for bed, and sit down to read her a story. Baby tries to eat storybook, so I guess that means she likes it?
8:10pm: Try to feed her again, she grips rubber nipple hard and sprays me with breast milk. Okey Doke.
8:15pm: Crying, not sleeping.
8:30pm: Crying, not sleeping.
8:45pm: How long is the ballet again?
9pm: Decide to warm milk up and give one last ditch effort to feed her. Baby drinks like a little Amanda Bynes. Lets out triumphant burp.
9:05pm: Baby fast asleep. I sit smugly and await my wife’s return. As soon as she walks through the door, baby immediately starts freaking out.
All in all it was a good experience for everyone: My wife got a fancy night out, I got to reassure myself that I could care for my daughter single-handedly and the baby drank some warm milk and got to gnaw on a book.
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Paul Beer is a Toronto writer, actor and comedian. You can follow him on Twitter @pauldanielbeer.