One week ago, I was on day seven of my tenure as a solo dad; today I’m on day four of my tenure as a dad without a boy or his Mama.
Two days after Mama flew in from Kampala, she and 3B flew out to the farm to visit 3B’s Grammy, who is looking after her mom, 3B’s Great Grammy, who had a stroke a few weeks back.
The adjustment from being a solo parent to being simply solo has been hard. That first day, I couldn’t shake that feeling that I’d forgotten something. I walked out of the house without a boy, a diaper bag, a stroller, or even a sippy cup, and it took all of my concentration to keep moving toward the car. I felt like I needed to run back into the building because surely I couldn’t be traveling without any of those.
It almost felt like that first day back at work after 3B was born, but I think this was different because for a whole week I’d been focused on nothing but him, and now he was gone. It was loneliness whiplash, and it got me thinking about what each of us goes through as a parent, as a mother, or as a father.
Before becoming a parent, I could see that the expectation of mothers was that they be nurturing, compassionate homemakers who were content with nothing more than the joy of their children’s achievements. I often wondered how mothers who didn’t fit any or all of that profile dealt with the tacit pressure from all sides to conform to that model, but I never wondered about the expectations placed on fathers.
As it turns out, despite any social changes periodically heralded by the media, fathers are pretty much still expected to be tough, strict working men who are content with nothing more than supporting their family financially. A father certainly isn’t expected to have a tough time saying goodbye to his wife and child, to worry about them, to ache for the comforting chaos of a long summer day spent together, to stand in the doorway of their child’s room feeling as though a hole had been cut through his gut.
And yet, I’ve spent most of my days without them distracted and somewhat confused, as though I woke up and were suddenly right-handed. I can still do everything that I used to…but everything seems somehow vaguely out of place.
I’m not even sure what to do by myself. Go sit at the playground and watch other kids play? Take a ride on the little train in the mall by myself? Push an empty stroller along when I walk Barky?
When a friend in NYC asked if I was going to see Iron Man this weekend, I realized that I could go, and so I did. Yes, by myself. I debated asking various friends, but then it dawned on me that I was not only free to go to a movie, but free to go without having to coordinate two or three or a dozen people’s schedules to do it. I also did one thing I love to do, and made a little half-and-half movie myself.
Half of it is for 3B and half of it is for me, who misses 3B and Mama. The original idea was to create a vehicle to allow 3B to hear his favorite John Lee Hooker song while he’s at Great Grammy’s. According to Mama, he was “playing the blues” on his ladybug xylophone all the way to the airport in the Super Shuttle. Mama was glad that he was preoccupied, but she wasn’t so sure that the other shuttle passengers were.
(And while we’re talking about lonely papas, go over and give MetroDad some companionship. He needs it right now.)
Updated: Added in paragraphs 3 & 4, which I realized that I’d thought out in my head, but never put down. What can I say? My mind isn’t all here.