Nearly 15 months into our first foray into parenthood, what’s surprised us most is how each time Munchkin enters a new phase it always seems better than the previous one. And by that we don’t mean that parenting has become easier. In fact, in many ways taking care of a toddler is much more demanding and exhausting work than caring for an infant. It’s just that with each developmental milestone, Munchkin finds new ways to bring us an indescribable amount of joy.
Holding one’s newborn for the first time, feeling him snuggle up against one’s chest to sleep the kind of enchanting sleep that only babies know — it’s hard to imagine life feeling any better. We still remember how excited we felt when Munchkin first rolled over at ten weeks. We thought he was the cutest little bug and couldn’t fathom him being any cuter. Looking back on the photos of his first three months now — just a year later — we can hardly recognize our joyful, smiling, mischievous toddler in those amorphous baby photos.
Not only does he seem to our loving eyes to grow cuter with every day, but he is also a lot more fun now that he has developed both a personality and motor skills. He plays hide-and-seek, he giggles madly if we chase him around the house, he claps his hands when we read his favorite books, and peals of laughter resound throughout the house when we tickle him.
This is why it is all the more difficult for us to spend so little time with him. D long ago embraced his role as a weekend dad, but for S — who started a full-time job last month — the transition has been a lot more difficult. She tries to come home for lunch when she can, and rushes home as soon as the work day is over so that she can maximize the few precious hours before Munchkin’s bedtime, but it’s just not the same.
For one, the last hours of the day are always tricky, and even if Munchkin has a good evening without too much fussing, he never quite matches his early morning happy mood or energy. More importantly, he interacts differently with us depending on how much time we spend with him. He still gets visibly excited when we come home from work, but he’s not nearly as warm and cuddly as when we spend the whole day with him. Also, whereas before it was just D who would come home from work in the evenings, now there are two of us vying for Munchkin’s attention because we both miss him.
Although S very much does not want to be a stay-at-home mom, her heart breaks a little every time our nanny sends us pictures from her daytime outings with Munchkin. Even though she wants to be working after spending most of Munchkin’s first year at home, deep down she can’t help but think that she should be with him at play group instead of sitting at her desk at the Embassy.
D never had the option of being a stay-at-home dad to Munchkin, which may help explain why he’s content in his role as a weekend dad. We have a friend who refers to her husband as “the greatest father ever, one hour at a time,” a feeling with which D can easily sympathize. Now that Munchkin has grown willful and not only enjoys causing havoc but also throws temper tantrums when he does not get his way, he’s become quite a handful to manage, especially towards the end of the day. Coming home after an exhausting day at work, it’s sometimes difficult to summon the energy that matches our son’s, which is why by the time we put Munchkin to bed, the house usually looks as if a small tornado ripped through it.
But weekends are different. S gets up with Munchkin, and though she may grumble about the hour — of late Munchkin has been waking up between 5-6am — she gets his undivided attention during some of his best hours. Then we switch off. While S studies, goes running, or teaches her yoga class, D not only gets Munchkin all to himself for hours on end, but also has the energy (unlike midweek) to stay involved, to read books and play with him rather than simply keeping an eye on him to ensure he stays out of harm’s way. And that is why weekends now seem even more precious than they did before.