The first suggestions of sunlight sneak through the gap between the curtains. Daddy is standing next to the cot willing its sleeping occupant to wake up. A light kiss on the cheek stirs the little man but not enough to release him from slumber.
“Can I wake him?”
I’m half awake now.
“What? No, he’s asleep isn’t he?” (Did I say that out loud or in my dream?)
Daddy continues to look down at his first-born. Almost ten months since he came into our lives and still we can’t believe that he’s here. Look what we did.
The wake-up-Finn energy that fills the air finally takes effect. He lets out a sleepy cry. Daddy looks at me. Guilty. But pleased.
“Come here mister moo.” Finn is lifted into Daddy’s arms for the day’s first cuddle. Another less sleepy cry as he rubs his eye. He looks at Daddy and smiles, revealing his four perfect teeth. Daddy’s got him.
I roll over and fall back to sleep.
Crying wakes me minutes later. Daddy is sitting on the side of the bed with Finn. He has stopped crying now and is looking at me expectantly.
In the battle between playtime with Daddy and hunger, hunger has emerged the victor, as it always does.
“I’ve got to go,” says Daddy as I struggle to sit up and wake up simultaneously, taking Finn to my breast.
“Did you change his nappy?”
“Yep, it was full.”
A kiss for me and a kiss for Finn who looks up from his morning drink to give Daddy a smile that yanks at his heart. Daddy beams. “That smile will last me all day.”
The phone rings.
“How’s my boy?”
“He’s good. He had a big brekky and some formula. He’s asleep now.”
“I miss him. Has he done a poo?”
“Those prunes are working. What have you got planned for the day?”
“We’re off to Gymbaroo later, if he wakes up in time.”
“You lucky thing. He loves it.”
“Maybe you can take him next week if you’re not too busy at work?”
“I should be able to. That’d be good. Give him a kiss from Daddy.”
It’s impossible to tell who’s more excited as Daddy walks in the door.
Both faces are illuminated as father and son make eye contact. Finn bounces up and down and waves his arms in delight. Daddy responds in kind. “Hey Finn! Daddy’s home.”
A second later Finn is launched from the floor high into the air. He squeals with the fun of it. He descends for landing, touching down safely against Daddy’s broad chest. Raspberries against Finn’s soft neck trigger uncontrollable giggles. Daddy’s stubbly face is ticklish.
“I need to have a shower,” says Daddy between the giggles. “I got sweaty today.”
“Can you take Finn with you? It’s been a couple of days.”
Both boys are soaking wet. Daddy’s sure hands keep Finn safe beneath the warm waterfall. With a wet cloth Daddy cleans behind the little Dutchy ears (blame Mummy for those), under his chin and the valley of his belly button. Finn blinks with surprise as water trickles into his eyes. A little shake to release the excess water. I’m waiting with the towel. Daddy gently dries the water from Finn’s face as I hold his struggling form in both arms.
“Say ‘Thanks Daddy. See you downstairs.’”
Dinner is a three-course affair. With my chef hat on I’m preparing the purée delicacies and making a mess in the kitchen. Daddy is the waiter strapping our VIB (Very Important Baby) customer into the best chair in the house. Entrée is served. Iron supplement mixed with rice cereal. Finn gobbles it up. The main meal of puréed lamb, broccoli and pumpkin is met with initial enthusiasm but interest wanes after a few spoonfuls. Finn’s right foot is suddenly very interesting and perhaps a tastier option. Time for the distraction tactics.
“Great big gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts, greasy, grimy gopher guts. And me without a spoon.” Daddy sings.
The foot is instantly forgotten as Finn looks up at Daddy and opens his mouth in a smile of wonder. Daddy seizes the opportunity and sneaks the green-goo-covered spoon between his lips. After ten minutes of singing, funny noises, clapping and gentle encouragement the bowl is empty.
No encouragement is needed to empty the dessert bowl. Yoghurt mixed with puréed mango. Daddy can’t shovel it into Finn’s mouth quick enough. Any delay is met with a cry of protest. The final course is so popular that I need to supervise proceedings to ensure that it ends up in Finn’s mouth and not Daddy’s. Daddy remains in hope that Finn will be too full to finish it all but he’s disappointed. There’s always room for sweets.
“No, it wasn’t the pig as fat as butter. Do you know who sank the boat?”
Finn sits on Daddy’s lap engrossed in the pages of his book. He tries to help by turning the pages but closes the book instead. It’s time for the 3Bs that signal the end of the day: Books, Booby, Bed. Finn rubs at his nose and lets out a yawn. Halfway through Hairy Maclary he starts squirming and arching his back. It’s almost 7 O’clock and sleep is closing in.
“OK, time for booby,” I say.
I take Daddy’s place on the couch and Finn settles in for his last feed of the day. Daddy looks on. He tickles the sole of Finn’s foot hoping for one last smile before bedtime. Our boy looks up from my breast and rewards Daddy with his endearing, cheeky grin. The day is complete. And it’s time for sleep.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem