Some days are 15 diaper days. Stay home from work days. Hydrate and empathize days. Today was one of those days, but I was not the one who had to skip work. Nor was I the one who filled a diaper every hour. I wasn’t even the one who changed those diapers. Nope, I was the one who put on my nice slacks, put turkey sandwiches and a yogurt in my bag and said bye bye while my son cried “I want jacket! Shoes! Go school!!!!” and my unshaven husband settled onto the couch to memorize Curious George.
I worked. I ate my yogurt, then my sandwiches. I stopped by the drugstore for saltines and toddler Tylenol, got on the subway and came home. Leo had been in bed for hours. Aaron was trying to summon the energy to make dinner. I changed my clothes and did a little work at my computer. Then, around 9 pm, we sat down for dinner. And ate dinner. And then I noticed that we hadn’t said a word. And then, an ungenerous thought crept into my mind: ‘Now you see what it’s like to stay home all day alone with a sick kid when it’s pouring out and then to make dinner. No wonder you have nothing to say: you’re fried!’
Now my kind, generous husband took a sick day, getting even more behind at his fast-paced job, to care—gently and patiently—for our child today. Then he made me dinner. I have no business having ungenerous thoughts. So let me rephrase that: ‘I am so grateful that my kind, generous husband was able to stay home and care for our poor little Leo. He’s a wonderful father, a generous spouse, and now he will understand why sometimes my conversation isn’t the most scintillating.’
Is that any better? I’m working on it. The truth is, we’re all working around here. We’re making our lives. We’re making a living. We’re making dinner. We’re making the tallest Lego towers and the most delicious playdough pies. It’s hard work alright, and sometimes it leaves me speechless.
Remember when Leo was a tiny noodle of a person with a grouchy, furrowed brow and no motor control whatsoever? I do. And I’ve been reminiscing about those days a lot this week because my best friend downstairs came home last Saturday with our newest neighbor: Oscar! He has a sleek little seal head, a slight yellowish cast that we hope will even out to olive again, and long, delicate fingers. He mostly just wants to slurp away at a boob and then pass out. He seems to measure time in mili-moments. And he fills me with memories of what it was to love someone who did so little, said less, and relied entirely upon love and milk to stay alive.
I still feel that way toward Leo at times like now, when he’s sick and just wants to be held and helped. I made him a banana shake this morning in an attempt to get some nourishment into him. I watched him gulp it down with the same feeling I had back when nursing was the hardest thing I’d ever done and just like we all feel watching baby Oscar downstairs swallow away, trying to eat up and grow bigger. There’s just so much work going on around here, and it all feels so important.
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.