As a stay-at-home mom/dad, I’m accustomed to finding myself in situations dripping with gender role-reversal irony. I wear an apron, I cook casseroles, I cry at that Sylvan commercial with the skateboard and the music and the grades. I can talk to my daughter’s gynecologist without stabbing myself in the eyes.
I chuckle at these Mr. Mom moments. I’m still all man. I smoke cigars. I scratch. But when I see the new young dads hugged by their mini-mes, I cry like a princess because I want a baby and that has me acting weird.
Weird like I’m not leaving my house weird. My neighborhood is swarming with brand new stay-at-home dads and their hyper-adorable baby boys. Every seven seconds, one of those mop-haired little dynamos flings himself into the open arms of his beaming pop, yelling “I love you, man!” and I start crying.
I have to be careful because my wife is going through withdrawal and wants another baby and she can afford to get one without me. The only thing keeping her from adopting a Nigerian war baby is my (apparent) insouciant indifference, but if she catches me sobbing in the bay window as some 30-something noob tousles his boy’s hair, she’ll be on a plane stat.
I thought it might be hormonal, so I went to my doctor.
DR: Do you have ovaries?
ME: Not on me.
DR: So it’s not hormonal. Let me try something. (He cues up the opening scene from The Andy Griffith Show).
ME: I (weep) want (weep) a (weep) bay-hay-bee! (Uncontrollable weeping).
DR: When was the last time your son hugged you?
ME: (sniff) Voluntarily?
DR: Oh, good lord.
And that’s it. That’s what’s wrong with me. I don’t have this problem with the girl-she’s hug-centric. I have to peel her off me every 14 seconds. But my son has turned into a pre-man. He used to wear his emotions like a dirty SpongeBob T-shirt. Now he keeps them buried under a professional grade video game skill set and music snobbery. He used to leap into my arms. Now he high-fives me.
If my calculations are correct, I’ve only got a precious handful of embraces left:
1. When (if) he graduates.
2. When (if) he gets married.
3. His son’s first f-bomb.
4. As I lay dying (maybe).
I know what this is. I know how it works. It’s not my hormones that are the problem, it’s his. He’s got hair on his lip. He eats like a horse. He smells like a mule. He’s watches Colbert. He’s in the short stretch to manhood. Suddenly, he’s not seeing me as the Superman he thought I was when he was 5; he’s seeing me as the feeble, addled, wild-haired, unshaven dork in a stained T-shirt I actually am.
That’s why I’m crying every time I peep over the window ledge at those bright, sparkling newbie dads.
Their boys still see them as heroes and, more importantly, they still believe it’s true. I miss that self-deception. It fuels all the idiotic crap we do as dads (camping, ice fishing, parking lot doughnuts), and it’s a blast. For that brief crazy handful of years, we’re invincible. We’re hilarious. We’re awesome.
Now, as he grabs my wallet out of my hand on his way to (an undisclosed secret teen lair), it’s clear I have no one left to be an idiot for. I will wither up and blow away and that is, perhaps, why I’ve become pathetic and weepy.
My kids, they’re my kryptonite, and for a while, a long time ago, I was their Superman.