James’s room is dim. The shades are drawn and the only illumination comes from a Buzz Lightyear night-light in the corner. It’s the mother of all boy’s rooms. Yellow and green? No thanks. The walls are navy and cream, the furniture dark cherrywood. A toddler-size basketball net is against one wall, and a full-size train table against the other. A comfy rocking chair is stationed between two arched windows, with a well-worn copy of Goodnight Moon lying in wait on the seat. Framed pictures of family—and the new Yankee Stadium—hang on the walls. A Metallica poster is taped to the back of the door.
I wanted it front and center but Kate shot me down.
James’s big, dark eyes light up when I walk in. He’s the perfect mini-me—his nose, his chin, his black hair that sticks up at all angles.
He holds on to the rail of his crib and bounces like a cotton-clad chimpanzee.
His words are carefully pronounced, with stresses on the consonants. Kind of like a robot. “Hel-lo, Dad-dee.”
So f**king cute.
I pick him up, hold him high, and nibble on his belly, making him shriek. Then I bring him back down and give him a squeeze. His head turns and rests on my shoulder, and his breath tickles my neck. I kiss his hair again—just because I can.
I’ll never understand those guys who refuse to hug and kiss their kids—particularly their male kids. Coldhearted pricks, if you ask me. The idea that too much affection can make a boy soft is a big steaming pile of crap.
If you want your kid to be confident—secure? You have to give them a good foundation—set the right example. Take my old man, for instance. I grew up knowing he was fully capable of kicking my ass whenever I stepped out of line. Which he did. Frequently. But he also showed me every day that he had my back. That he loved me, was proud of everything I did or tried to do. James is gonna grow up the exact same way.
A rancid aroma invades my nose. “Jesus, James.” I lay him on the table to get him changed.
You look surprised. You shouldn’t be. Real men change diapers.
I’m thinking about putting that on a T-shirt.
In fact, anything Kate can do—bath time, bedtime, midnight feedings—I can do too. I kind of have to.
Kate was only twenty-eight when James was born. For a professional in our field, that’s young. And as happy as she was to do the mom thing—and despite a boatload of guilt—she just wasn’t ready to trade in the corporate ladder for Mommy and Me’s and goddamn Wiggles songs.
A nanny or day care was out of the question. When I was young, I didn’t even like to board our dogs. No way was I handing my kid off to some strangers, hoping every day that they didn’t cause harm.
But I did promise Kate—once upon a time—that I’d make all her dreams come true. So, we compromised. Here’s how that played out. You’ll find the ending of this exchange particularly gratifying . . . or at least I did:
James—four weeks old.
It’s ten thirty by the time I walk through the door of our apartment. These may seem like late hours to you, but in the field of investment banking, it’s pretty much par for the course. One seven o’clock meeting runs over, then a conference call with Indonesia, a couple more hours spent reviewing contracts, and here we are.
When James was first born, I took two weeks dad-ternity leave, but now I’m back at the office full speed ahead. Kate’s doing the stay-at-home-mom thing. We used to alternate the middle-of-the-night feeding shifts, but because it’s difficult to form a coherent sentence—let alone manage millions of dollars—when half your brain is asleep, they now fall on her, so I can get a night of decent shut-eye and not decimate my clients’ fortunes.
I toss my keys on the table and nudge the door closed with my foot. I step into the living room—Kate’s sitting on the couch with a basket of laundry at her feet, folding tiny pants that will join their onesie brethren stacked on the table. Her long, soft hair—which I relish feeling draped across my thighs—is tied up in a bun. She’s wearing short pajama shorts and a navy T-shirt, and I can’t help but notice her still-larger-than-normal-from-breast-feeding tits are free from the usual bra constraints.
In a louder voice than I’d intended, I say, “Hey, beautiful.”
“Shhh!” She attacks. “If you wake that baby, I’ll pluck out every pubic hair you have the next time you fall asleep.”
My eyes widen. She’s been spending way too much time with Delores these days.
I lower my voice. “Sorry.” I sit beside her on the couch and lean over for a kiss.
My lips coax a smile from her—as usual. “Hi,” she greets me in a much-happier-to-see-me tone. “Do you want me to heat you up a plate?”
“Nah, I’ll just make myself a bowl of cereal.”
Kate yawns as she picks up a my mom is hotter than your mom bib and continues to fold.
“Rough day?” I ask.
“Not so much. He was just really cranky around six—it took me forever to get him down for the night.”
I nod. Then tilt my head toward the hallway. “I’m just gonna go check on him.”
Kate shoots me down. “No—no, you’re not.”
“I’ll be really quiet.”
“I won’t even touch him.”
Wryly she points out, “We both know you’re incapable of seeing James and not touching him.”