Before River came along Frankie and I had a conversation about how we were scared about having this bomb placed in the middle of our relationship. We were so close and the thought of an infiltration from an uncontrollable humanoid was a worrying prospect. At the time of the conversation I remember saying to her “Listen, he will be new around here. We are already the gang, he has to get a pass to join us, he won’t divide and conquer us.”
He came and my ideal family bonding plans were thrown out of the 3rd floor window of the maternity unit when I wasn’t allowed home. Uh oh. I had to deal with him alone apart from a few short visiting hours. I missed my wife, I missed our pets and I was overwhelmed and alone with an alien in a strange place with the added upgrades of barely being able to walk because of two two way incisions on my foof and being half blind because my blood pressure was through the roof. I felt like when you’re in school and you get seperated from your mate and have to partner up with the new kid. Except this new kid couldn’t do any of the work.
We got home and Frankie only had a week of “paternity” leave left. We spent good family bonding time together and we didn’t notice any war tactics from the little man and we didn’t feel like he was trying to turn either of us against the other. Although, it was suspicious that every time he was handed back to me he had green lines coming out of his rump end.
When Frankie went back to work, I got myself out. I went two a couple of regular baby groups and a few classes which I’ve loved. I loved spending time with River on my own but always felt guilty that Frankie was at work whilst we were off bonding, rubbing salt in to the wound by sending pictures of our adventures. We’ve formed friendships that Frankie isn’t part of in our groups and it started to feel like the bomb was a ticking time bomb and it just took a while for his detonotor to count down. She was always great and asked about what we had been up to and tried to mention at least one person she didn’t even know by name to show she was interested.
Except he didn’t detonate. Frankie has always encouraged me to get out and enjoy him guilt free and we are stronger for it. I don’t feel like we’ve pushed her out, it’s purely circumstantial that I can take him to groups. I encouraged her to start taking him to a football club on Saturday mornings so they could have some of the same bonding we have and I made a point not to attend (mainly so I could have a lie in) and despite initially trying to find excuses to not go each week, they have been getting on fantastically. More importantly, I get to have an hours peace to watch Gilmore Girls in bed without being judged.
Weekend time is family time. We spend the rest of the days doing something fun and stimulating for River and mainly something to tire him out. The evenings are for us, a bottle of wine and a film is usually on the cards. Normally this takes hours and we usually end up reverting to some neutral ground film that we’ve both seen a million times but it’s our time to switch off and reflect on the week. It always makes me laugh that through the week his bed time is 7pm but Saturday’s he gets bundled off to bed at 6.30 or earlier after sharing “the look” that all parents recognise as “I can’t wait for this maniac to get to bed.”
Whenever we do something as a family I usually meander off and let those two get up to mischief and let them have fun to make up for my extra time with him. I can always hear giggling when they are up to no good. Frankie is definitely the fun mum and he drags her off to do things he knows I would “ah ah ah!” the fuck out of. Nothing brings me happieness than the sight of the pair of them finding me (usually after destroying something and almost getting us kicked out of somewhere) and running at me with grins and open arms. I never feel left out but something always clicks back as whole when they both want me back in their fold. Even if I am “boring” mummy.
One thing I enjoy about River’s relationship with us is that if we are all there he has to include both of us in everything. I might have to lug him about everywhere as the chosen chariot but that is as far as preferrential treatment goes. If I pretent to shake his hand then he makes Frankie shake his hand. Then he takes both our hands and makes us shake hands. He can’t kiss one of us without shouting “Mama!” and kissing the other.
I’m not saying it is always easy; its not. Some days I lie in bed until 9 to get a break from both of them. Sometimes Frankie will exercise to get away from us. River doesn’t have the luxury of choice but gets his break from us in the form of nursery. We all enjoy the break and sometimes it’s what we need to realign. Some days are difficult when you have a toddler that can’t be controlled or reasoned with; you snap at each other. Everything that has gone wrong is clearly the fault of the other parents decision making that day. “You shouldn’t have let him watch his tablet, that’s why he is over stimulated” or “why did you give him a banana right before tea time?!” A handful of times we’ve let this fester and stopped speaking to each other but it will usually end with Frankie putting a hand on my shoulder and saying “we are on the same team, remember?” I can put a lot on Frankie. Ever since River was small she got the brunt of my frustrations as I dealt with how overwhelming parenthood could be. I would blame her for waking him if she walked upstairs when in reality a freight train could have passed through and he wouldn’t have heard it; he was simply waking for a feed. I’d slam doors and shout “WELL DONE!” in my best angry fish wife impersonation. She never let it get her down and would be waiting for me to come back to the living room and ask if there was anything she could do to help. I’d sulk but I knew deep down she hadn’t done anything wrong and we were on the same side. The newest recruit wasn’t following the agenda and it was difficult. We got through that and although it can still be challenging, I can definitely see the bigger picutre.
We are on holiday at the moment and River is getting so much out of having us both there to wrap around his finger. We have laughed so much at his antics and he is so overwhelmed he just keeps bumping in to us and kissing us before going back to his playing making sure to keep a close eye on us and ensure we haven’t run off to do something more fun without him.
We’re only 1 year, 9 months and 16 days into this but so far it seems like our little guy has muscled his way into our gang with brute force and he makes every day an exhuasting, hysterical adventure. There is plenty of time for him to divide and conquer us but for the time being I’m loving this three strong gang.