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Column

Finding himself as a daddy, he blossoms

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMETTHE
Published June 18, 2006


I'll never forget the look of fear on my husband's face the first time I asked him to change Toby's diaper.

As a babysitter and an aunt, I had changed countless diapers before becoming a mom. But Wayne had never been around babies before. The notion of handling one made him look almost as helpless as our day-old son.

I crawled out of the hospital bed, still sore from the caesarean section, and showed Wayne how to remove the diaper, clean off our son and fasten a new diaper around Toby's tiny body.

"Don't worry," I told my husband, smiling, "you'll become an expert at this in no time."

That was eight months ago, and as Toby has grown into an interactive, curious child, Wayne has blossomed into a dedicated dad. He's become a pro at feeding, bathing and playing with Toby, and quite literally has changed diapers in his sleep.

Watching my husband's transformation into fatherhood has been almost as gratifying as the growth of our son. He recognizes Toby's moods and figured out the tricks to keeping him happy hoisting Toby in the air like Superman and making whooshing flying noises often does the trick. Wayne's success is evident every time he enters the room and captures Toby's enthralled gaze.

"I can't believe we made him," Wayne marvels.

Of course there have been growing pains, too. At times, Wayne has missed the trappings of his bachelor days, when he could play video games for hours and stay up late watching horror movies. These days his afternoons are filled with apple juice and tummy time, and he's early to bed, early to rise as a teacher at Hudson High School.

He wouldn't trade Toby for anything, but he is still trying to keep some threads of his old life. A few weeks ago he broke The Hills Have Eyes into short blocks and watched the 1977 horror movie over three evenings. "It didn't work very well," he later reported, discouraged.

I remember years ago my father remarking that he gave up his model train hobby when he had kids. No time for it, he said. I don't want fatherhood to do the same thing to Wayne's favorite pastimes, even if there is less free time to pass.

My hope is that Toby will share in his father's fun as he becomes older (in the case of those horror movies, much older). After all, what kid wouldn't love to have a big kid for a dad?

We're still fine-tuning our schedules, but the overall concept of splitting working and baby duties has worked well. During the school year he works in the morning and early afternoon, then watches Toby for the rest of the afternoon and evening while I'm at work. The arrangement means we have both developed strong bonds caring for Toby, while keeping the intellectual stimulation and paychecks that come with full-time work.

Like any mom (and perfectionist) I can pick at the little things. The way Wayne dresses Toby ("Those buttons go in the back?"). The way he dishes out the jarred food ("I was supposed to heat that up?"). The way he used to move the walker with Toby still in it ("You're not supposed to do that?").

The important thing is he's doing the little things.

Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached in west Pasco at (727) 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bgrumet@sptimes.com.

[Last modified June 18, 2006, 07:02:59]


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