Roleplaying

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Here we are at the vaguely overdue last article on Man Week/Testosterone Week/Into the Wild, er, Male Mind Week, whatever I have called it previously...! Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Today, I give you Sandeep Sood, who happens to be my husband and, even as I am writing this intro, I am not exactly sure what he is going to be writing about.

It's kind of odd to write a bio for my own husband--so here is what he wants you to know:

Sandeep Sood married up.


ROLE PLAYING

I've been surprised by the response to many of the posts on this blog over the past week. Although many comments have been funny or insightful, there have been a great deal that are sad, even angry. It seems to me that most of these comments come from disappointment over the failure of a husband to understand his role.

Our parents didn't really have this problem. Despite the fact that my sister and I were raised in the US, our parents' roles were set back in the place they left behind: India in the 1970s. When we were in diapers, there was no question of who was supposed to raise the children, just as there was no question of who was supposed to support the family financially. For better, worse, or sexist, everyone understood their role.

I am more active in raising my children and helping out around the house than my father ever was, mainly because I am a product of the era I live in. Given the unique challenges of both time periods, I couldn't tell you whether I am more exemplary as a father or not. But, because I am more often confused about my role, I am sure that I examine and reexamine it more frequently than my father ever did. He was clear; he knew what his role was.

Much of the frustration and resentment I've been reading over the past week has to do with men who, according to their wives, still think that their father's role is the same as their own. Dudes, it's not. And wives, it's also not easy to figure out what our new role is supposed to be.

In my case, I'm still just as confused as most of my friends. I'm not sure about what kind of father, husband, breadwinner, son-in-law, etc. I want to be. I take comfort in the fact that at least I've figured out who I want to be those things for. With that said, here are a few stories, (some meaningful, and some not so much) about me defining (and redefining) my various roles.

I AM NOT A FIREMAN

I realized the other day that I'm not a fireman.

I was out for dinner with three male friends, an event that happens so rarely, it has been dubbed with a formal title: "Guys' Night". For the four of us to get motivated enough to find the time again, I am considering paper invitations and boutonnieres (which would be fitting, because this was the first "Guys' Night" I've been to that included wine pairings - not that I'm arguing...that was some good shit!).

Anyway, while standing at the urinal after dinner (standing at the urinal seems to happen more often during "Guys' Night" than on a "Regular Night"), I found myself singing this song:

"When he hears that fire alarm,
Sam is always cool and calm! Da Duh Da!"

Don't know it? That's because it's from Fireman Sam, a children's show. A children's show that sucks (it's no Pixar movie, let's leave it at that). There was this older guy urinating next to me, and he smiled knowingly, looking right at me. I couldn't tell whether he had children who like the show, and I should smile back, or whether I should immediately get the fuck out of the bathroom - to be safe, I did the latter.

The point of this story is that my older son likes to play this game where he's a fireman (Fireman Sam, to be precise), and I'm, well I guess I'm a fireman too (actually, I think I'm also Fireman Sam). We run around the house, and we use 'hoses' (pencils and cell phone charger wires) to put out raging fires in dangerous places like 'the shower' and 'mommy's hair'.

So, the other day, I'm picking up my older son from school. This is hands-down the best moment of my day, because I feel 10 feet tall, because my son usually runs and gives me a bear hug, screaming "DADDDEEEE!!!" at the top of his lungs, and it is so frickin' awesome that I forget everything and anything that is bad or stressful or stupid or sucks.

But today, that doesn't happen. No running, no screaming. He is sitting, enraptured, in a circle with other children, listening to Ms. Miller read a book about firemen. The book has real pictures, and it's about these firemen with names like Luis and Doug, who save dogs with names like Pickles from burning houses. After a long day of saving dogs and old women from burning to death, the firemen eat salisbury steak and go to sleep thinking they have the best jobs ever.

I know what you're thinking - that book sounds like it sucks! And it did - it sucked. I don't care if you're three years old - that was a shitty book. The graphics were horrible, there was no arc, and the characters had no depth whatsoever. I tried to explain this to my son and any other three-year-olds who would listen, but they shrugged. "I wanna be fireman!!!" they all screamed and ran around me, spraying imaginary hoses into my face. I was like, "Screw firemen! What about 'I wanna be Web Programmer'? Or Flash Animator? or Serial Entrepreneur?" Where's the shitty picture book for those noble professions, Ms. Miller? The kids thought I was being funny, so I gave up, found the kid that was mine, and went home.

The point is that I'm not qualified to be a fireman. I'm not even good at fixing things around the house, and at three years old, my son knows it. When something around the house breaks, he insists that I call Gregory, our handyman. When he turns 5, I'm just going to give him a cell phone, so that he can call Gregory himself. He better negotiate a good rate or do that shit on fixed bid, is all I'm saying.

My sons are going to notice several other unfiremanly things about me as they grow older. My muscles might be a tad smaller than Fireman Sam's (just a tad, though). When they come home from school, it'll probably be daddy who cooked up the amazing dinner they are about to eat (and it's definitely not going to be a nasty-looking salisbury steak). And I'll be around for a lot more diaper changes, vomit clean-ups, and sloppy kisses than most firemen would be (at least more than the ones in the picture book).

SHE IS MUCH BETTER AT THIS THAN I AM

"Sandeep? Change his diaper - it's your turn."

I grunt, mumble something about Obama needing my help, and go back to sleep. This happens more often than I like to admit, even though I'm admitting it on a blog. Sometimes I mumble something about being attacked by killer rolling pins or swimming with dolphins in a tub of guacamole. But, no matter what I mumble, I go back to an entertaining dream, and Deepa is stuck with a poopy diaper.

This doesn't happen all the time. Often, I'm up all night, walking and singing to a crying baby for hours. Okay, frequently...maybe sporadically. In any case, it's not nearly as often as Deepa is up with our children.

And of course, this isn't the only scenario where my wife kicks my ass on the parenting front. Whether she is working all day or not, she knows all the vitals of our house and can spit them out to you rapid-fire on demand: how much milk we have, how much clothing is in the wash, which kid is going to be snotty and possibly up all night when we get home, how much our children have probably eaten, the 7 things I was supposed to do for our kids that I have forgotten to do in the past month, when she reminded me to do each of those things, and what I was probably thinking about instead when she was reminding me to do them.

I can't tell you whether this happens because she has a genetic instinct to be a better caregiver, or that our roles have been socialized, or because I'm just, in this regard, a lazier or more aloof person than she is. But I can tell you, on the whole, she takes better care of our children than I do (and looks A LOT better than I do doing it).

There are things that I excel at. Sleep-training. Meal-cooking. Rough-housing. Doctor-appointing. School-pickuping. Ice-cream-buying. Hyphenation.

But, overall, she is simply the better parent, just like she is the better friend, more attentive listener, and better-looking human being. And, we're not sure what this means in terms of our 'roles' yet. We'll probably figure it out around the time that our 3 day old daughter turns 18. I'll come back and guest-blog again then, I promise.

BUT, I'M BETTER AT THIS

My wife doesn't like to cook. I wax profound about roasted brussel sprouts, find shopping at Farmer's Markets exhilarating, and fantasize about winning Top Chef almost as often as I fantasize about winning an Oscar, selling my company to Google, or free-styling with Jay-Z.

Although I still need a couple of hours of solid therapy to calm the offended Punjabi man inside of me, I'm beginning to revel in my role as family cook, no matter how unfiremanly this is of me.

BEING A GUY

We're about 2 or maybe 7 cocktails into Guys' Night. The food is amazing, and conversation is flowing - our wives, the economy, famous women who are also hot, our children, women from the past, food, how we want more sex with our wives, basketball, women from the past we should have had sex with, how obama is potentially betting his presidency on a poorly-negotiated stimulus package, and in conclusion, sex with women. Pretty standard and just what I needed.

In his earlier post, KB put this really well - it's the friendships from the past that may always be the deepest ones we had with other men. There are moments during this night that I feel like I'm back in college, hanging out with my close friends before I got married or even imagined the possibility of my children. For most men, nothing will replace that experience, and we spend many drunken nights reaching. Reaching for dorm room laughter following a night of drunken debauchery and regrettable hookups. Reaching for those moments after a hard fought win on a basketball court, that if you checked the dictionary in my head, equal brotherhood. And yes, reaching for those teary-eyed conversations about how to overcome a heart-wrenching break-up, talk to a suicidal girlfriend, or understand the death of a family member.

Of course, it's the friendships that successfully transition out of the past that become the most meaningful to us. I called a friend about an hour after my daughter was born Thursday night. His daughter was born only 6 hours earlier. We spoke for about a minute, sharing inexplicable joy with weary, emotionally-spent voices. There was nothing to reach for in that conversation; it was all right now.

BEING NEW AT IT AGAIN

Deepa and I welcomed our third child and first daughter a few days ago. With each child, it's all new. And I get to try to be the dad, husband, etc. etc. I want to be all over again. So, here we go, yo.
32 comments:
Savita said...

What a beautifully written piece!! Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious. My husband wants to be a fireman for our son too! Awesome, wonderfully written article.

Anonymous said...

I am laughing as I write this. You two are very very lucky!

enjoys reading this blog said...

Congrats to both of you. And Sandeep keep up with the school-picking-up. I genuinely think that if all dads did that there would not be so much frustration by the wives.

Anonymous said...

"I am more active in raising my children and helping out around the house than my father ever was, mainly because I am a product of the era I live in"

I wish that were the case for more males...

Coming Around to Boys Night said...

Beautiful, funny article! The part about boys night tied in everyhing from last week: you talk about sex, you get drunk, but you connect so that you can be there for each other in the real here and now. love it.

Veena said...

LOL, hilarious about how you feel picking your son up--i feel the same, closest i have ever felt to being a rockstar!!

Congrats on the new baby!!

s.j.p. said...

what a great piece! you are a wonderful writer, hope to see you on deepa's blog again!

hema said...

yesterdays and todays pieces really added to last weeks posts and put alot of the anger into perspective. i think we can all just get along...if our husbands might take a page from some of the guest writers...

I. Dutta said...

This is such a great piece. In part because it illustrates HOW a marriage needs to work--re-examination, throwing traditional notions of who should do what out the window and most of all finding the humor in things. Sandeep you are a phenomenal writer! Many of us have likely thought you were lucky as we have come to love this blog--but maybe the luck flows both ways! Congrats to you and Deepa and Satya and his wife on the new babies in your lives! You all have something very wonderful, I hope you know how lucky you are.

Anonymous said...

Sandeep you sound like you are managing to balance your role as father, husband, bread-winner, and friend with more ease than many dads I know and it sounds like you are having fun doing it. Good job, man, I wish you could give us all some DIY tips or something.

Nivi said...

Love the whole piece. Love it. And want to know what I love the mos? That you wrote "my wife doesn't like to cook" instead of "my wife doesn't cook" or "won't cook" or "can't cook." That shows it all to me--respect, understanding, all that good stuff. Do you have any brothers?? ;)

t.s. said...

LOL:" I'm beginning to revel in my role as family cook, no matter how unfiremanly this is of me."

can i come over for dinner? haha.

gina f. said...

this is such a funny piece! thanks for the whole series from men, i loved reading. sandeep: thanks for giving me hope about finding a progressive, funny indian man!

Sarah E said...

Great post! Hilarious story about the fireman book. I don't know why kids books are soo lame!

Anonymous said...

Here we go yo. Here we go yo. Great piece, Sandeep. Congrats to you and Deepa, let's see what sorts of guest blog mischief you can get into on the topic of little girls!

Anonymous said...

"Sandeep Sood married up": awww!!

nico said...

dying laughing! the image of you singing childrens songs at the urinal is priceless. great piece. you and deepa should write a book!

Rad said...

awesome post sandeep. nice to see you still are you post-baby!

Anonymous said...

Really like the first part of this piece, about how we can only judge ourselves as fathers, brothers, sons in the context of our time. It's so easy to look back with blame on people in a time we can't understand.

jh said...

what a beautiful post! i think it's amazing how much these posts got people thinking. thanks in particular for showing an example of a "non traditional" household in terms of gender roles. apparently it works, stop the presses...!

Jeannete Beretta said...

Deepa, what a beautiful family you have!! All the best to you all, congratulations on the new addition. Sandeep you are a gifted writer. I like how nobody held back in all of these posts. Everyone was so very honest. It was refreshing. No facades or bravado. Thanks for all of the posts.

Anonymous said...

Great post Sandeep, thanks for sharing! It sounds like your house is a fun place (besides the brussel sprouts)!

Anonymous said...

This is so key: "And I'll be around for a lot more diaper changes, vomit clean-ups, and sloppy kisses than most firemen would be (at least more than the ones in the picture book)."

When I try to explain to my husband that him just "being there" is important we fight. He doesnt see where I am coming from at all. It's not about keeping track of how many diapers who has changed (I will always win that), its about going through the whole thing of raising kids together, and for that to happen you both have to "be there."

parutron said...

hyphenation seems key. brother-in-law of mine!

J.D. said...

This post reminded me of how nice it is to be simply appreciated for the little things we do. I would love it if my husband would recognize that I know the logistics of our house. I don't need it declared to the world on a blog (though it would be nice!) but some acknowledgment goes along way. And I know that works both ways so thank you for the reminder!

Anuradha said...

What a great piece for your kids to read one day! It is inspiring me to try to write out some of the things we are feeling right now with our son, and another on the way.

Avid Reader said...

Oh wow you had your baby!! Congratulations! I know this is selfish but I hope that doesn't mean you'll be taking a break from the blog, haha!

kris d. said...

good luck! enjoyed your piece. are you the same sandeep from badmash comics?? loved those!

Ashwin Sodhi said...

How many times to I have to tell you? Bros before hose!

Brij (Sandeep's Dad) said...

As expected, a brilliant, funny piece of writing. In addition it is straight from the heart. It delights me to know that, however it happened, Mom (and I) raised two wonderful, loving kids. And let's face it - without a strong father figure, you would never have turned out the way you did! Your kids are luckier than they know right now.

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