I did it because I wanted to give Nikol what she gives us each and every day. I wanted to show her that I appreciate her work by doing it for her. I wanted her to take a break from providing and dedicate her nights to playing. I wanted the sound of Nikol and Claire laughing uncontrollably to be my theme music for six nights.
Basically, I wanted to give Nikol the Mother’s Day gift of being Dad for a week.
So every day I came home from work and just dropped my briefcase in the closest open space and started laying out ingredients while Nikol and Claire took baths and built castles and sang songs. I made butternut curry and almond red pepper pizza and an entire dish that used not one, but BOTH of the grossest foods on earth as the main ingredients. (It was broccoli and cauliflower macaroni, and I even made it taste good.)
Nikol thanked me before and after every meal but the real reward came on Thursday. I was midway through the mint chicken pho when she and Claire came into the kitchen to check on me and Nikol said, smiling, “You know, I really do feel more relaxed. This really has helped.”
That was all I ever wanted to hear. I told Nikol last night that I always knew she was going to be a great mother, but the way she instantly and feverishly dove in with both feet really surprised me. Nikol is the queen of making and running through a checklist, so I knew that Claire would always be provided for and would always get everything she needed. What really means the world to me is when Nikol gushes that she loves Claire so much she just wants to bite her limb by limb because there is no other way to describe the feeling. Now that goes above and beyond a checklist.
It seems extraordinary to me, this all-encompassing waterfall of love, because while I understand the unrestrained obsession with our daughter and can match Nikol bite for bite, I am not sure I could handle the day-to-day and hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute demands of being a mom. I work hard to give my best to Claire but Nikol is the one up in the middle of the night no matter how many back rubs it takes, and she is the one packing the diaper bag and the stroller and the extra change of clothes just in case while I’m having trouble finding my own shoes. If a football coach could see how quickly Nikol can move while attached to a breast pump she would have been selected in the NFL Draft this weekend no later than the third round.
It seems extraordinary because it is extraordinary. But the crazy thing is that all moms have this ability. My mom, Dana, and Nikol’s mom, Gabriela, have the same nurturing instincts and same get-it-done attitudes that turned me and Nikol into the people that we are and will one day turn Claire into the grown woman she becomes. Nikol’s dedication is above and beyond admirable, yes, but it is a reminder that moms in general are above and beyond admirable. My celebration of her is a celebration of all moms and my thank you meals for her are thank you meals for all moms, everywhere. Thank you. I owe each and every one of you a broccoli and cauliflower mac and cheese. It’s in the mail.
After a couple of days of it, the cooking became second nature. I stopped coming home and thinking of work and stopped coming home rushing to watch the NBA Playoffs and got to work because my family needed me to. It was kind of like parenting in general: Forget about what your life used to be, this is how life is from now on so just accept it. Cooking never became a chore or a hassle and time frankly flew by until it was time to put Claire to bed every night. Afterward, we would have dinner and leftovers for lunch and a whole night ahead of no more cooking and a stress-free momma. Yup, everything worked out pretty sweet.
“So,” Nikol said as she stood holding Claire in the kitchen while I made the pho. “How many times are you going to cook next week?”
Fine. But no more cauliflower.