Friday, July 4, 2008

Missing something, Pa?

"You should blog about how you miss Sonny while at work," Mum told Pa a couple of hours ago.

Something stirred within Pa then. Just how much did he miss his son, when sitting at a computer terminal on the other side of the city, tapping away? Here's the answer he arrived at (hold on to something if your nerves aren't what they used to be): Pa doesn't really miss Sonny all that much.

That's to say, his thoughts don't wander away from the stuff he's working on, slinking home to rest lovingly on his gurgling bundle. Pa doesn't worry about whether Sonny's been crying too much, drinking too little or not getting enough morning sun. Mind you, if someone were to ask about how the little one is doing, Pa would be happy enough to dwell on the subject: While it occupies him, feelings not unrelated to pride and pleasure well up.

But oughtn't the thoughts of any new parent be continually returning unprompted to the new addition to the family? This seems more or less expected in our kinder, gentler era, so Pa's formulated a theory to explain why missing-itis seems to have passed him by. He calls it the Reservoir Effect, and here's how it goes: When he's home, he makes sure to spend quality time with his baby. Just today, he gave Sonny his evening bath, noting with a thrill of pleasure how - at 10 weeks and change - the little critter is now energetic enough to splash and kick in the tub. Pa also chats with Sonny, treating him like a conversational partner and filling him in on some of the things that have transpired earlier in the day.

Well, in doing all this, Pa - without thinking about it - is actually refilling his reservoir of Sonny-sentiment - of affection and fatherly feelings. By the next morning, when he leaves with a cheery "See you later, Sonny", he's topped off the tank before heading out the door. Then, for the rest of the day through till evening, this reservoir of stored sentiment is continually being drawn on. It keeps Pa's unconscious self from getting too restive and starting to agitate for news about Sonny.

There's one obvious way to test this rather fanciful theory: Give Pa no access to Sonny for more than a day - two days, say - and see what happens once the reservoir runs dry. Then again, there'll be a second test subject soon, so that more evidence can be gathered: Mum is returning to work in a fortnight or so - and Sonny will be starting at infant care. Will she be able to keep Sonny-thoughts sufficiently at bay when at her workstation? Will she have to consciously top off her reservoir with some extra farewell hugs?

In fact, is there any way of upgrading to a larger reservoir... just in case?