Coming up. Baby C is here! And his mom and dad looked awfully proud already!
EVENT 1 - BOY
My son loves to turn on the water faucet in the bathroom. He’ll crawl up on the toilet, lean over onto the sink and turn the water on and off, on and off, on and off while his mother and I shout from the other room to stop because, “Don’t you know that the Earth’s water resources are drying up?” and “Hey, do you think money grows on trees! I’m footin’ that bill!” and I suddenly realize that I sound just like every parent everywhere, the world over.
This morning we hear him shout, “AH! Mommy! AH! AH!” and we both stroll into the bathroom to find that he’s crawled far enough onto the sink to lose his footing on the toilet but not so far as to be able to pull himself completely up. The edge of the sink crosses his belly, his hand gripping the faucet handle, his feet dangling into open air. ”MOMMY! DADDY!”
We stop and stare at him, neither of us making a move. Rory turns the faucet on and off again and says, “Wah-ter”. Jade says, “Looks like you’ve gotten yourself into a pickle this time” and I casually stroll back into the living room saying, “I’ll get the camera.”
EVENT 2 - GIRL
My daughter has a fierce dedication to give the best kisses that she can. I’ll squat down next to her in the mornings, just before I’m getting ready to head out the door and I’ll say, “Can Daddy have a kiss?” and she’ll give a quick peck on the lips and go, “MAH!”, which is the universal kissing noise. I say, “Oh, thank you! That was very nice of you!” and she’ll lean in again and go “MMMMMAH!” and give me a longer kiss and then giggle and I’ll say, “Okay. Daddy has to go. Bye bye!” but then she’ll lean in, wanting to give me just one more.
She’ll come in real slow, making the buzzing noise, “MMMMM–” and she kisses me and I sort of start to laugh while she’s doing it because she’s basically just pressing her face into mine and going, “MMMMMMM–” and then it gets to the point where it actually sort of starts getting awkward and uncomfortable so I slowly step back and she goes, “–MAH!” and laughs.
Rory will try to kiss you with his mouth open, which is just an entirely separate story altogether.
EVENT 1 - GIRL
Last night Jade and I were surrounded by friends, a large group of us sitting in a circle in a living room discussing and analyzing what the word “trust” meant. Yes, we all know what it means, we all know what the definition is, but what does it mean to put complete trust in someone ie your spouse? Why do you trust them so implicitly and without question? How have you gotten to this point emotionally and mentally? How could you reclaim it if it were ever lost? Etc, etc, on and on. Now, it should probably be stated that this was not just standard Monday evening fair over crumpets and green tea.
We’re in, what our church refers to as, a Connect Group. It’s a weekly… meeting??… where people get together to discuss a preset curriculum. It’s actually pretty awesome because sometimes there actually is crumpets and green tea. Last night there was chocolate fondue. There was chocolate fondue! Rory stood at the kitchen table begging for fruit and I just kept thinking… maybe I could just dip this strawberry in and give him a taste… but no. That would be unwise. He would never look at fruit the same way again.
“Trust me. I’m withholding this pot of bubbling dark chocolate for your own sake,” I tell him. ”Here’s a strawberry. Go find a drum and beat it.”
Back in the room I quickly realize that I haven’t done our weekly reading. I’m such a numbskull! Everyone is sitting around talking about “trust this” and “trust that” and I’m like, “Trust is nice. Trust is one of those things that… that… it’s like… nice,” and I can feel all of their eyes peering into me; all five couples. All ten sets of irises. All twenty-two retinas, cones and rods and all, and I’m sure the whole time my wife is like, “What on Earth is this old fool rambling on about now? Trust is nice? Yeah, so are olives you nincompoop. Get to the point.”
I look into the center of the circle that we’re all creating with our chairs and I see Quinn standing alone at a short table. She’s real tiny so it only comes up to about chest high on her. She’s slowly perusing a box of Crayola’s, pulling out one crayon at a time, examining it’s visual flavor and then scribbling slowly and deliberately onto a piece of paper that has a dog with huge eyes drawn onto it.
She’s not staying inside the lines but I’m amazed at how delicate each movement is. It’s clear that she doesn’t understand what the purpose of the coloring book page is. She doesn’t understand that you’re supposed to color IN the picture, the concept escapes her… but it doesn’t matter. She just colors and she’s probably having more fun than someone concerned with messing up the photocopied page.
She picks up Ruby Red and looks at it. Decides against it and puts it down. She picks up Forest Green, scribbles over the dogs eyes and nose, covering him in what looks like canine mucus dripping from his orifices. She picks up Mellow Magenta and Serene Indigo and Foxy Gold. She colors with Eggshell White, Midnight Black and Purgatory Grey. She selects and discards Raw Hamburger Pink and I-Don’t-Brush-My-Teeth Brown and Jade Sea which I’m not entirely certain is actually a shade of green or a shade of blue or some hue resting in the middle. She scrawls in huge sweeping arcs and tiny, minute pecks, creating something that Jackson Pollock would certainly call art. It’s definitely something I would frame.
Fueled by her self loathing, she continues on, foraging new colors, blending the wax to the paper until… she is simply unsatisfied. “This is the worst piece of work anyone has ever created!” she seems to scream as she silently throws the page from the table and grabs a new paper; this one portraying a picture of a smiling lion. She picks up Fear Onyx - the blackest black crayon I have ever seen - and makes one single solitary mark on his mane before throwing that sheet of paper to the ground as well. I’m sure she’s thinking something like, “Fear Onyx!? Who would use black on a lion! It makes no sense! It makes all sense! I am horrible! I am genius! I am nothing! I shall start anew!” she picks up another sheet; this one a parrot that has been previously colored and abandoned by another child. Quinn takes the tattered remnants as something of a challenge. She picks up her box of 72 crayons, her Pallet of Creation, inhales deeply, sticks her hand in and–
–trust is… yeah. It’s really nice. It’s like that sometimes… you know.” I have no idea what I’m saying. I have no idea why I didn’t read the chapter OR beyond that, why I began talking when I hadn’t completed the homework or taken the time to simply process what I was about to say.
The truth is, adult talk is fantastic and invigorating and refreshing and enlightening but sometimes I really just want to kneel down on the floor and color with my daughter, who’s biggest concern is whether Day Old Carrot Orange is the proper choice for her latest masterpiece.
EVENT 2 - BOY
This morning my wife left the house before I did; a rare occurrence that takes place when she has her monthly Mom Group. She and some other mothers take their kids to a park or a museum or a playground or an underground fight club and the mom’s and the children all sit around and chat and have a wonderful time out of the house, spending time in one another’s company. It’s a pretty swell little club.
Leaving the house, she’s taking this giant plastic bucket of random items with her; it’s an enormous bright green pail that’s roughly the size of a laundry basket and it’s filled to the brim with diapers, stuffed animals, a dirty blanket, some hula hoops, snack pouches and a projector. Sometimes I feel like Jade has this entire secret life going on that I just have absolutely no idea what it’s all about. Sometimes she’ll leave the house with a bean bag chair, six tubes of combustible confetti, a scale from the turn of the century and a box of matches, swearing she’s going to a photo shoot but when she comes back reeking of sulphur and garbonzo beans, I always question her solitary adventures.
Regardless, her Double-Oh life is neither here nor there. This morning she picked up The-Basket-Filled-With-Every-Bizarre-and-Random-Item-You-Could-Imagine and began heading to the door. I’d just turned on some Weird Al (my music of choice this week for getting ready in the mornings) when I saw her trying to fumble with the front door lock and simultaneously balance this 30 pound container of odds-and-ends on her hip.
I quickly leap up and grab it from her, relieving her to lead Quinn and Rory out to the car. My daughter follows her mother, dragging her “white” blanket through dirt and leaves and who knows what else while my son stands by my side and looks up at me. ”Yes?” I ask him. He says nothing but only reaches both arms up straight into the air. ”I can’t carry you, buddy. Daddy’s hands are full”. He leaves his arms up so I lower the basket in order to kneel down and talk to him on his level, which everyone says is very important; the eye-to-eye thing.
Before I get a word out of my mouth, he grabs a handle of the container and begins trying to tug it towards the door. He didn’t want me to pick him up. He wanted to help me the same way I’d helped Jade, by alleviating some of the weight. I pick up the container, walking in a very uncomfortable hunched over position, not at all unlike Quasimodo, so that Rory could place his hand on the basket and lead the way through our front porch, down the steps and out the front gate.
When we get into the driveway, I shout, “Pivot! Pivot!” an old joke from a Friends episode that Jade and I always reference when we’re moving things together. I don’t know if he gets the joke but it doesn’t really matter. He’s well on his way to becoming A Good Man and this just solidifies it all the more; They Are Always Watching.
EVENT 1 - BOY
The kids have just gotten to an age in the last month, perhaps even the last couple weeks really, where they seem to be learning new words everyday. You can say, “Say this or that” and they’ll repeat it so long as it’s no lengthier than two or three syllables. When we ride in the car we practice all their words and sounds and noises and colors and names and numbers and I try to teach them mathematical equations but they’re just not ready for the pythagorean theorem yet.
It’s 9pm, we’ve been out of church for an hour and we’re all sitting in the drive-thru at In-N-Out. Jade and I had just gotten baptized on a whim at service and were having a celebratory salvation burger. While we wait in line, I turn around in my seat and start giving Rory a pop quiz. ”What’s a snake say? What’s a donkey say? What’s a llama say? What’s a shark say?” WIthout hesitation he fires back the answers at an impressive rate. He says, “Ssss. Ee-ah! EEHH! Duh-nuh”. That third one is the noise I imagine a llama makes… sort of a growling scream and that final noise is the theme from jaws.
We sing the alphabet and I say, “Can you say A-B-C?” and he says, “Ah-Bay-EE!” and I say, “That’s right! How old are you?” and he says “TWO!” and it’s not the right answer but it’s close enough. I say, “Where’s your foot? Where’s your eye? Where’s your mouth?” and he points to all of them in order, repeating my words.
I turn around and sort of spontaneously, perhaps because I’ve got llamas on the brain, say, “TINA!” in my best Napolean Dynamite impression. Tina, of course, being the name of Napolean’s weird pet llama and again, without hesitation, Rory drops his voice down a couple octaves, just as I did, and he says, “TEE-NAH” and I laugh and I say, “TINA!” and he drops his voice even lower and says, “TEE-NAH!” and it’s just so totally ridiculous, so out of this world bizarre that I can’t help but crack up.
EVENT 2 - GIRL
I put Quinn in a time out, which means I place her back in her crib and tell her, before closing the door, that “Daddy will be back in a little bit to get you. You need to be quiet because you were having a temper tantrum and we don’t have temper tantrums”. I shut the door and there is a moment of silence… a very temporary moment of silence, before the ground erupts and the gates of The Abyss split open and all the noises from all the seven circles of Hell pour forth and I can hear them all screaming from the mouth of one tiny babe in one tiny room, the vibrations pounding and banging against the door and threatening to tear it down.
Rory stands by my side and I glance down at him, perhaps seeking advice and he just shrugs like, “I don’t know. You put me in there and I just take a nap until you come back”. I take a few hesitant steps back from the door, waiting to see if this is just a “phase” that will pass. Understandably, she’s probably upset that I just locked her in a box in a room all by herself. I would be too. If it were me, I’d shout at my captives, “I know you’re out there! I can hear you breathing! You let me out of here right now and then you make me some macaroni and cheese with some broccoli in it but not too much broccoli because the flavor can easily overshadow the powdered cheese taste!”
I glance back down at Rory, wondering if maybe I can read something on his face, like, maybe he’s channeling his twin somehow. He’s holding a John Deere truck his grandpa had purchased for him and he suddenly throws it down on the ground, probably testing it’s durability. It doesn’t break. Not bad. Bottom line; no channeling happening. Now, the truth is, I have no problem with letting my kids cry it out. I am 100% fine with just walking away and listening as their screams and wails slowly die into whispers and whimpers over the following ten to fifteen minutes. This is not a problem for me. But man… this time it sounds like something is wrong. It really sounds like she’s hurt. Maybe her leg is stuck between the crib bars? Her knee trapped and swelling up as I contemplate my next move?
I take a deep breath and then decide to just quickly… ever so quickly… poke my head in just to make sure that everything is okay.
I grab the handle, twist and push the door open. In the crib, Quinn rests with her mouth on the bar of her bed. She lifts her face away and snot and spit and tears make one long stringy web of mucus and liquid, connecting her to the wooden frame. Her eyes are puffy and red, her face covered in moisture. She looks like she’s just been hit with mace. She stares up at me; her father, her protector, her savior, her captor, her only connection to the outside living world and, spittle streaming between her top lip and bottom lip, she wails in a broken voice, “BLAAAANNNKKEEEE!!!”
I look down at her broken and battered spirits and I can’t help but smile… just a little… and only on the inside. Her blankie. Her item of total and complete security. The thing she drags with her through the dirt and through the puddles. The thing she sleeps with and eats with. In my haste to grab her and give her a timeout, I neglected to grab it.
Granted, timeouts aren’t a time of play or fun but there is also a distinct line between punishment and torment. I fetched her blanket, set it inside her crib and she immediately goes silent. I place my hand on top of her head and say, “Daddy will be back in a little bit to get you. You need to be quiet because you were having a temper tantrum and we don’t have temper tantrums”.
I shut the door and there is silence.
EVENT 1 - GIRL
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and are taller than four feet and aren’t absolutely horrified of heights and / or water, you’ve probably been on Splash Mountain, arguably one of the greatest attractions there… certainly my favorite. It’s a wonderful little ride where you sit inside of a boat shaped like a log and sail gently through an underground wonderland filled with animatronic characters from the Brer Rabbit tale. They sing wonderful little songs to you about Zippidee-doo-dah-Zippidee-yays and bluebirds on your shoulders. It’s a truly magnificent ride, both calming and engaging at the same time. You can’t help but be enveloped by the attention to detail all the while being lulled into a false sense of security.
About the time you think the ride is ending, things unexpectedly take a turn for the dark side. The lights get a little dim, the song turns from a “diddy” into something that can only be described as a “dreary” and there are suddenly haunting portrayals of rabbits tied to stakes being prepared to be cooked, singing you their sorrows. The shadow of a great wolf dances on the wall. Truly horrifying stuff.
Click. Click. Click.
Your log canoe begins it’s slow ascent towards the heavens, taller and taller and taller, higher and higher and higher until finally, you’re simply staring out over the park, watching hundreds of thousands of people gleefully eating churros and hugging Mickey Mouse. Meanwhile you have one brief instant to tell yourself that “This is Fun This is Fun This is Fun This is FUUUUUUU–” and then the next letter that comes out of your mouth is definitely not an ‘N’ at all and some camera takes a picture of you and your mouth is agape and your eyes are squinting and everyone in the log looks like Gilbert Godfried.
You come out the other end sopping wet, looking like you’ve just peed your pants just as your’e released into the celebratory Dome of Happiness. There are roughly 50 characters all standing about on a giant Mark Twain style party boat, singing merrily as though your life didn’t flash right before your eyes moments ago. And just like that, you’ve forgotten everything that came before. All that matters is this wonderful celebration you’re apart of. You’re tapping your foot and you don’t care that there is water squishing in your heel. You pat the knee to your soggy jeans and you laugh and hum with your family.
My afternoon with the children was not dissimilar to this.
My wife leaves the house to go on a photo shoot and I’m so grateful for the time the children that we get to spend alone together. Obviously not because I despise my wife, but because there is something truly tangible about one on one (or one on two) time with them. We sing songs together; we sing The ABCs and we go through all their animal noises and all the words they know (over 30!) and it’s such a pleasant and wonderful experience.
We chase each other around the house and we tickle each other and wrestle with one another and laugh and then there’s a point… it’s that click click click point. Things suddenly and unexpectedly go dark. The sun passes behind a cloud and my daughter quits being the cute little rabbit and becomes the shadow of the wolf, laughing and licking her chops… and when I say laughing, I really mean screaming. I have no idea what got into her today but she just unleashed some serious wrath. She didn’t even appear to want anything; it was like the animals in Splash Mountain; they just did as they were programmed. There was no reason behind why they were always happy or sad, it was just the truth at that time on that day and do it they must.
After getting a timeout that seemed less than fruitful, I fed them and eventually decided that it was simply nap time. The click click click was getting higher and faster and I could now look down at all the people in the park and go, “You have nothing to worry about! You’re all down there eating your churros and pooping in your diapers! Why are you crying! Have I not given you all I have?!” and then whoosh! I’m rushing down the hill.
I scoop Rory up in my arms and I take him to bed, giving a cursory glance behind me to see if Quinn is following… which she is. I put Rory down in his bed and… Quinn is missing.
I call her name and step into the hallway. I call her name. Nothing. I step into the living room. I call her name. Nothing. I check the bathroom. Nothing. I check the dining room and under the table. Nothing. I look into the kitchen. Still nothing. Have I just lost my daughter for the third time this month? I immediately check both front and back doors, my mind immediately slipping to the worst case scenario which is, of course, a neighborhood pervert breaking into my house in the middle of the day. When I find that both doors are closed my mind goes to the second scenario, which is her hurt somewhere. I have fears of both of them getting their necks tangled around the strings on the blinds or getting into the chemicals under the sink or somehow finding a roach trap that I’ve overlooked from months and months or even years ago.
Then my mind comes to terms with the third possible scenario.
Is she… hiding from me?
I slowly walk into the laundry room, a tiny 5x5ft square in the very back of our house that is usually full of laundry and dog food. I slowly peek around the corner and… still nothing. This is weird because there’s really nowhere else for her to go. Have I been outsmarted by a toddler? Things are getting weird and I can feel that Splash Mountain falling feeling in the pit of my stomach. The water is splashing up onto my jeans and I’ve got a Gilbert Godfriend face on while I try to process– wait a minute.
I notice something. On the ground, sitting right next to a dirty pile of laundry is this weird little snowball. It’s Quinn’s blanket that she carries with her absolutely everywhere she goes. She doesn’t leave it alone anywhere so it’s sort of strange that it’s here all by itself. I sort of lean down and really slowly grab it, half expecting to find some kind of troll or skeleton underneath.
My heart thumping, I gently pull the blanket back… to reveal a doll. Scary. And then Quinn; she’s curled up in a little ball on the floor, covered in her blanket genuinely hiding from me! As soon as we make eye contact she begins to giggle and I scoop her up and I say, “Were you hiding from Daddy?! Were you HIDING?!” and the truth is… yes she was. She was hiding from me and it’s so simple and cute and wonderful that I forget everything else. I forget her throwing her food and the insanely high-pitched, non-sensical screaming. I forget it all and I only hear the song that is her laugh as I put her down for a nap.
EVENT 2 - BOY
All magic comes at a cost.
For example, there is something bordering on the realm of fantastical about having your child in bed with you. Waking up in the middle of the night and rolling over, forgetting that they’re there and then bumping into them, finding their tiny hands or tiny toes and then just going back to sleep touching their skin. It’s hard to say who it’s more soothing to; you or them.
Two mornings ago I opened my eyes and found Quinn’s face staring back at me. Well, staring isn’t quite correct as she was still asleep, but facing me in any regard. I shifted around a little and got to actually watch her wake up. Her little eyes popped open very slowly and I watched, unblinking, as her vision came into focus. You could tell she sort of saw me… or at least saw something and then realized it was me. A huge smile broke across her face and the first words out of her mouth were, “HI!” She just wakes up that way, ready to greet the day.
Conversely, last night Rory slept with in our bed. I feel as though he has a slightly more overt tendency to cuddle up with us at night than Quinn does, which is strange because their personalities are the exact opposite during the daytime. I’ll wake up and he’ll have his head resting on my shoulder or in the crook of my elbow or he’ll be draped across my stomach so our bodies are forming a lower case ‘t’. I’ll wake up and he’ll have his foot across my neck or he’ll have stretched himself along the top of the pillows, connecting his mother and I in a shape that resembles the pi symbol.
You can grab him easier than Quinn and shift him around, cuddle up with him like a teddy bear. Quinn wants to find her own spot and claim it while Rory will be content with giggling while you pretend to bite his neck and growl in his ear and it’s all very magical.
But all magic comes at a cost.
In the mornings when the sun shines through the windows, my wife and I are awoken not by a gentle and cheerful, “HI!” but by someone poking us in the eyes or jumping on our chests or pinching us or kicking us in the stomach while screaming. Sometimes we awake to find that he’s slithered off the bed, has found our iPhones and has begun to delete apps. Sometimes he gets off the bed and wants to get back on but is too lazy to climb so he just yells at your face until you lift him up.
As I write this it is nearing 11pm and I have to stop and wonder which, if any, of the kids we’ll grab tonight. I know it’s a terrible habit, teaching your children to sleep in bed with you, but it’s FUN and I LOVE THEM and they’ll have plenty of time to ignore me when they’re older.
Until then, I will pay whatever blood price I must for the magic that I love.