I looked up from the kitchen island to check on the Dynamic Duo. My son sat enthralled on the floor, accenting his finger-pointing at the television screen with “Oohs” and “Aahs,” while my daughter reclined on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and cradling her stuffed Piglet.
Lately they’ve become completely obsessed with ocean life: ocean puzzles, ocean books, cheap-ass toy fishing poles with magnetic fish to “catch,” and anything involving Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid. On this particular morning they’d begged me to put on one of their new favorite DVDs–the “Shallow Seas” episode of the Planet Earth series, which is now known in our house simply as “The Fishies.”
While they were caught up in the sheer awesomeness that is “The Fishies,” I had seized the opportunity to crack open my laptop and attend to PhD shenanigans.
Two brand new sets of lunch bags and Thermoses (Thermi?) on the far counter caught my eye as I penned a particularly riveting email. We recently registered the Twins to start “school” in July and my wife–ever the planner–has ALREADY secured rad new Hello Kitty and Spider-Man lunchtime gear in anticipation. No, this isn’t the parent-child class I’ve previously mentioned. Our children will soon be attending a new “big-kid” all-day school program a few days a week–one they’ll be attending without Daddy waiting in the wings (which works out well because Daddy’s about to start on his dissertation).
We’re also mere days from launching PottyTrainingFest 2013, an event we know the Twins are ready for, as my daughter now literally approaches me with a clean diaper in hand, saying, “Daddy, I pee-peed.” (Why couldn’t THAT have caught on sooner?) Although their new school helps with potty training and even does diapers, the idea is for us to do the bulk of the work at the Pseudonymous World Headquarters and send them out into the field with a License to Potty.
“Are you done yet?” my wife groaned.
It was almost 11pm on a Saturday and I’d been working non-stop since breakfast. I could tell she was getting annoyed with me, but I was almost done with my final read-through.
This was Day 1 of The 3-Day Great Comprehensive Exam-A-Thon that would be my weekend. See, near the end of a Ph.D. program, they have you take an exam relevant to your field of study that’s reviewed by faculty in your department who basically decide if you’re competent enough to start the final stage of your program–the dreaded dissertation. Sometimes it involves a major project done over the course of a few weeks, and other times the student is essentially locked in a room for several consecutive days to cuss at bubble sheets and essay response booklets. In my case, I was handed about a 90-page packet (not an exaggeration) which provided directions and resources for writing four different papers–each of which was to be 6-8 pages long, due in four days.
Fortunately, these four days started on a Friday and I was allowed to complete the exam from the comfort of my own home. Unfortunately, I have twin two-year-olds in my own home, who, from the moment I enter to the moment they collapse in their beds, shout spirited requests of me. Here are some of their greatest hits:
“Daddy! Sit down dare. Read book-y.”
“More juicy! Pleaseokaythankyou! Apple juicy. Yesokay!”
(performed melodramatically by my son, hanging from one monkey-hand on the pantry doorknob, usually fifteen minutes after refusing to eat a single bite for dinner)
Since I barely had any work time on Friday, I was hitting it hard on Saturday, and decided that while I was still fresh, I’d hammer out two of the four papers, leaving the remaining two for Sunday and Monday. My wife was incredibly supportive, taking the kids out for the day while I pounded coffee to a soundtrack alternating between death metal and utter silence, my fingers furiously pecking at the keyboard.
It hadn’t been pretty, but I was now finally finally finally closing in on my goal for the day. Still planted in my seat at the kitchen table, I was looking over Paper 2 for any final edits when my wife, who was in our bedroom watching tv, suddenly became strangely persistent.
As I finished rinsing off in the shower (feel free to imagine me with a six-pack instead of the slight gut I’ve developed from drinking them), my son requested one last drawing on the shower’s fogged-up glass walls. “‘Nother one, Daddy. Happy star.”
This is our new fun thing we do when Daddy showers–I take drawing requests while he stands on the other side of the glass, giddily retracing them with his fingers and going apeshit crazy if Daddy doesn’t draw a new one at least every thirty seconds. This, of course, extends my already-too-leisurely-for-my-wife’s-taste showering time. (See, I like to ease into my morning by staring blankly into space for ten minutes until I remember, Oh right, I’m in the shower and should probably get started on the whole cleaning thing.) And I’m sure she very much enjoys being the bad guy and reminding the two little boys in her life to stop goofing around with shower-wall artwork because we’re already running late. (Love you, babe!)
However, on this particular morning there was plenty of time for happy stars because my wife had left to run errands with my daughter, giving me a rare opportunity for some father-son quality time. Sure, I get to spend plenty of time with my kids since I’m home with them for half of the week, but 99% of that is with both competing for my attention. Seldom is anything ever all about one of my kids, and a lot of the time I’m reacting to whoever’s more cranky, hungry, or likely to climb a high chair and cannonball into the kitchen tile. That’s why my wife and I make an effort to split up and spend some one-on-one time with each of them.
It’s always such a blast. Every time, I notice new things about whichever kid I’m with–new words they’ve learned, nuances about their personalities–things that are harder to pick up on when I’m splitting my attention between them. And it’s during these times that I realize how quickly they’re growing into two independent, very different little people.
“You don’t have an Easter bonnet for her?” my mother gasped.
My wife had just unveiled the dress she’d bought our daughter to wear for Easter, but apparently it was an incomplete ensemble. “Um, no?” my wife replied, confused.
“But how can she go to church on Eater Sunday without an Easter bonnet?”
Something my wife did not learn until this Easter is the importance my mother places on the little girls in our family having bonnets to accompany their dresses on Easter Sunday. Growing up with two younger sisters, I remember it being the biggest effing deal every year for them to find the perfect hats for their outfits, because my dad and I would wait for my mom and sisters outside of every damn clothing store in the mall, wondering what the hell was taking them so long, often ditching them to buy me a couple of packs of baseball cards. (Thanks, Dad!)
“Well,” my mother smiled. ” Don’t worry. I’ll find her a bonnet.”
We weren’t worried, Mom.
With all that my wife and I have going on (and the knowledge that no hat stays on my daughter’s head for longer than five minutes anyway), our feeling was, Sure, if it will make your heart sing to get her a bonnet, knock yourself out.
Sure enough, a day or two later, when we were picking up the kids from her house, my mother presented us with a pinkish-purple bonnet she boasted to have found at our local “everything-costs-one-dollar” store, a place she now swears by as THE place to find fun toys, stickers, and holiday favors for the Twins without breaking the bank.
We had to admit, the bonnet was pretty darn adorable, so it was settled–our daughter now had an Easter bonnet and my mother would finally be able to sleep at night again.