If you can picture an almost-thirtysomething, unkempt, elongated-stubble-sporting man…
• one-handedly maneuvering a double-jogging stroller (carrying boy-and-girl twins wearing boy-and-girl versions of the same hoodie) around garbage cans and parked cars;
• keeping a leash (attached to an ecstatic, wayward canine for whom the current situation is like a trip to Disneyland) wrapped around the wrist of that same stroller-driving first hand;
• attempting to navigate email, Facebook, and Twitter on a cell phone with the second hand;
• bending over every few steps to to sip coffee through a straw because the stroller cup-holder’s well-meaning death-grip prohibits one-handed removal; and
• periodically wiping said coffee leaking from a “spill-proof” travel mug off the stroller handle;
…you have a pretty accurate picture of what my morning walk is like.
Sounds annoying, right? Well, guess what? I love it.
Sure, my dog is a terrible direction-follower and lackluster leash walker, and encircles the stroller every five minutes, boa-constricting it with the leash, forcing me to stop moving in order to untangle it while my children vocally assert their disapproval of their amusement park ride breaking down.
Sure, I pick up at least one baby toy per block despite tethering them to the stroller with plastic multicolored links because the Twins meld ingenuity and brute strength in tireless efforts to detach them for a more personalized teething-gnaw experience.
Sure, I sometimes unintentionally force cars to stop dead where there is no crosswalk because I thought I could make it across the never-busy-except-for-apparently-the-exact-moment-I-decided-to-cross residential street in a stealth jaywalk, but completely blow it because my dog has again boa-constricted the stroller, as it has been five minutes.
Sure, the kids growl at me for rocking the proverbial stroller-shaped boat as I shimmy the short utility vehicle up and down curbs because there are no convenient ramps.
Sure, my dog never realizes that I am trying to direct to her to stay on the same side of a pole as the rest of the family so she does not boa-constrict the street sign.
And sure, I don’t need to be on my cell phone while all of this transpires, but I am often fielding desperately important messages, such as notification emails from my professors, texts from my wife, replies to my hilarious tweets to which I simply must reply even more hilariously, and videos of Sesame-Street Muppet/popular song mash-ups.
. . .
I recognize that all of these factors can make for an annoying experience, and will even admit I often find new and creative ways to cuss while on these morning strolls. But at the same time, there’s also a sort of zen to it.
For instance, it’s nice to be outside. For as long as the kids have been doctor-recommendedly able to be outside, we’ve been in the hottest part of the year in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, hitting the 110’s on a daily basis. All summer, I felt like I was depriving them of the Great Outdoors and treating them like miniature vampires, but now that the weather has finally cooled from triple to double digits, I can bring them outside without having to bathe them in sunscreen.
And they love it.
They’ve just woken up and guzzled the day’s first bottles, so they’re rested and full. This plus the environmental stimuli make for super-calm Twinfants–arguably the most relaxed they are all day (apart from naps). Which is nice for me–the ability to just walk and not worry about entertaining them. I feel sometimes I’m expected to be a one-man show. I mean, come on, we all know how amazingly compelling and hilarious I am, but it’s nice to have the pressure off me and some time to myself. It’s not literally time to myself, but it’s pretty durn close.
And our dog loves it.
Just like the rest of us, she, too, has been cooped up all summer. Since we doubled our family, walking her has been challenging, but now that the kids can go outside, so can she, and once we get going, with the leash on my wrist and my hand on the stroller, the dog actually does most of the pulling herself, bounding and splashing in morning-sprinkler puddles pooled along the curb.
And most importantly, with the Twins and dog happily occupied, I’m afforded the only silence I’ll get all day, allowing me to reflect on The State of the John.
. . .
I’ve had a particularly trying few weeks, one of which I responded to by Occupying the Playroom, playing protest songs on a Baby Einstein piano. My mother, who usually has the Dynamic Duo while I’m on campus, was out of town that week, preventing me from attending classes and keeping up with schoolwork with t-minus seven days to midterms/project deadlines. Now, in no way am I badmouthing my mother for going–she’s our rock star and deserved the vacation–but it definitely threw off the fragile balance I’ve tinkered with since the semester began. And it probably would have been an easier week to get through if our car didn’t break, or if both Twins weren’t sprouting their two front teeth, or if my wife didn’t need to get two root canals, or if we didn’t need to call an electrician who drilled walls during naptime, but no such luck.
Amidst this fustercluckery, when I was unable to complete an assignment on a particularly dense text (regarding the actual downloading of human consciousness and memories into a computer) in a timely manner, an understanding professor most eloquently summed up my life as follows:
Good luck with your family–you certainly have your hands full grappling twins and post-modern cybernetics at the same time.
. . .
I’ll admit I get an arguably unhealthy thrill out of constantly juggling my responsibilities as a stay-at-home father, trophy husband, Ph. D. student, and prolific writer, but it comes from being involved in so many things I love.
So, as chaotic as herding my household dependents through their morning jaunt can be, it’s comforting to take a step back from actively doing anything and just focus on the “here and now.” In that moment, all I need to do is make sure the sun isn’t in my kids’ eyes, keep my hands on the leash and stroller, and walk.
In other words, all I need to do is hold on and keep moving.
Unless, of course, there is a coyote on the loose…
But that’s another story.
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If not, maybe you should go take a walk.