The Zen of Being Annoyed
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.
Walks are great. Have you seen the Dog Whisperer? Cesar Milan always says that you need to take your dogs for a walk first thing to get their energy out…and that they will then behave for the rest of the day.
I have found that the exact same thing is true for little children. You need to go “run” them in the morning to ensure a smooth day. It is nice to see that I am not the only one who has discovered this trick!
I haven’t seen the Dog Whisperer, but have heard nothing but positive stuff about him. I imagine his techniques would work particularly well with my dog because I often need to communicate with her via whisper so I don’t wake up the kids. It makes sense, though. Even before the Twins were around, I found her behavior was much better when I took her out for a walk first thing in the morning. And yeah, I agree with you that it works with children, too. I’ve found that they get bored and restless hanging out in the house all day, so I’ve found just taking them on some quick errands or going for a walk really helps to keep that from happening. It’s a good trick, and I plan on using it until it stops working. :)
Nice! Things sure seem to make sense when you’re following your passions. I was doing the grad school/SAHD thing for a while (albeit with only half of the child biomass you’ve got). I miss it a lot. Just don’t get distracted by the phone and give the twins a latte while you sip their milk. Speaking purely hypothetically, of course.
Yeah, I have to say that I feel a lot better about the way things are going in general than when I was working because I’m pretty much always doing something I’m passionate about, whether it’s hanging out with the kids, learning about stuff I’m interested in for school, or cracking myself up while writing and sharing about the whole experience. It’s such a trip, and I’m lucky my wife lets me do it all. The phone is and always has been a bit of a distraction, but I intentionally “unplug” during the day, especially when I’m dadding, because watching my kids grow is way more interesting than anything my phone has to offer, except for maybe I’ve Become My Parents. As for caffeinating the Twins…dude, I know way better than that.
Twin strollers are just the cutest thing!
…Of course, I’ve never to push said stroller/walk a dog/drink coffee through a straw/make important phone calls at the same time.
Heck, now I think about it, I can barely maneuver through shopping malls with my niece’s single pram… I always get the wheels caught on corners.
More practise, perhaps?
(Also, the guilt factor has kicked in after reading your note in the side bar regarding the Daddy Blog nomination, so now I clearly have no choice but to vote for you.)
Oh bother, voting’s closed. :(
Um… It’s the thought that counts?
It is absolutely the thought that counts! Thanks so much! Since winning the competition was so incredibly important to me, I actually had no idea voting had closed, so thanks for letting me know. I’ll have to fix that. Some day. Possibly when the Twins graduate from high school.
Yeah, it definitely takes practice. The only reason I’m any good at it is because I’ve decided to be. Like you, I still get caught on a fair share of corners, but I think it’s kind of similar to getting accustomed to the dimensions of your car and knowing when you can and can’t “make it” into a tight parking space.
Enjoy the walks for now. My twins are now 2 and don’t have as much patience for being in the stroller anymore. They always want to get out and run around. Ah, I miss those quiet walks we used to take…
And I can’t even imagine adding a dog to the craziness. Kudos to you! Can you train the dog to fetch their dropped toys? That would be awesome!
Yeah, we have friends with older kids and as I see them running all over the place I know my “peaceful” walk days are numbered. And yeah, I’d be cool with the dog picking up the toys for me if she didn’t have that nasty habit of putting her colleagues’ poo in her mouth. That’s kind of a non-negotiable.
Awesome! I too want nothing more than doing everything… Sure I do complain about it a lot, but really if someone else did MY job I would complain that they were doing it wrong. Heres one thing you have to figure out though, a way for the dog to pull the stroller. Think of all the extra time you would have!
Glad to hear I’m not the only one. In theory, an Iditarod-style setup would be great, but my dog isn’t very good at staying off the street and avoiding oncoming vehicles. Even back in the day when it was just her and me walking, I’d have to keep her from attacking passing trucks that would have squashed her in a second. So I done think she’s quite right for the job.
I don’t know why, but your walks sound heavenly. I think that I would be able to face my mornings with a lot more zest if they could all start that way. But I have to be at work by 7:30 a.m., so that’s not gonna happen anytime soon!
Yeah, if you can get past all of the picking things up and untangling, it’s quite pleasant. Bummer to hear you can’t do it yourself. What about an evening walk? Used to do those with my dog and that was nice and peaceful after teaching middle-schoolers all day.
Even though you’ve given a graphic recounting of how you juggle it, I still can’t wrap my mind around it! You rock, dude.
Thanks. It was quite the production at first, but once I got used to it, it became just another part of the day. The hardest part is getting everyone ready. Once we’re out and moving, it’s not that bad aside from the boa constriction. That’s still redeemable for the occasional F-bomb.
The State of the John is highly important–it is the rock and foundation of both the care-giving of the Twins and the fantastic-as-usual blog posts that totally make my day. As this State is so important, it must be carefully groomed and taken care of, a delicate balance that I feel only a good morning walk can take care of.
In the immortal words of The Fonz, “Exactamundo.”
Hehe, thanks so much. I definitely groom the State better than my face. I looked in the mirror this morning and thought, “Oh, wow, I have a beard now.”
Peculiar article, totally what I was looking for.
Peculiar comment. Totally what I was looking for.
Bob has always had a crush on Lucy.Can I help you? Great minds think alike.Learn to say the fight thing at the fight time.To be careful!He set up a fine example to all of us.He set up a fine example to all of us.It seems all right.I agreeI’ll call a taxi in case of need.
Let’s take a short break for lunch.Enjoy yourself!Guess what? Here we are.Time is up.He struck his attacker on the ear.He struck his attacker on the ear.Be careful!Do l have toYou can never turn the clock back.
Replace wayward dog with a 21 month old little boy and the picture is the same. Most of the time for my wife but I’ve occasionaly had the pleasure of this sort of walk on my own as well. What might look like the most stressful situations on the surface to others can be some of the most Joyful