Sprawled out on my back amidst the Duplos, Thomas train tracks, and Fisher Price Little People that frequent the playroom floor, my daughter snaps me out of a momentary spaceout.
Grunting, I sit up groggily to field her request. Although my wife had worked from home today, it hadn’t been any less exhausting keeping the kids occupied and quiet while she ran in and out of the room with her cell phone and laptop, straining to hear her conference calls over squawks and shrieks for juice and raisins. On this particular night, my wife had a work dinner event to attend, leaving me in charge of the day’s Closing Ceremonies with the Dynamic Duo.
“What’s up, Baby Girl?” I ask my daughter.
The pigtails she’d dismantled the moment Mommy left poked frizzily from either side of her head, totally undermining her deadly serious demeanor. “Snowman,” she insists. “All gone.”
“That’s right, Baby,” I chuckle. “The snowman’s all gone. But he’ll be back on Christmas Day.” One of our Christmas decorations is a snowman that hangs from the front doorknob. She’d taken note of it during the holiday season and every day since we’ve taken it down, she’s reminded us that it’s missing–even now, almost two months after Christmas.
And every time she does this, she blows my mind.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we recently celebrated the Twins’ Second Birthday, and ever since the 1st of the year, the Twins have been making cognitive leaps and bounds daily. It’s as if their neurons have all finally joined Facebook and are friending each other. Their abilities to imagine, remember, reason, and verbalize have kicked into overdrive.
My daughter breaks into a beaming, jack-o’-lantern smile and giggles, “Snowman all gone,” thrilled that Daddy has confirmed what she already knew was right.
Noticing the clock, I rise to my feet and bellow, “Okay, kids! Bath time!”
Before it’s even out of my mouth, I hear two tiny voices in unison: “Bubbles.”
“Oh, do you want bubbles in your bath?”
“Yes!” my son says, tilting his head forward, perpendicular to his body, and moving it up and down in his over-exaggerated, full-body version of a nod.
“Buuuuubbles, buuuuubbles in da bathy!” my elated daughter sings, just as she sings almost every word she says now, whether she’s talking to us (“Daaaaaddy fill da cuuuuuppy wit da juuuuuicy!”) or narrating playtime (“Poooooh Bear, in da baaaaasket!). It’s as if her life is her own little musical and we’re all her supporting cast (I hear I may be up for a Tony).
In the face of my son’s “Tatonka” nod and my daughter’s jazz hands, it’s just about impossible to say no, and when I reach the bathroom the kids are already there, making the proper preparations. My son pops out from behind the cabinet and hands me the bubble bath bottle, which he manages to find no matter where we hide it. “Bubbles,” he demands, his brow furrowed, as if I’ve already forgotten.
“Thanks, Buddy. Yes, Daddy will do bubbles.”
“Bubbles,” he giggles. Now he knows for sure. This is happening.
Meanwhile, my daughter is already undressing herself. Her socks are off, but she can’t quite get one foot out of her pants.
“Want Daddy to help you, Baby?”
“No, Daddy,” she grunts, still struggling. “Do it.”
What she means here is actually the opposite of what she said: “No, Daddy. Let ME do it.”
This time last year, the Twins were all about “Did it,” an expression they used to celebrate small victories like being able to stack blocks, climbing a couch, or conning the snack they wanted from Mommy and Daddy. But in the past month, my wife and I have noticed a definite shift from the pleasant surprise of new abilities to an Of-course-I-did-it-because-I-can-do-everything-myself mentality.
And guess what? For the most part, they can.
Once they’ve undressed themselves (with just a little help from Daddy) they plant their tushies right on their Mickey and Minnie potties and “Do it.” (No, we’re not quite at full-tilt potty training, but we’ve been throwing a nightly pre-bath potty party to ease in.)
My son finishes first and rises for a touchdown dance and high-five from Daddy. His sister remains seated and determined. She hates when her brother is first, especially when he goes and she can’t. However, moments later, she’s beaming.
And you know what that means.
Cue the background music, because it’s time for her next number. “Daaaaddy, I doh peeeeepeeeee in dah pottyyyyy.”
We proceed to the bath (“Yes, kids, with bubbles–I didn’t forget”), where they Sistine-Chapel-ize the tub with bath crayons, correctly reporting each and every color they use. My son looks up at me and says, “Circle.” This is typically the part of the show where Daddy takes requests for drawings. I sigh in relief that this is an easy one (my frogs and owls are particularly pathetic) and reach for a crayon, but then my son turns around and draws one himself.
“Circle!” he giggles, pointing at his work, while I fish my jaw out from under the bubbles.
. . .
Pajamas on, we move to the living room and it’s time for puzzles.
“Hey kids,” I offer. “Want Daddy to help you?”
“No, no,” my son replies. “Do it.”
Once the Twins have disassembled and reassembled several mutant configurations of SpongeBob and Dora, my daughter beelines to the bathroom, singing ” Do it, do it, do it, do iiiiit” the whole way, her beloved stuffed Piglet under her arm.
She knows it’s time to brush her teeth and takes her usual seat on the stepstool at the sink. My son slinks in reluctantly (as he knows bedtime is coming) and takes his seat on the other sink’s stepstool with a furrow-browed pout. I apply toothpaste to their brushes, place them in the pair of hands reaching for them and they dutifully begin. Sure, this is primarily a toothpaste-eating/brush-chewing session as opposed to actual dental care, but I don’t dare attempt to help–at least not while I’m parenting solo for the night–as I’m not at all interested in a zero-to-sixty tantrum interspersed with the desperate insistence, “Do it! No, no, Daddy! Do it!”
I notice my daughter looking from her toothbrush to her stuffed Piglet and back again and see the wheels turning.
“Two,” she tells me. “Two Piglets.”
I’m ready to correct her–to tell her she only has one Piglet–but then she shows me her toothbrush.
“That’s right, baby! You have two Piglets!”
She giggles and resumes brushing, singing “Daaaaady, two Piiiiiglets, toofbrush, dooooo it!”
. . .
As I celebrate two full years of fatherhood, part of me wants to panic about how quickly the Twins are growing. They’re literally making new connections by the minute, and before I know it, I’ll be moving from refereeing wrestling matches over who gets to sit in our Little Tikes Cozy Coupe to presiding over debates regarding which of them gets to borrow the car on Friday night.
Yes, it’s a little sad to think that in even a few months they’ll be fluent in The King’s English and (God-willing) out of diapers, but although these two mind-blowing years are, in fact, gone forever, I try to remember that as a family, we still have so much more to do.
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If not, perhaps I can interest you in some bubbles?