It was early in the morning and since Mommy had just left for work, it was time for Daddy to take the stage for my daily variety show. Although I’ve been known to perform intimate acoustic Disney-song concerts, reproduce Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on the Magna Doodle, and even regularly scare the robotic tigers my son has imagined into existence back into “other houses, but not this house,” I was feeling especially wiped out on this particular morning. The Twins had just gotten over a nasty cold, and had so generously shared it with me, so as I sleepily hacked up a lung, I decided I needed a power-up and fired up our Keurig (arguably the best purchase we have made as new parents). And yes, I realize that coffee is not a fantastic idea when one has a cold, as it discourages hydration, but when one is accustomed to caffeine every morning, one is inclined to not pile the withdrawal headache on top of fiery sinuses and a gravelly throat. So there.
“Daddy?” my daughter half-whined. “You come play in my room?”
This is a new fun game I play with my daughter. She recently has become enamored with the novelty of playing with all of her toys with Daddy in her room. So much so, in fact, that every moment of every day I am home with them, my presence is requested in her room.
This, of course, would be fine if I didn’t have another child who expects an equal amount of Daddy’s attention. But I do, and there are times when I’m in the middle of building a perfectly-scaled replica of Mount Rushmore with Duplos with my son, or helping him line up his beloved “sea treatures” on the floor by species, and can’t just drop everything to “go play in her room.”
And so I tell her “No,” invariably triggering a hissy fit which lasts way longer than it needs to. In fact, just the other day, I was rocking The Beatles’ Help! on vinyl at my son’s request (yeah, he’s pretty awesome), and in the middle of the opening title track, my little girl invited me to play in her room. After I explained that Daddy and Brother were busy doing Awesome Things, she staged a very vocal protest spanning almost all of Side A. On a side-note, my resilient son didn’t let the screaming infringe upon his Beatlemania, and he just kept literally dancing circles around his sister as she kicked and punched the floor.
In addition to my groundbreaking research on closet zombies and whatever sustainability is, my Ph. D. program has also provided the opportunity to learn computer programming–something I’ve wanted to do for years but never had the time or resources.
This has had to happen fairly quickly, as on the first day of the semester, one of my professors had my classmates and me each introduce ourselves along with our programming experience, since it would be a foundational element of the class. Having been awake since 3:15 am with my sick son, I’d just chugged two Venti coffees in order to be a functional human being, so as you can probably imagine I was already feeling incredibly chipper and eager to learn.
I grimaced as I listened to my colleagues’ alien technobabble:
“Most of my experience is in Java Frappuccino Monty Python Venom Script with Pirate Eyepatch Death Star Optimization Support.”
“I’ve dabbled in C-Minus-Plus-Ampersand Continuum Transfunctioners, but I’m most comfortable with Skynet Flux Capacitors.”
“I created the Allspark.”
I was already mourning the morning walk.
Before we’d even traveled a block my dog had decided to lead the caravan, walking directly in front of the jogging stroller, her hindquarters mere inches from the front wheel. I don’t know why she insists upon this walking arrangement–maybe she likes to think she’s in charge–but(t) it never “ends” well for her, typically culminating in me literally running her ass over. It begins when she looks back at the stroller and decides she is terrified of it, so terrified that she freezes in place, causing the usually-taut leash to slack and wrap around the stroller’s back axle, putting us at a dead stop just after the tire bumps her square on the cheeks. I do my best to stop before the butt-bump, but she forces me to tailgate her at an unsafe following distance.
On this particular day, she had jumped to deer-in-headlights mode so abruptly and forcibly that it had pulled her harness clean off. (We attach the leash to her harness and not her collar because after years of scientific research, we have determined she would rather be choked to death than respond to leash tugs.) And because my dog just barely qualifies as obedient, I knew I had to act quickly on this leashless freedom unless I wanted to choose between:
1) chasing her around the neighborhood, loudly cussing her out while she thinks its a game, waking the Twins from their stroller catnaps and yielding a sterophonic meltdown; or
2) tritely employing the if-you-love-her-set-her-free-and-if-she-never-returns-she-was-never-yours axiom, which would most likely mean never seeing my beloved canine again, as she would surely make a grand exit from this life in Harry Houdini fashion while performing her famous freezing-in-front-of-an-oncoming vehicle trick.
It was in that moment that I remembered I am a ninja, as my keen, subconscious reflexes sprang into action, one-handedly snagging her by the tail, keeping the other hand firmly planted on the stroller.
She turned her head towards me, dumbly panting with glee, as if to say. “That was fun, Dad!”
“Some day you’re going to look back on this and miss me throwing dirty diapers at you.”
My wife has developed an interesting habit. It begins when she changes the Twins’ diapers and rolls the dirty ones up into neat little balls using the Velcro straps. Now, I had seen this method utilized by other parents before we had the Twins, and understand the philosophy behind it–containing the stank within the confines of the diaper so that until it is thrown away (and even once disposed of), the rankness does not seep out. This part I get.
However, doing so seems to also give my wife license to just leave these little parcels wherever they have been created–changing tables, blankets on the floor, or even our own bed, where we change and feed the Twinfants every morning.
Minutes and minutes of researching our family history for the genesis of this tendency have revealed that it began when we (well, in a strictly anatomical sense, she) first had the Twins. I’ll admit it was a bit of a clusterf*ck in that we were constantly exhausted, running on four hours of sleep compounded over an eight-hour period, each of us feeding a baby every 2-3 hours, day and night. During that time, it was very common for both of us to simply leave dirty diapers where we changed the kids and throw them away later when they were finally asleep and had the an opportunity to do so.
There is also the argument that when changing one of the kids, the diaper disposal device–either our Diaper Genie or Diaper Champ–isn’t always right next to the changing location, so I can also understand that, especially now that the kids are able to roll around (and off things like changing tables and beds).
However, there are a few reasons why these diaper wads have gotten on my nerves.
First of all, they’re DIRTY DIAPERS. They staaank (sick sic). Now, I will give my wife credit for always properly disposing of poop-centric diapers, but liquid-based ones she lets linger start to smell just as much when you have four of them on the corner of the bed collaborating as a pleasant-odor-fighting Injustice League. Even though they are sealed to prevent liquid leakage, the stink burrows its way out.
Furthermore, because I’m the one who’s home all day, whenever my wife creates these treats in the morning before work, I am thus tasked with throwing them away. With as much as I pretend to do around the house as it is, I would prefer not to have to dispose of newly-established dirty diaper colonies.
Finally, the most irritating reason (which is the true spearhead of this domestic exposé) is that my wife has taken to throwing these diaper balls at yours truly. In fact, she had even dubbed these parcels “Diaper Bullets.” Her military strategy is built around times I am tired and thus more vulnerable to attack. Since she is a much lighter sleeper than I am, she’s always the first person to wake up when the Twins do. As I’m drifting back into the real world from vanquishing Voldemort or sticking it to the Galactic Empire, I’ll often be “helped along” by the impact of the still-warm diaper that has just been removed from the first-changed child. I am also often met with a barrage of fire just before going to bed. I’ll be watching tv, reading, or even taking my glasses off to lie down, and catch a faint, ever-intensifying whiff of baby urine, but before I can perform an evasive maneuver, BAM!
Now, don’t get me wrong–I don’t just take this “lying down” so to speak. I retaliate with return fire, prompting a spontaneous sort of dodgeball match, but with soiled diapers.
At the same time, the “shot heard ’round the world” in the morning when I’m still half asleep and the unsuspecting kamikaze attacks before bed are what really annoy me, as I’m already tired and irritable.
I mean, really, I enjoy throwing dirty diapers at my wife as much as the next guy, but during the day when I’m alert and caffeinated. More often than not, the projectiles are unwelcome.
Of course, my wife and I have discussed this matter. I’m not just passive-aggressively blogging about this instead of communicating with her. I will say that in recent weeks, conditions have improved, for me at least. She has actually moved on to other victims–her mother and sister for example–and whenever doing so, in the same way that a wayward golf ball merits a “Fore!” she courteously bellows “Diaper Bullet!” As the perplexed target attempts to decipher what the hell she just said, he or she takes the answer to the face.
However, I have also noticed a recent resurgence of Diaper Bullet stockpiles throughout the house. She swears it’s because our lives are so chaotic at the moment since we are moving this week and stumbling over boxed belongings hourly; she allegedly forgets to go back and dispose of them because there’s so much else to do.
But I know her real motive. She is amassing ammunition.
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If not, I’d watch out for Diaper Bullets.
By the Friday of every week I am completely exhausted. After wrangling the Twins, beating the snot out of my house-husbanding chores, and writing this fine publication (which many have recently remarked that they cannot believe I have time for), I am spent. So spent that my during-the-rest-of-the-week 2:00 pm crash usually hits at 11:30 am, while lying on the floor with my progeny in the middle of Tummy/Rolling All Over the Place Time, as I nod off mid-pseudo-engaging-baby-critical-thinking-question-about-the-toys-they-are-marvelling-at. (“What color is that ball? What shape is that ba–Zzzzzz…Ow! Did you just punch me in the nose? … What color is my nose?”)
With that in mind, I usually set few, very small goals for Fridays.
Take last Friday for example. It was the end of my busiest week in a while. In addition to my regular duties (huh-huh, I said duties), I’ve been doing some contracted tech work as well as boxing belongings and seeking out new residences for the Pseudonymous family since we have recently decided to move.
And so, as I resuscitated myself with my super-charged Friday morning coffee, I decided to aim low. Aside from the givens (twin care, dishwashing, ninjutsu training), my primary objective was to browse the iTunes store for music and determine what I would purchase with the $15 gift card my wife got me over a month ago for Father’s Day. (Would you believe I haven’t had time?) I’ve had it sitting out on the counter as a reminder ever since receiving it from my wonderful wife, and have caught taunting glimpses of it while making bottles, folding laundry, and soothing meltdowns.
With months of trophy husbanding experience under my belt, I believed this iTunes iTask to finally be within my iGrasp. Even if the kids were particularly grumpy, I could line up my sonic candidates like reality show contestants waiting for the red rose of approval, hit play, and discriminatingly consume. In fact, the Twinfants would most certainly enjoy the ever-changing sensory stimulation generated by the constant toggling of song clips.
No problem, right?
Well, of course not. Why would I write about that? It failed miserably.
The primary reason the plan disintegrated like a drool-drenched Graduates Puff was that we had absolutely no Nap Overlap. Those of you who are Loyal Readers know this means my children were never asleep at the same time. In fact, for the entire day, they were on completely opposite sleep schedules. As soon as I delivered one to Sleepy Town, the other was just waking up. All. Freaking. Day.
Now, I will admit this situation has its advantages, for instance facilitating quality one-on-one time with each of the twins individually, which is something all the books about twins that I don’t have time to read seem to say is important. On the other tiny hand, such a rhythm does not facilitate Daddy getting a freaking second to himself. Not to go to the bathroom, not to eat (unless I combine them), not even to accomplish tedious tasks like defunkifying dishes, laundering laundry, and listening to smooth on-hold jazz while waiting to haggle with customer service representatives.
Plus, at almost seven months old, the Twinfants are teething and especially irritable. As a matter of fact, amidst Frankenstein-monster moans akin to dueling banjos, transparent vampire-fang drool trickles flowing from each mouth corner, angry head-butts to Daddy’s sternum, and the frantic gnawing of foam books, plush pandas, and human fingers, we have sprouted the First Two Teeth of Pseudonymous: The Next Generation, with our son’s inaugural chomper emerging on Thursday evening and our daughter’s fashionably late pearly white fanfaring into view Saturday morning.
Guess which day was right in the middle? That’s right. Friday, the day iFailed.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Although both kids had their share of I-need-you-to-hold-me-right-now-Daddy-or-I-will-shatter-every-window-with-my-squeals moments, there were also a few peppered throughout the day when they seemed content, or, as Snoop Dogg wouldn’t say: “Rollin’ down the floor, sucking teething rings, sippin’ on baby formula, laid back, with their minds on their (stuffed) monkeys and their monkeys on their minds.”
Then, I got greedy.
On at least three occasions, I thought, Okay, they seem pretty chill. I could maybe squeeze in a song sample or twenty. I even lowered my laptop’s volume and strategically placed it in accessible but out-of-baby-sight locations, as I have learned they do NOT like to compete with Skynet for my attention. On my final Hail Mary attempt, I even tried earbuds. However, every listening session ended abruptly, about five seconds into the first clip, as they noticed I was not staring at them, hanging on their every gesture, the only proper response for which, of course, is a tantrum. This did not make for an optimal music previewing atmosphere.
I’ll admit I missed an opportunity around 2 pm, just after bottle-guzzling. They were happily cooing at their playthings on the floor, and I home-run trotted to my computer. This is it! I thought. It’s all happening! I chose an album (The Features’ Wilderness) clicked “play all samples,” and rejoined the munchkins on the floor. As they chattered and smiled at me occasionally, I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling fan, listening to my prospective new jams. Which made me think of seeing the band live when they came to Phoenix a few years ago. It was just my wife and me then. Simpler times. Not “better” times by any means, but definitely simpler. And I remembered the electrifying onstage energy the band had, and the badass hollow-bodied guitar their frontman rocked. Which made me think about how Pseudonymous hasn’t “Gone Electric” in a while. I’ve been folking out with the Twins acoustically, but haven’t “plugged in” for months. I should do that. Do I need new strings?
Before I knew it, the song previews had ended 15 minutes ago and I had still only paid attention to the first five seconds of the first song.
Now, before you decide that this poor, frustrated soul is clearly on his last nerve and take it upon yourself to send in your magical parenting guru suggestions about what I should have done in order to achieve my iGoal even though you: 1) weren’t here, 2) weren’t as tired as I was, and 3) have never met my children and thus don’t know what works (and what doesn’t) with them, I want to emphasize that in the scheme of things, I don’t care about the stupid iTunes card. (I also already tried your suggestion anyway since eating Wheaties daily makes me a Champion by definition.)
The more I pushed to “git-r-done,” the more I realized that purchasing music was just not in the cards for me that day. (Haha, get it?) Even more importantly, every day I could focus on achieving little tasks like buying music, getting every last dish washed, or writing yet another genius blog post–and in doing so, continually exasperate myself because the Twins usually need me more than I anticipate. Or, instead, I could remind myself what a privilege staying home to raise them is. Even though I spend more time with them than anyone else, it still feels like they’re growing up so quickly. I know although my wife enjoys her job, it doesn’t hold a candle to seeing them all day on weekends, and remember when I first returned to work from paternity leave, I felt like I was missing out all day.
Every moment I have with them is an opportunity for me to savor the awe-inspiring experience that is parenthood and, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
There will be plenty of time for me to buy my stupid music in the future, and yes, over the weekend, I was finally able to redeem the gift card one night once the kids went to sleep. As it turned out, it was an even better Fathers’ Day present than it first appeared to be.
It reminded me how lucky I am to be a Dad.
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If not, maybe you just need a day off. It worked for Cameron.