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!”
It is said that the apparently innocuous act of a butterfly flapping its wings can cause an unseen chain reaction of events leading to a hurricane on the other side of the world, or even a mediocre Ashton Kutcher movie that forever taints everyone’s idea of an inherently cool Chaos Theory concept.
Many doubt the validity of the Butterfly Effect, but I have always seen it as a special Effect. If you think about it, there is at least some truth to it. Every choice, every action we take on a daily basis–we can’t even begin to fathom their impact on the courses of our lives. Often I wonder how different things would be if just one occurrence in my life were even slightly altered…
. . .
As always, it had been an eventful morning in the Twiniverse, as my son had decided he was just not that into napping, stubbornly insisting on playing instead, even though every gesture and interaction with his toys pissed him right off. Apparently he preferred the baby equivalent of cussing out his Sesame Street Singing Pop-Up Pals to giving in to the slumber he obviously required.
After 45 minutes of rocking, pacing, and possibly even a little begging on my part, I had finally gotten him to sleep, and as an added bonus, my daughter was especially cooperative (or exhausted–I’ll take either), drifting off right on schedule. Two naps. At the same time. As I’ve mentioned before, this Nap Overlap is a rare occurrence worthy of its own celebratory dance.
But meanwhile, unbeknownst to me or my napping progeny, a menace had descended upon our cul-de-sac, one that would severely alter the next hour of my life…forever.
. . .
People get in and out of automobiles every day, and thus, the closing of vehicle doors has become a routine act for drivers and passengers alike, one performed without even thinking about it. However, people execute this task with varying degrees of force. This, O Loyal Reader, is the hard-hitting issue that I want to soften today, and the reason I’ve gathered you all here.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, it will still probably wake up my son and daughter. So if a car door slams loudly in my neck of the woods, I will consider slamming the neck of your body with said fallen tree.
Now, when I say “slam” I truly mean a slam. I realize that to properly close a vehicular entrance point, one must apply oomph, yielding that satisfying latch clack alerting the user of a successful close, and by no means am I complaining about a normal, human-style close. Such sound effects from fellow neighborhood dwellers are perfectly acceptable. The Twins’ rooms are equipped with white-noise Sound Machines (which I suspect to be from Miami), and their continuous, atmospheric whooshing does a stellar job at dampening the intensity of incoming sound waves such as sane-person door closing.
I don’t even mind my dog’s proficiency at notifying me that an area automobile has been shut (just in case I missed it) because I have become adept at silencing her so she does not wake the Dynamic Duo from their static state.
However, nothing could have prepared me for The Car Door Slam Heard ‘Round the Neighborhood.
. . .
Our house is situated in such a way that our living room is in the middle of the house, three rooms away from the wall facing the street. Yet, somehow, someone (or something) was able to uber-slam his/hers/its vehicle so loudly that it sounded like the Kool-Aid Man was trying to “Oh yeah” his fat glass ass through my wall, but had severely underestimated its density.
I literally jumped on impact, inspecting each room just to make sure I wasn’t crazy and nothing had fallen, rushing back into the living room every three seconds to shush my barking canine. But just as I realized this was, in fact, some psycho grizzly bear/man hybrid taking a sprinting start and throwing a double-pawed flying-kick at some poor, innocent vehicle, my exhausted son woke up in a livid inferno of streaming tears and tiny, kicking feet.
In a flash of faux-genius, I irrationally considered setting my son safely back in his crib, grabbing one of my ninja swords, and avenging his ravaged sleep pattern, but realized that whoever or whatever had created this disturbance was probably of superhuman persuasion (Vampire? X-Man? Decepticon?) and not worth messing with. After all, I’m a father now.
Picking up my son, I eased into the rocking chair and coaxed him back to sleep. For another 45 minutes.
. . .
So, as you can see, the closing of a car door is sometimes not just the closing of a car door. Every once in a while, when a grizzly bear/man hybrid pummels a Ford Galaxie with a shovel, it can cause a human monsoon devastating entire hours of a parent’s life–hours that a stay-at-home dad/Ph. D. student hybrid could have been spent figuring out that damned statistics problem he has been attempting for days, or burning one’s mouth on the scalding interior of a Hot Pocket while capitalizing on the first free moment to eat lunch, or even writing for a fine publication very much akin to the one you are reading.
My point, O Loyal Reader, is this: You can never truly know the implications of your seemingly small, insignificant actions. So next time you are entering or leaving a vehicle, please be aware of surrounding residences that could contain stay-at-home parents who are less sane than myself, and who very well could retaliate in straitjacket-inspiring fashion.
Unless, of course, you are prepared to be Rocked Like a Hurricane.
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If not, that’s fine. Just go easy on that car door on your way out.
There is a moment that every Daddy waits for.
Typically (or stereotypically, if you’d prefer), Mommy is the all-star. The intensity of the mother-spawn connection is undeniable. After spending nine months living inside of her plus the primal closeness of breastfeeding, dads often feel they are second string in many respects. While there are families with stay-at-home male superheroes like me, I would argue that even then, there is just something cosmically unique about the bond between mother and baby with which fathers just can’t compete.
However, every dad–whether a working dad, a stay-at-home dad, a combination of the two, or some other option I can’t think of–waits for one special, magical moment. A moment he can truly call his own. A moment when his loinfruit shines the spotlight solely on him, and it becomes completely okay for him to ham it up–even in front of Mommy. A moment he is verbally singled out by his offspring as The Man in Charge, the Go-To Guy, the Master of the Universe. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the first-ever time his baby identifies him aloud as “Dada.”
This landmark occurrence is mind-blowingly amazing in its own right–it signifies language acquisition and adds a new, verbal layer of connection between parent and child. But–at least in English-speaking households–it also gives Dad a little ego boost as it usually happens before “Mama.” Call it a purely phonetic phenomenon if you like, moms. We’re well aware that the “D” sound is easier to make than “M” and we don’t care, because when we hear that inaugural “Da” amidst the babble, we know the wait is almost over. We’re going to beat you in just this one thing. And that’s okay.
At the same time, this anticipation can get us a little carried away. For instance, some over-excited dads rule the initial, randomly-stumbled-upon, mid-babble “Dada” as The First. Never mind that the alleged “Dada” wasn’t even in the room and the kid was engrossed in turning an expensive board book into paper pudding before he can even fully grasp its content (money well spent). Yet, the first time they hear these two chance syllables in succession, some dads are on Facebook in seconds flat, telling the world that the “Dada” has dropped.
Settle down, Beavis. Sure, I’ve had these moments, too, but to me, this is an inauthentic “Dada.”
Since the Twins arrived, I’ve been telling myself I would not claim to be dubbed Dada prematurely, and was proud with my performance when we first heard my son say:
“Did you hear that?” my wife enthused. “He said Dada!”
“Yeah,” I replied, skeptical. “Not really, though.”
See, in my opinion, the Official Dada Ruling should be one in which the child actually seems to be addressing or identifying Dada, an intentional utterance instead of an accidental baby-babble snippet. This is when you know your child has joined Team Dada.
Which brings me to my most legendary announcement since The Unveiling of Twinfamy Logo 2.0:
On Monday, August 29, 2011, around 7:45 am, my son welcomed me into the Dada Ranks…I think. Maybe. I don’t know. Well, here’s what happened.
I had put my daughter down for the morning’s first nap and was now changing my son’s diaper before shipping him, too, off to Dreamland. The whole time, he stared up at me with an admiring half-smile. As I affixed the new diaper’s Velcro and pulled his pants back on, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Dada.”
Chills. Butterflies. Skepticism. More chills. Imaginary Disney-movie animal sidekicks cheering.
Did he just say what I think he said?
He launched into a squinty-eyed giggle and I joined him, encouraging him on a job well done, and reinforcing, “That’s RIGHT, Buddy! I’m your Dada!”
As the festivities drew to a close, I rocked him to sleep to the tune of my magically delicious baritone crooning “Bohemian Rhapsody,” cribbed him in super slow-motion so as to not wake him, and plopped onto the couch.
Did he just say what I think he said?
He looked right at me.
They were his only two syllables during the entire diaper transaction.
I then noticed the t-shirt I was wearing:
Was it because of the shirt? Was he calling Chuck “Dada” instead of me? Or did the nine majestic Norrises inspire him to call me “Dada”?
I needed a second opinion.
I unsheathed my cell phone and ran to the other side of the house to call my wife at work. (After five years as a teacher, I have a slight volume problem–I tend to over-project my voice, even when unnecessary, so I’ve learned not to talk on the phone during naptime.)
“Babe. I think…our son…just called me ‘Dada.'”
She later told me my unintentional dramatic pauses had her in a panic that something terrible had transpired. My bad.
I proceeded to relate the event in question and asked her if she thought we should “count” it.
Her response was incredibly supportive: “Why is he saying ‘Dada’ first? I pushed him out of me. Does he not remember that?”
I was pretty convinced it was For Real, but I’ve been waiting for an encore performance and he hasn’t done it since.
So now I don’t know what to think. Was it an intentional moment of clarity, possibly inspired by nine images of Chuck Norris, or was it just a coincidence?
Since I’m on the fence (but not a pointy one, thankfully), I’m going to outsource my opinion to you, O Loyal Reader.
What do you think? What are your Authentic Dada Verbalization Criteria? When did you decide the first “Dada” had dropped, prompting you to chronicle it in the Sacred Texts (baby book)?
Go ahead. Get your “comment” on.
Here’s some Jeopardy-style Dada-themed thinking music for you:
This post was Freshly Pressed by WordPress on September 7, 2011. Yay!
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If not, remember that Chuck Norris is always watching. Nine of him.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Six Sigma is a process in business management that strives to find the most efficient method for performing tasks, supported by thorough analysis and statistical findings. While it is said to work phenomenally in the business realm, I believe such critical task analysis can be just as helpful at home–after all, it’s my place of business.
As a stay-at-home parent of twins, I need to be efficient. Any way that I can streamline what I do literally makes things twice as easy and keeps me from enduring a meltdown duet, and I’m always searching for thrilling new ninja skills to apply on the domestic battlefield.
For the duration of my husbandly homemaking career, I have kept my methods under wraps, locked away in a heavily-guarded location that makes the Disney Vault look as secure as a wallet shoved all the way into the toe of a shoe on the beach. However, I have been given security clearance from the U. S. Department of Defense to share these secrets with you, as long as I do so gradually, in brief installments.
On that note, here is the first.
Six Sigma Parenting Tip #1: Snack While Peeing
Those of you Loyal Readers who are parents know that while caring for young children, a trip to the bathroom becomes less casual, leisurely, and spontaneous than in your distant past life. This is because using the facilities means putting yourself in a state where you cannot necessarily immediately respond to any urgent child matter at hand, particularly while mid-stream.
Thus, affording oneself an excretion opportunity typically involves the placing of children in cribs, Exersaucers, various harnessed baby furniture items, or simply bringing the child(ren) on a field trip to see Where the Magic Happens. It also often ends with a panicked flush and rushed hand-cleansing over a lavish score of screeches and whines, as the thirty seconds or so you’ve attempted to acquire for yourself are simply too long for your little ones to endure.
Another once-leisurely pastime that becomes a breakneck parenting dash is eating. Gone are the days of actually sitting down at a human-style table, imbibing your meal without interruption, especially during breakfast and lunch when you’re a trophy spouse like myself. Given the narrow window of both Twinfants being moderately distracted or even–*GASP*–asleep at the same time, it’s go time. I’m suddenly in college again, seeking out the food item with the smallest from-deciding-to-eat-it-to-putting-it-into-my-mouth time, and I can almost hear my fraternity brothers chanting “Chug! Chug! Chug!” as I perform near-kamikaze hydration.
Since these two necessary-to-life processes–eating and excreting–can become such hindrances to maintaining sweet radio silence from your babies, why not combine them?
Before you get all grossed out, just think about it.
If you’re already going to the bathroom, you’ve secured your children, and possibly any well-meaning canines that love to swallow baby socks, not because they taste good, but because it gains the ever-waning attention of their master. With your household dependents on lockdown, you plan on being occupied for a good 30 to 60 seconds anyway, so you might as well pick out a quick snack from the pantry.
I suggest granola bars. Not only are they scrumptious–they also take just about as long to eat as it does to exit bodily fluids.
NOTE: This Six Sigma Parenting Tip is designed exclusively for Waste Type #1 bathroom trips. I fully and literally subscribe to the folk notion of “not sh!tting where one eats,” so if you will be depositing a twosie, Twinfamy does NOT condone eating during the extraction. That’s just gross. (If this whole idea still makes your skin crawl, I’ve accounted for that, too. Check out Version 3 below.)
Depending on your personal preference/microbial outlook, I am providing procedures for three versions of this genius multitasking innovation.
Version 1: The Classic
Once you’re in the bathroom, assume your gender-fueled position. Whatever equipment you’re packing, you’re sure to have a free hand that you probably haven’t even used to touch anything that would make it too dirty to eat with. Use this hand to feed yourself.
Version 2: The Chug
If it is thirst-quenching you seek, this slight variation of The Classic involves any bottled beverage of your choosing (water, sports drinks, malt liquor, etc.). Simply position yourself, place the bottle in your mouth, and bottoms up. I recommend bottled versus open-lidded beverages as their narrow openings provide spill-free mouth delivery while taking care of business. This is an excellent way to stay hydrated, as you are replenishing liquids leaving your body.
Version 3: The Germaphobe
If it disgusts you to eat while performing this act, fear not! You can still rock this tip with a slight variation. Take your snack with you to the bathroom and complete all bathroom-oriented tasks first.
Then, on your way back, linger just outside the bathroom door, out of your loinfruits’ eyeshot, and chow down. In fact, if they are quiet and happy, I suggest hiding here until they are not, as it may be your only free moment of the day. If you bring your smartphone, you can even read Twinfamy from e-cover to e-cover.
Sure, you may hear the natives getting restless during any of these processes, but you, my friend, have killed two birds with one stone.
And that makes you a Six Sigma Parent.
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If not, wait here and watch Elmo for a minute. I’ll be right back.
“Okay, so it’s all set up. If you keep it plugged in, you can just leave it on. You don’t even need to touch it!” I winked in full infomercial swagger. As my school year winds down, my mother is wrangling the kids on days my wife and I are both working, so I was giving her a crash course on not touching the baby monitor so she would actually be able to use it all day.
“Just the way I like it,” she snickered. My mother’s technological savvy is just a cut above my four-month-old children’s, so she appreciates when I minimize her button-pushing obligations.
My daughter furrowed her brow and “Guh guh guh-ed” at Grandma through the nipple in her mouth, which translates to, “You shut your mouth while you’re feeding me.” She has a strict policy when eating: “No talking and no eye contact—I’m focusing.”
I have attempted to implement this same policy in a reciprocal manner. Whenever I’m seizing a precious free moment to shovel my entire meal stomachward in one gulp and she “interrupts” me, I’ll point an accusatory finger and throw that “Guh guh guh” right back in her face, but it’s an exercise in futility akin to expecting quality from a Kate Hudson movie. I’ve even tried to sit her down and explain to her that she’s holding me to a double standard, but then she’ll do the thing where she smiles so widely and intensely that her tongue trembles, and her damp, elated eyes literally sparkle. So, as the cuteness melts my face off, the only thing I can say to that is, “I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!”
Making sure my son was secure in his jumper, I took a step towards my bedroom, still dazed from his 4 a.m. wake-up call. (“Hey, Dad! Watch this! See this thing on my foot? If I pull it, it comes off! You gotta try this! Oh…were you asleep?”) I then realized I should see if my mom needed anything before I passed the munchkin baton, especially because I now realize she endured this madness for me when I was one of them.
“Are you good? I was gonna shower.”
The proud grandma cradled my daughter, whose unrelenting cuteness had begun to melt her face off as well. “I’m more than good.”
“How are you feeling?” I asked my wife, who was getting ready for work. She hasn’t been feeling so hot this week, due to a debilitating cold. It’s the first time either of us has fallen ill since the Twins’ Earthen premiere, and it’s been daunting running on fewer cylinders than usual with the added two miniature, dependent cylinders.
“Alright, I guess,” she replied. “I don’t feel any worse than yesterday but I don’t feel any better either.”
It is a national day of mourning when she’s sick. I’ve always felt it’s better me than her. As a victim of terrible allergies for my entire life, I was a sickly child, always carrying tissues in one pocket and cough drops in the other, while my bastard friends always had room for cool things, like Swiss Army Knives and G.I. Joes. Don’t get me wrong—I despise being sick as much as anyone—I’ve just gotten used to it. My wife, not so much.
Plus, because she is the organized one—I like to think of myself as the “idea” guy—when she is sick, bills are neglected, appointments are forgotten, and basically any planning ahead whatsoever does not happen because I find thrilling new ways to drop the ball when I sub in. On the other hand, if I’m sick, the most devastating tragedy is usually that our iPods are not perfectly synced with our iTunes libraries.
But I am an excellent caregiver. As a soon-to-be-former middle school teacher, filthy tweens have blessed me with nearly every illness there is to have over the years, aside from the ones you need a vagina for. This—paired with the fact that my mother is a pharmacist—has yielded a fine assortment of remedies for every occasion. One that I swear by is hot tea, especially when you unload about a half-bottle of honey into it. (According to the leading e-mail forwards, honey has transformative healing powers and is said to be the best remedy for sore throats, unrelenting coughs, and even the occasional Saturday Night Fever.)
I’ve made tea for my wife every night this week. This is because I am the world’s greatest husband.
So on that fateful morning, upon hearing that my wife was still not feeling well, I inquired, “Do you have teabags at work?”
“Yeah,” she sighed, frustrated. She had that defeated look in her eyes that you see in uncoordinated people trying to play Guitar Hero. Something needed to be done to lift her spirits. Something epic. And as I was undressing to get in the shower, I decided to be hilarious.
“Would it make you feel better if I teabagged you right now?” For those who are unfamiliar with the act of teabagging, go ahead and Google it, and I’m sure you’ll find your answer. It involves likening a certain region of the male anatomy to a “teabag” while “steeping” it in a certain cavity of another consenting adult—in my case, a smokin’ hot female.
She finished blowing her nose and just stared at me. “Are you kidding?”
Well, of course I was kidding. As you remember, I was being hilarious. But that’s not to say I would have been upset if she had been up for it, either.
“You’re smiling on the inside,” I quipped. Then I got one on the outside. Boo-yah. My mission accomplished, I jumped in the shower.
Stop picturing me naked.
Just a few minutes later, my wife came creeping back in. As she peeked into the shower, I wondered if my beverage-innuendo-driven proposal had been accepted. Then I noticed an odd look on her face.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Um… Your mom…” She was whispering. “You know the monitor over there?” She pointed at one of the cribs in our room.
“You forgot to turn it off. I think she heard…about the teabagging.”
“Oh sh*t! Really?”
“Wait, do you think she even knows what it means?”
“I don’t know!” She hissed. “Do you want me to ask her?”
“Of course not!”
Several days later, the topic has not been breached. We’re okay with that.