Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless: So are you still being Mr. Mom?
Me: You know, the term “Dad” works just fine.
Sure, I could have just let it go. I could have replied, “Yes, I am still being Mr. Mom.” thus avoiding the awkward pause that ensued. Don’t take it personally, I used to tell myself. It’s just a (tired, lame, unfunny) joke. But this terminology is pinned on me often and I have recently decided I am done with just letting it go.
It’s not that I feel emasculated wrangling the Twins all week. I challenge any “man’s man” who thinks stay-at-home parenting is for sissies to actually try it for one day. (In fact, I imagine it could make for a thoroughly entertaining reality show, with each episode culminating in a grown man sobbing.) It’s definitely not easy, but at the same time it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Many fathers would jump at the opportunity to spend as much time with their children as I do, especially at this age. I blinked when they were eight months old and was suddenly thrown into a DeLorean which promptly accelerated to 88 miles per hour, traversing space and time to today, as I open my eyes and find them eleven months old. Until I can get the Flux Capacitor to flux again, I make an effort each day to take it all in (and document it in HD) because I know how fleeting babyhood is.
“Okay,” my wife proclaimed, performing a one-woman evacuation of my son’s bedroom. “I’m not going to freak out, but there’s poop on the wall.”
I was proud of her–assuming, of course, that there was, in fact, poop on the wall–because she is our marriage’s sanitation enthusiast. In The Land Before Twinfants, our dwelling was cleaned regularly and often due to her impeccable attention to decontaminatory detail, a gene I never inherited. As a former fraternity house resident, I tend not to recognize that a household item or surface requires cleaning until I trip over a dust bunny attempting to hand me a rent check, as he has recently decided that if he’s going to stick around this long, it is only fair for him to kick in some money.
Rarely is one presented with such a stellar conversation starter as “There is poop on the wall.” I was riveted–I had so many questions. But first, I needed to make sure I heard her correctly, and so, with eyes alight in anticipation, I inquired, “There’s poop on the wall?”
“Yes. There is poop. On the wall.” Okay, so this was no joke. There was. In fact. Poop. On the wall. But where?
“Yes. In there.”
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.
It was the worst of times, it was the worstest of times, it was the age of projectile sneezing, it was the age of irrepressible coughing, it was the epoch of mucus, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was okay to use improper grammar while parodying famous literature, because it was hilarious, it was the summer of insomnia, it was the summer of despair, we had everything before us, we had viruses after us, we were all going direct to the doctor, we were all going direct to the pharmacy—in short, the period was so far from the present period, that some of its noisiest Twinfants insisted on its being blogged, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of awesomeness only.
For most of the month of June, my house was baby cold central. As I’ve mentioned previously (in Don’t Fear the Teether, and Think of the Children), my daughter was under the weather, forecasted by my wife and I as thundering storm clouds looming along the Pseudonymous front, and when the storm finally broke, it did, in fact, ignite several torrential weeks of snot-rocket downpours—from both kids.
I realize, O Loyal Reader, that by not following up on this storyline, I’ve left you with a cliffhanger as agonizing as a television-season-ending shocker, and that you’ve been waiting with bated breath for updates on my daughter’s state. For that I offer my sincerest apologies, and humbly ask you to put away that guillotine. Ironically, part of the reason for it is because so much has been happening since then that is worthy of sharing, but the all-consuming nature of caring for ailing Twinfants has kept me so busy that I have not had time (or, let’s face it, the energy) to chronicle these stories. But fear not. That ends right here and now, as Twinfamy has been “recalled to life” and returns to pseudo-continuity. In fact, this Twincident picks up right where Think of the Children left off, on the following day, a Monday.
Week the First – The Snot Still Rises
We had suspected my daughter of having a cold, and after visiting the doctor (for the second time in two weeks), it was confirmed.
“Looks like it’s viral,” our doctor reported, sporting the winning smile with which she breaks bad news, “So there isn’t much to do in terms of antibiotics or other prescriptions. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to ride this one out. Can you do that for me, little girl?” she asked my daughter, who—oh yeah, had been SCREAMING in protest for the last ten minutes while being examined.
My daughter paused a moment, blinked at the unexpected stimulus, and glared with recognition at the stranger who had just been poking at her while all she really wanted was Daddy to hold her, as if to say, Sleep with one eye open, tonight b!tch. She erupted again, drenching herself in a fresh concoction of tears and boogers. Poor baby girl.
“Some things you can try,” the doctor hollered over the tiny soprano, “are a humidifier, elevating her mattress, using saline nasal drops and extracting mucus with a bulb, and Tylenol if the fevers come back. Oh, and a little cowbell can’t hurt either,” she winked.
Well, my wife and I are kind of a big deal, so we’d already been doing all of these, and when I asserted our greatness, the doctor glowed. “Of course you are! You guys are so good. You’re doing a great job, Dad!” Aw, shucks.
I tried to remember this while braving the five-day scream-fest that ensued, as I split my attention between a miserable daughter who wanted nothing but to be held every second, and a son who became jealously aware of this about thirty seconds after I did. However, Daddy tender-love-and-cared the hell out of them both and we saw my daughter finally feeling better and returning to her happy, bubbly self by Saturday.
Week the Second – Calm in Storm
My daughter had beaten the snot out of her cold and had even taken its lunch money. As an added bonus, my son didn’t show any signs of catching it, either.
This week was drenched in Awesome Sauce, the ingredients for which have been shrouded in mystery for decades, despite tireless attempts by the world’s leading scientists and culinary experts. (Some speculate that Chuck Norris enforces its secrecy, but not out loud. That’s just asking for trouble.)
Week the Third – The Substance of the Nostril
Suddenly, out of nowhere (well, actually, his nostrils), my son began sneeze-launching cloud-white, stringy boogers and coughing uncontrollably. Some friends were visiting us that day, so we joked that he might be allergic to them while they were here, and seriously considered it once they left. The Twins had been sleeping from 7 pm to 5 am consistently prior to the sneeze-a-thon, but that night, we were reminded this was a newfound luxury as he woke up hourly, drowning in a salty sea of his own mucus.
Oddly, the next morning he was fine, as if nothing had happened—as if it were all a bad dream, very much akin to my unintelligent former seventh grader students’ thrilling short story resolutions. It quickly turned back into a nightmare, however, around 3 pm, when mucus-bearing missiles again assaulted my unsuspecting daughter and me. After another night of insomnia, a disheveled, zombie version of myself brought him to the doctor AGAIN, for our fourth visit in three weeks.
“Well, hello again!” Dr. RainbowsSunshineAndPinkBunnyRabbits beamed.
“So, I really think you should do a punch card promotion,” I enthused. “You know, like at a frozen yogurt place? I mentioned it to the receptionist, but she was not very receptive.”
She once again went through her anatomical surveillance procedure. Lungs, ears, temperature, cabin air filter, windshield wiper fluid—all good. Since both my wife and I have endured terrible allergies our whole lives, I consider myself an expert on all things allergy–a connoisseur if you will–and thus was pretty convinced my son was having an allergic reaction, possibly to our visitors or something outside. In retrospect, I had correlated both of his sneezing fits with bringing him outdoors. He loves to look at trees, so we’d been watching the ones in our backyard sway in the breeze just before my peeps showed up, and then the next day, I brought him out with me to check on the installation of a new windshield on my automobile. (Some bastard was hauling gravel in a pickup on the freeway and a piece chipped the glass right in my eyeline. It’s okay, though, because it was free. LikeagoodneighborStateFarmisthere!)
I knew I’d be asked about my son’s recent medical history, so I pulled my trusty ukulele out of the diaper bag and launched into “The Ballad of the Possible Allergy to Something Outside,” a twelve-minute opus I’d composed for the occasion, outlining all of the above. However, mid-seventh verse (just before it really starts to pick up) she politely stopped me to say something I did not know, which I will share with you because you are worthy: Since allergies are your body’s immune system rejecting certain things (which I DID know), you need a fully developed immune system to exhibit allergic reactions. However, babies don’t reach this point until 12-15 months out (which I did NOT know). Upon sharing this with our families, my wife’s mother–a practicing OB/GYN–swore she’d already told us this several days ago. We had no recollection, but if it was, in fact, said, I offered a speculative reason for our non-responsiveness. “But you weren’t wearing one of those white coats and a stethoscope when you said it.”
In the end, it turned out that my son had acquired his first cold, but not from my daughter, since he caught it so much later after she’d shaken hers. So again, we employed the same measures taken to heal my daughter just a few weeks hence, with Daddy iron-manning his way into a Daytime Emmy Nomination, sweating through several t-shirts a day and replenishing these precious bodily fluids by valiantly imbibing Samuel Adams Summer Ale once Mommy got home.
Soon (but not soon enough), by the middle of…
Week the Fourth – The Viruses Die Out Forever
…the viruses appeared to have died out forever.
Victorious, my son, daughter and I ceremoniously danced on their graves, mirthfully firing baby formula into the air. Later that day, right in the middle of Tummy Time, I received a personal call from President Obama on a Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, congratulating me on my victory.
My wife and I had survived the Twins’ first colds, and now have one less item on our “What the Hell Are We Going to Do When That Happens?” List. (Remaining items include “My Daughter Starting to Date” and “Oh Sh!t, They Can Reach the Counter.”)
And although it was a trying period, I never once considered seeking out a ne’er-do-well doppelganger to take my place, because whenever I think about being a father, I invariably conclude that it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better experience that I am having than I have ever known.
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
To commemorate the Five-Minute Anniversary of this Twincident, Twinfamy decided to do something special–a Behind-the-Scenes, Making-Of commentary, intended to be read simultaneously with the post itself, similar to the auditory director commentary of a motion picture.
This post alludes heavily to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, one of my favorite novels. If you’ve never read it or were assigned to read it but only pretended to (like I did in high school the first time around) and don’t “get” why I worded things in a certain old-timey way, that’s probably why. However, I do recommend it and hereby make it the first official selection in Twinfamy’s Book Club, a tradition I am igniting because Oprah is a quitter. In fact, it can be read on your worldwide interweb device here. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Additionally, I do realize, O Loyal Reader, this Twincident is lengthier than usual, and yes, because it borrows from literature, is more high-brow than usual. But don’t worry, I still have plenty of poop and fart jokes up my sleeve (or another body part) and will be pulling them out in due time.
Or “doo” time.
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If not, it’s no reason to cut anyone’s head off.