After a plaything inventory over the weekend, we decided that
Mom and Dad the Twins were growing bored with our current toy selection, so we took Double Trouble for their first ever visit to Toys “R” Us. (Don’t worry, I was sure to alert them to the store name’s grammatical usage error. Papa is not inclined to raise any fools, you all.)
I had not been to a Toys “R” Us for years, and as I crossed the threshold, was promptly reminded how much I don’t wanna grow up. Although I’m quickly closing in on three decades of John, one of the perks of parenting is the justification for purchasing badass toys without appearing to be The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. So many groundbreaking advances in toy technology have been made since I was last in the market for toys years ago, and I attribute this to Toy Succession, a principle I am just now making up, positing that toys are improved as each generation grows up and applies changes they wish they had when they were children, ultimately allowing already-awesome toys to become uber-awesome.
For example, when I was a child Legomaniac, there were only three Lego genres on the market: Town, Castle, and Space. Now, a glimpse at the Lego section of a toy store features too many to count, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, SpongeBob Squarepants, and even Ninjas! Gone are the days of having to imagine that a black space helmet is a ninja mask. Just as the iPhone probably has “an app for that,” Lego has a piece for that.
During the course of the We Are Toys visit my wife and I got separated, which is easy to do amidst such fine merchandise, especially as a new parent fueled by the excitement of sharing it with our kids and getting that genuine, unbridled ear-to-ear smile we parents feed off like addicts. I was flying solo with the shopping car, while my wife was rollin’ hard with the double stroller and thus, the Twinfants. When I finally caught up with the rest of my family, I found my daughter glomming intently on a Sesame-Street-themed piece of cardboard packaging, with the back side facing up. “What’s that you have there, little girl?” I asked.
For those who are not parents, this is a fun thing we do when requesting information–directing the question to the baby who cannot reply sufficiently while the other parent (who actually knows the answer and, as an added bonus, can verbalize it) is in earshot.
My wife spoke for my daughter. “A stuffed Elmo. I showed it to her to see if she liked it and she just grabbed it and started chewing it.” As mentioned previously, the Twins, like legions of other half-pints, are card-carrying members of Elmo’s Army.
“Cool! Can I see it, little girl?” I inquired, reaching for it.
My daughter’s eyes welled up as I approached the package, and I heard the slow, growing rumble of a tiny freakout. “No, don’t!” My wife hissed. “I already tried to take it. She flipped out. I think we need to take it home.”
I know it’s still early to say this, but I don’t plan on being one to cave just because my kids will cry if I don’t buy them something. Having survived their first colds and the recurring perils of teething, I’ve become relatively desensitized to crying. I’m not saying I’m immune–it’s been scientifically proven that a crying baby upsets anyone–both parents and non-parents. All I’m saying is my adventures as a stay-at-home dad have granted me the power to keep a cool head, even in the face of tears in stereo. On this particular day, both kids happened to be teething hard, so I had no problem with my daughter gnawing on this item–whatever it was–as long as it would quell the day’s tenth tantrum.
“It’s that one,” my wife continued, indicating a colony of “My First Elmos” on the shelf.
I’d already resigned myself to purchasing Her First Elmo, adhering to the axiom of “You break it, you buy it,” or my favorite incarnation of the saying, which we found on a poorly-translated-to-English sign in an Asian restaurant a few years back:
I checked Elmo’s price tag and found a dollar amount to my liking–in fact, I would have willingly bought the toy anyway. No harm, no foul.
However, we came close to a meltdown when wrenching Everyone’s Favorite Monster out of our daughter’s clenched fists as choke-able cardboard/saliva flakes peeked from the corners of her mouth. With a swift, Indiana Jones switch, I thrusted a wad of toy keys into her tiny fingers just after extraction, with limited tantrum-mercial interruption, while my wife inspected her mouth for debris.
Having reflected on this occurrence, particularly my wife’s reasoning, I got to thinking about its implications.
On a completely unrelated note, there is a possibility that tomorrow, I will spontaneously decide to take the Twins to the Apple Store at our local mall. If, during the course of the purely-for-browsing-purposes-only excursion, I happen to show my teething daughter an iPad “to see if she likes it” and “she just grabs it and starts chewing it,” it will not at all be my fault, but I will tragically and begrudgingly be forced to purchase the item, as the pristine Feng Shui Apple packaging will surely be ruined.
Don’t tell my wife.
But if she does happen to get word, I will have the landmark decision of Daughter v. Board of ElmoCasing as a precedent.
As an added precaution, I may or may not slip my daughter the receipt post-purchase.
After all, I wouldn’t want her to make a scene. It may upset the Geniuses.
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If not, wow! Check out this piece of cardboard! That looks pretty tasty.
Up to this point, I have only been in Phase 1 of my stay-at-home parenting stint. Sure, when the school year drew to a close at the end of May, I left the teaching job I beat the pants off for five years and have been home caring for the Twinfants since, but that was only the beginning.
This week my family and I enter Phase 2 of our Master Plan–or (since I already have my Master’s) more appropriately, our Doctoral Plan–as I return to the Ph. D. program I put on hold when the Twins were born in January.
Whenever I tell people I’m going to be both a stay-at-home dad and a full-time Ph. D. student, they usually either think I’m nuts or lying. I can understand that to mere mortals, both sound feasible. Regarding the former, when we first hatched The Plan from a badass-idea-shaped egg, I too thought it impossible, envisioning myself having bi-daily nervous breakdowns while attempting to study with two teething children in my lap, batting textbooks out of my hands like cartoon bullies. I have also been known to exaggerate or even slightly awesome-ify the truth in the name of witty entertainment (which I never do in writing this fine publication), so I also don’t blame those who do think I’m joking, as “crying ‘WOLF!'” one too many times with outrageous claims like inventing the question mark makes my family and friends reluctant to believe anything I tell them for the first time.
I can’t assure you I’m sane by insisting it because that is exactly what The Royal They argue that an insane person would do, and a similar stance is usually taken towards alleged liars.
However, I can explain how we plan on accomplishing this as a family and you, O Loyal Reader, can decide for yourself.
Based on the classes I still needed to take in my program, I enrolled–as much as I could–in ones held on the same days, so I only need to be on campus twice a week. Since my lovely wife works full-time, we needed care for the Twins during that time. Fortunately, we were able to enlist my mother, who has helped us a ton since the munchkins’ arrival. (She held down the fort earlier in the year when we returned to work from maternity/paternity leaves until I became voluntarily unemployed, and has also stepped up this summer on days I’ve needed to travel light while running errands.)
My wife and I have both been at-home parents during these first months, so, realizing the demands of twins, we recognize there is no way I can get ANY work done while watching them. It also wasn’t realistic for me to count on weekend studying–it’s our only real opportunity for whole-family time since as soon as my wife gets home from work on weekdays, we feed the kids dinner and start winding them down for bedtime at 7:30 pm.
So when the hell was I going to actually do my Ph. D. work?
After an intense Twinkle Think session, we hatched Yet Another Plan (that’s right–we have twin plans, too). My mother was already going to Twin-tackle during my classes anyway, so we asked if she could instead adore/endure them all day for the days I’m on campus so I could not only attend class, but also use the rest of the day to study my ass off, re-attach it, and then go home victorious.
So basically, the plan is for me to be on campus all day, two days a week, doing any and all Ph. D.-related activities. The remaining three weekdays, I will be home wrangling Twinfants like nobody’s bidness, just as I have done for the past few months, winning several major imaginary awards in the process, including Best Cinematographer of an Alleged, Unfilmed Picture and Best Baby-Monitor Sound Broadcast.
Since I haven’t actually put the plan into practice yet, I won’t claim it to be foolproof, but we think it’s a pretty good one. I realistically anticipate the added layer of stress taking on Ph. D. classes will bring, and I’m sure there are some rough days ahead. At the same time, I’m incredibly excited to further my education in subjects I thoroughly enjoy and afford myself opportunities I would never have otherwise, including the possibility to earn more than I did as a middle school teacher and provide for the new members of my family so they, too, can conquer college and get Ph. D.’s of their own so we can all obnoxiously call each other “Doctor” at dinner parties.
No matter how it ends, it all starts this week. Hold onto your Huggies, because here we go…
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If not, give me a break. I’m pretty freaking busy.