My dad (known to the Twins as “Pop”) came over to our place for dinner on Friday while my mom was away for the weekend. As we were preparing to eat, Pop lifted my son up to the kitchen sink to wash his hands, and, feeling the weight of his growing grandson, overdramatically grunted, “Awww, Buddy, your Pop’s getting old.”
I say “overdramatically” because Pop exercises regularly and is in fantastic shape. In fact, I’m certain he’s in better shape than I am.
Moments later, while Pop dried his hands, my son looked up at him and parroted, “Pop, you gettin’ old.”
“That’s right, Buddy,” Pop chuckled. “How did you get to be such a big boy?”
“You don’t have an Easter bonnet for her?” my mother gasped.
My wife had just unveiled the dress she’d bought our daughter to wear for Easter, but apparently it was an incomplete ensemble. “Um, no?” my wife replied, confused.
“But how can she go to church on Eater Sunday without an Easter bonnet?”
Something my wife did not learn until this Easter is the importance my mother places on the little girls in our family having bonnets to accompany their dresses on Easter Sunday. Growing up with two younger sisters, I remember it being the biggest effing deal every year for them to find the perfect hats for their outfits, because my dad and I would wait for my mom and sisters outside of every damn clothing store in the mall, wondering what the hell was taking them so long, often ditching them to buy me a couple of packs of baseball cards. (Thanks, Dad!)
“Well,” my mother smiled. ” Don’t worry. I’ll find her a bonnet.”
We weren’t worried, Mom.
With all that my wife and I have going on (and the knowledge that no hat stays on my daughter’s head for longer than five minutes anyway), our feeling was, Sure, if it will make your heart sing to get her a bonnet, knock yourself out.
Sure enough, a day or two later, when we were picking up the kids from her house, my mother presented us with a pinkish-purple bonnet she boasted to have found at our local “everything-costs-one-dollar” store, a place she now swears by as THE place to find fun toys, stickers, and holiday favors for the Twins without breaking the bank.
We had to admit, the bonnet was pretty darn adorable, so it was settled–our daughter now had an Easter bonnet and my mother would finally be able to sleep at night again.
“No, Buddy, I just told you, your sister is reading that,” I said, prying the coveted Elmo’s ABC Book from his hand, prompting an eloquent baby cuss reply.
Sighing heavily, I returned the pillaged book to my daughter, who kicked jubilantly, as the plot was really heating up around “Q is for quilt” and she was on the edge of her seat on the playroom floor, just dying to see what letter was next.
I turned back to my thieving son. “Buddy, you have five books already. Why don’t we read one of those?”
My son approaches playtime the same way I envision Napoleon Bonaparte would at one year old. Whenever he’s decided what to play with, he desperately needs that toy genre’s entire collection. If it’s blocks, they all simply must encircle him. If it’s books, he needs a shelf-full at his disposal. I’m quite certain that if he were aware of Pokemon, he would not rest until adequately “catching ’em all.”
Thus, if the parent-on-duty does not facilitate total toy acquisition, we can expect a fiery rage turning his skin green and inflating his muscles to three times their normal size, ironically tearing his Incredible Hulk t-shirt to shreds.
Remember the unbridled childhood excitement of Christmas Morning? The insomnia-inducing obsession with the sheer possibilities of the bounty Santa Claus would surely leave under the tree? Staring at the ceiling at 4:00 am, debating asking your parents if you can just cut the nonsense and get this party started right now?
As we grow older, however, there seems to be less and less magic each year, which ironically provides less and less of a window for acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Is it lame that at 29 years old, I’m still waiting for that owl?
But I’m thrilled to say that after believing it was gone forever, I’m suddenly feeling that familiar old Christmas Morning anticipation once again because starting today, my wife and I will be orchestrating that magic for the Twins, as we prepare to give them their First Christmas Ever.
At 11 months, they’re not by any means at an age where they can fully comprehend all that’s happening, but we’re in no hurry for them to grow up any quicker than they already have, and we see this year as a prelude–a taste of many happy memories to come.
And now, on The Night Before Christmas, as I look all through the house (with my dog, the only stirring creature, pawing at my shin for attention now that the Twins are down for a long winter’s nap) I see decorations that will become ingrained in the Twins’ subconscious as Christmas-defining relics, just as my parents magically transformed $4.99 pharmacy purchases into The Singing Christmas Bear I Played With Every Year While We Decorated the Tree, The Christmas Carol Book with Which I Led the Whole Family in Rousing Sing-Alongs, and The Nativity Scene with Which I Fabricated Alternate Biblical Storylines Involving He-Man Saving Baby Jesus from Cobra Commander with the Help of the Three Wise Musketeers, the Ninja Donkey and the Jedi Cow.
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.
This is usually the time of year I ask inanimate holiday store displays to at least wait until Black Friday to assault me with their raised red and green elven fists. Don’t get me wrong–Christmas is my favorite holiday. I’ve just always felt that when stores crank up the Jingle-Bell Muzak while vampire costumes and Jack-O-Lanterns are still in stock, it undermines the experience of Halloween and Thanksgiving–both excellent holidays in their own right–all to make a few extra bucks. Plus, decking the halls that early and intensely has often left me tired of open-fire chestnut-roasting, intentionally-kitsch reindeer sweaters, and that impressively obnoxious Mariah Carey song long before the actual December 25.
At least that’s what I used to think.
As a parent, you rediscover to the wonder the world inspires. You see things “again for the first time” through your children’s eyes. And that’s why this year is different. This year, my wife and I will be giving the Twins their First Christmas Ever, and we are so psyched for it that we’ve been discussing its grandiose possibilities since June.
This fervor was recently amplified by the arrival of the Target Holiday Toy Sale catalog.