If there’s one thing I learned while growing up, it’s that–in the words of the great philosopher Hoots the Owl—“You gotta put down the Duckie if you wanna play the saxophone.”
I’ve since devised lifehacks allowing me to defy this nocturnal avian jazz musician’s First Law of Multi-Tasking, deftly blowing the perpetual 12-bar solo that is being a husband, dad, and student while still keeping a firm grip on the duckie that is this fine publication. However, during the month of July, the song’s tempo sped to a breakneck punk rock moshpit pace, and as I attempted to keep up with the chord changes, the poor little duckie came flying out of my hand.
Since I know you hang on my every Twincident, O Loyal Reader, I’m sure you noticed things have been considerably quiet ’round these parts. I’ve always told myself I’d never let writing about being a dad get in the way of actually being a dad, and the past few weeks found me in that very position. While writing is a deep passion of mine, I can’t let it jeopardize my sax life.
I had to huck the duck.
Are you really done with the stroller?
Because we’re six blocks from home. Are you really going to make me carry you six blocks?
You do realize there’s a reason we bring the stroller, right? See those things down there? What shape are they?
That’s right–they’re circles. See, the circles are wheels, and they make it so Daddy doesn’t have to carry you and your brother while we walk around the neighborhood because if Daddy had to do that, Daddy would probably throw out his back.
In fact, Daddy’s feeling his back right now. Do you see what Daddy’s carrying you with?
That’s right! That’s an arm. Good job, Baby Girl! How many arms is Daddy using to carry you? Let’s count them. Ready?
That’s right. Daddy’s only using one arm. Where is Daddy’s other arm? Do you see Daddy’s other arm? Where is Daddy’s other arm?
THERE’S Daddy’s other arm! Daddy’s other arm is pushing the stroller because your brother is still in the stroller. Do you see how good your brother is being? See that? He’s even drinking his juice.
‘atta boy, buddy.
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.
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.
Since Friday of last week, I haven’t been able to spend much time constructing genius word sculptures for you, O Loyal Reader. However, throughout the course of my fustercluck of a Monday, I was able to slowly–and in about twenty sittings on my BlackBerry (Yes, I’m still rocking the BlackBerry. Someday I’ll have enough money to join you iPhone hipsters.)–generate the following manifesto explaining why I’ve been so busy. In the interest of time, I resorted to the “list” format overused on magazine covers, such as “859 New Looks for Fall” which is an actual “article” I saw advertised on one of my teen sister-in-law’s recent issues. While I’m admittedly using a lazy writing device, I’m also admitting it, so now you have no choice but to enjoy The Top Six Reasons This is a List:
(Pause for medieval fanfare.)
1. We just moved.
This past weekend we packed the belongings of the entire Pseudonymous entourage into a U-Haul, and now that We-Hauled them to the new Pseudonymous World Headquarters, we’re still busy reassembling furniture without the proper tools that are in a box that I swear I just saw over there and OW! This f*cking box just ripped off my toenail!
Yeah. It’s taking a while.
2. I started school last week.
Even though when last school year ended I retired from teaching middle school, the last few months have still felt pretty typical for me–as if it were just another summer vacation. Well, except for the whole becoming a parent and taking care of twin babies thing. But I did know I’d be returning to my Ph. D. program when Fall hit, so it was like a summer vacation. So as I’m still shifting gears from Summer Mist to Fall Frenzy, once my workflow is, um, flowing, my writing for this fine publication will surely follow. I just need to get myself back into “school mode.” (OMG! I had homework on the FIRST DAY! Can you believe it? My teachers are SOOO mean! I swear, the pale one is a vampire.)
3. Laundry outsourcing.
Our World Headquarters doesn’t have a washer or a dryer yet (Yeah, I know, it’s not a very good World Headquarters) so until we do, I’ve been packing up the kids and our diaper pack mule/tauntaun and heading to Grandma’s house with basketfuls of spit-up-caked clothes from all members of our family, both spitters and spittees.
4. Special guest time-suckers.
I have hosted a revolving door of essential service calls this week, including TV satellite, Internet, plumbing, and Room of Requirement installation. A few of them were creepy, and I’m not even talking about the wizard. I expected him to be eccentric. I just don’t feel the need to answer questions about my kids’ favorite baby foods or chat about how effective the new cable modem your company made me buy is, especially when I am clearly holding a crying little girl and attempting to get said little girl down for a nap. And yes, I AM bringing my son in the room with me instead of leaving him out there with you. With all due respect, your mustache is unsettling.
5. HBO Sunday Nights
Holy crap! Is anyone else watching True Blood and Curb Your Enthusiasm? Is it just me, or are they even more phenomenal than usual this season? Whether you agree or not (in which case you’d be wrong), after the weekend we had, there’s no way I was going to miss My Stories.
6. We have twins.
It’s a miracle I’m able to write at all. Gimme a friggin’ break.
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If not, might I suggest HBO Sunday Nights?