Need more crappy stick figures in your life? Don’t worry, there’s even more Twinfamy Comics here!
My family’s kajillionth listen of Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone on the car’s Bluetooth. This did not faze the Twins, who just kept on singing, reminding their audience that the cold never bothered them anyway. My wife and I had just picked them up from school, and like most school days, they’d gotten a fresh jolt of energy during the drive home, proceeding to uncontrollably kick the front seats and belt out lyrics with absolutely no regard for the melody or their mother’s migraine.
Without even looking at the caller ID, I answered. Typically my mother calls us on our drive home to see how the Twins’ day at school was. They’ve been attending semi-sporadically since the summer of last year, but as my PhD work has gotten increasingly demanding with each passing semester, we’ve slowly been increasing their weekly amount of school days. (And yes, I’m calling it “school” for a reason. This place has a big-kid curriculum, individualized learning goals for each kid, and even parent-teacher conferences. It is decidedly not a “daycare.”)
As you may remember, for most of the time I’ve spent on campus to do my doctoral work, my mother has very graciously taken care of the Dynamic Duo. However, due to some other important family commitments (which are beyond the scope of this Twincident), she’s been in and out of town, prompting us to seek other (tragically not-for-free) care options for the kids. The transition hasn’t always been easy, with several month-long plagues of sickness throwing off any weekly routine we hoped to establish, sometimes resulting in tearful toddlers at the morning drop-off, but lately, we’ve finally, finally, FINALLY found a groove.
And so whether she’s here in town, hunting Chupacabras in the Mexican wilderness, or scaling Mt. Everest to destroy the Eighth Horcrux, my mom calls us nearly every school day on our way home to see how the Twins’ day was, partly because she really and truly wants them to do well and partly (I’m guessing) because she misses them and wishes she could see them more often.
But when I answered the phone, I found that it wasn’t my mom after all.
“Hello?” I barked casually.
“Hi, I’m looking for John?” said an unfamiliar female voice, cranked to 11 on the car stereo while the kids were still screaming Frozen lyrics.
“Yes,” I called, clawing for my phone in my pocket to turn off the Bluetooth. “This is John.”
“Hi John, I’m calling about the position you interviewed for yesterday.” She hesitated for a moment, assumedly due to the stereophonic pixie voices booming, “I don’t caaaaare what they’re goooing to saaaaay!” Then, she continued. “Is this a good time to talk?”
I looked up from the kitchen island to check on the Dynamic Duo. My son sat enthralled on the floor, accenting his finger-pointing at the television screen with “Oohs” and “Aahs,” while my daughter reclined on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and cradling her stuffed Piglet.
Lately they’ve become completely obsessed with ocean life: ocean puzzles, ocean books, cheap-ass toy fishing poles with magnetic fish to “catch,” and anything involving Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid. On this particular morning they’d begged me to put on one of their new favorite DVDs–the “Shallow Seas” episode of the Planet Earth series, which is now known in our house simply as “The Fishies.”
While they were caught up in the sheer awesomeness that is “The Fishies,” I had seized the opportunity to crack open my laptop and attend to PhD shenanigans.
Two brand new sets of lunch bags and Thermoses (Thermi?) on the far counter caught my eye as I penned a particularly riveting email. We recently registered the Twins to start “school” in July and my wife–ever the planner–has ALREADY secured rad new Hello Kitty and Spider-Man lunchtime gear in anticipation. No, this isn’t the parent-child class I’ve previously mentioned. Our children will soon be attending a new “big-kid” all-day school program a few days a week–one they’ll be attending without Daddy waiting in the wings (which works out well because Daddy’s about to start on his dissertation).
We’re also mere days from launching PottyTrainingFest 2013, an event we know the Twins are ready for, as my daughter now literally approaches me with a clean diaper in hand, saying, “Daddy, I pee-peed.” (Why couldn’t THAT have caught on sooner?) Although their new school helps with potty training and even does diapers, the idea is for us to do the bulk of the work at the Pseudonymous World Headquarters and send them out into the field with a License to Potty.
It still feels strange to say this, but the Twins have started school.
While I have no doubt in my mind that my little geniuses could already slaughter Doogie Howser at Jeopardy (it would be legen–wait for it–dary), this first foray into the academic world is not related to their obviously high cognitive abilities, but instead an opportunity to begin their formal education early. You see, while they were still chillaxing in their mother’s uterine jacuzzi, we got them on the lengthy waiting list for a fairly exclusive toddler class conveniently held on my college’s campus, and we’d watched them slowly climb their way to the top ever since.
Thus, as the new school year approached, the all-important question as to whether they would be granted access to the program hung in the air like the faint, gaseous remnants of a diaper blowout. Our hopes high, we gathered with the other families in our District who had children on the waiting list for a public announcement of the class’s new students. As the odd, eccentric university spokeswoman took the stage, the tension was so thick that it needed to cut carbohydrates from its diet.
But as luck would have it, our progeny were both selected, punctuated by thumbs-up-shaped balloons falling from the rafters and commemorative t-shirts emblazoned with bow-wearing stick figures being shot into the masses. The Twins had been chosen!
In addition to my groundbreaking research on closet zombies and whatever sustainability is, my Ph. D. program has also provided the opportunity to learn computer programming–something I’ve wanted to do for years but never had the time or resources.
This has had to happen fairly quickly, as on the first day of the semester, one of my professors had my classmates and me each introduce ourselves along with our programming experience, since it would be a foundational element of the class. Having been awake since 3:15 am with my sick son, I’d just chugged two Venti coffees in order to be a functional human being, so as you can probably imagine I was already feeling incredibly chipper and eager to learn.
I grimaced as I listened to my colleagues’ alien technobabble:
“Most of my experience is in Java Frappuccino Monty Python Venom Script with Pirate Eyepatch Death Star Optimization Support.”
“I’ve dabbled in C-Minus-Plus-Ampersand Continuum Transfunctioners, but I’m most comfortable with Skynet Flux Capacitors.”
“I created the Allspark.”
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.