My daughter spiked her half-eaten apple on the floor like a football, slid her Sippy Cup off the high-chair tray as if it were a shuffleboard, and with finality, proclaimed, “Duh!”
I don’t remember which loinfruit introduced it or when, but for anyone under the age of two in our household, this has become the customary Closing Ceremonies for a meal, for alerting one’s parents that the eater is “Done.”
Looking up from dinner’s dirty dishes in the sink, I watched my wife release my daughter from the clutches of her high chair, pick her up, and bravely walk our kitchen’s version of The Green Mile–past an old bookshelf we’ve converted into a snack shelf (Pantry 2: This Time It’s Personal, if you will). Although our children claim to be “duh” with their food, as soon as we de-high-chair them they often notice Pantry 2 items that were not on that meal’s menu–morsels they must receive promptly if the parent on duty wishes to avoid a brilliantly-executed tantrum.
While they’ve learned many words so far, there are still a sizable amount of items for which the Twins still use the caveman-style point-and-grunt method, and on this particular day, my daughter’s finger shot out instantly at her target. Unfortunately for my wife, she did not leave enough distance between my daughter’s ninja arm and the shelf, and before we knew it, our daughter had snatched the entire bag of miniature Sun-Maid Raisin boxes.
This snack is popular with the Twins not because they are particularly fond of raisins, but because they absolutely adore having their own little boxes to carry them in. We have scientific proof of this phenomenon, as whenever my mother offers the Twins unboxed raisins at her house, they look at her like she’s nuts, as if to say, “What is this sh!t? Where’s my f*cking box?”
“Ooooh! OohOohOooooooh!” my daughter enthused, waiting for my wife to open her a box.
My daughter hooked her arm securely around mine as I held her at my hip–a cripplingly cute mannerism of hers that melts me to my core every single time.
Vocalizing airplane sound effects, I made an extravagant production of swooping my giggling passenger down to the floor to pick up each member of the Hundred Acre Wood institutionalized as her Bedtime Crew, currently featuring Piglet (her go-to daytime stuffty) as well as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (the night-shift support staff who allow for optimal snugglization).
Her teeth brushed and hands washed, she knew we were coming up on bedtime and began her nightly wind-down ritual: gripping Piglet and Company, sticking her beloved right thumb in her mouth, and embracing day’s end with open arms and heavy eyelids.
Our son, however–currently in his mother’s arms–was performing his own nightly routine: maniacal arm-flails punctuated by Oscar-worthy whines. Never ready to pack it in, he’ll dash for the playroom or point at the turned-off tv in a last-ditch effort to stay up just a little longer, to milk as much out of the day as possible. There are still so many blocks to stack, so many books to read, so many Sing-Along Songs to groove to.
And while his unrelenting desire to be awake can be burdensome, I don’t ever fault him for it.
He gets it from me.
I grimaced as the all-too-familiar sound of my daughter’s signature baby cuss-fests reverberated throughout the cabin of our 757. Her inflection was remarkably similar to a Ricky Ricardo Spanish flipout as she rattled off unintelligible rapid-fire syllables.
Typically, these soliloquies have me in stitches. The invariable final “BAH” and its emphatic arm thrust just kills me every time.
But here and now, all I could muster was a nervous smile at my wife across the aisle, who flashed a quick one back while wrestling our tiny squirming diva in her lap.
Since two lap kids aren’t allowed in the same three-seat half-row, my wife had elected to fly solo while my son and I sat on the other side with my parents. The plan was to take turns and rotate seats as necessary throughout the flight, but for now, with the “fasten seat belts” sign lit and the crew preparing for take-off, we were locked into this configuration. We had booked the flight to coincide with their naptime in hopes they would crash for a significant portion of it, but the TSA security shuffle and unfamiliar surroundings now had them simultaneously wired and tired. And grumpy as hell.
I wanted to finish baby-proofing our house earlier. I really did. But it’s the thought that counts.
I had the best intentions when I began work in October, and have slowly made what I believe to be significant progress given the circumstances, as the project has been narrowly constrained by multiple, immovable factors:
1) My Fans
I am apparently so incredibly awesome and compelling that my pint-sized fans cannot bear the thought of me leaving the room. Not to go to the bathroom, wash dishes, get diapers, or anything else that takes longer than five seconds. The Experts call this “separation anxiety.” I call it “the reason I can’t get anything done around the house unless I want an improvisational high-pitched duet as a soundtrack.” Due to sharp drills and screwdrivers and the same hazardous cabinet contents I’m trying to bar from their tiny, inquisitive hands, I can’t have them climbing all over me while I install latchery. Keeping them in the room with me as I work necessitates restrictive holding cells such as Pack ‘n’ Plays and Exersaucers, but they are proficiently crawling their way to walking any day now, and thus assertively refuse any restraints in efforts normally attributed to Wild Horses and Freebirds and Eyes of Tigers. These factors all imply that the ideal baby-proofing window is during a Nap Overlap or Ni-Night Time. Aside from the fact that a Nap Overlap itself is rare, the slightest of sounds from a pin dropping to a grizzly bear/man hybrid slamming a car door can wake them, so firing up the drill while they’re asleep is simply ill-advised.
2) My Schedule
Two of my weekdays are spent on campus studying in preparation for world domination. I have not yet taken my program’s Building and Remotely Controlling Your Own Robot Henchman 101 class, so baby-proofing production grinds to an unfortunate halt on these days. The remaining three weekdays are dedicated to house-husbanding and twin-wrangling, which, as I just mentioned, are not conducive to accomplishing anything but avoiding tantrums and occasionally escaping for a guerrilla laundry load. This leaves the weekends, the only time we are together as a family, during which we spend quality time driving around town running errands, and every once in a while, pretending we have a social life. This aspect has recently been amplified by…
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.