This story originally appeared as a guest post on EduDad. I wrote an edge-of-your-seat introduction to it here, but the short version is that I penned it in 2006 when I was still a middle school English teacher, as part of a collection of true classroom tales I intended to publish and become a kajillionaire. Unfortunately, the project soon fizzled out as I moved on to another kajillion-dollar idea that also failed. However, the story remains, and it offers you, O Loyal Reader, a unique glimpse at my daily pre-Twinfamy shenanigans. Enjoy!
Do You Like Pie?
In an über-rare moment, my seventh-graders were actually working diligently on an assignment, so after a quick, discreet touchdown dance, I’d sprinted to my computer to capitalize on the situation, starting to finally enter the piles of grading cluttering my desk.
Just as I was getting into a groove, the classroom door opened and a student from one of my other classes meandered up to my desk.
“Do you like pie?” she asked.
My mind still in data-entry mode, I was dumbfounded. “What?” I replied.
“Do you like pie? Like, the dessert?”
“Um, yeah. I do. Why?”
“Want a free pie?”
“Okay…sure…I would like a free pie.” I just had to see where this was going.
Thanks so much for browsing in on such short notice. I know we’re in the midst of The TwinfaMaui Saga, but dire circumstances have prompted this brief interruption. I don’t have much time, so I’ll get right to the point.
Just a few days ago, scientists at the Twinfamy Research Labs unearthed a lost and long-forgotten relic from the elaborate network of catacombs beneath the Pseudonymous residence: the (tw)infamous Dead Draft Scrolls. For those who don’t know, this highly sought-after artifact is a hard drive containing sacred ancient writings of the Pseudonymous people, including drafts of compositions that really ought to be New York Times Bestsellers by now (and surely would be had yours truly realized how much free time I had before becoming a parent).
Among these legendary texts is a collection of war stories from my career as a middle school English teacher, a stint that ended in a blaze of glory as I was summoned to stay-at-home greatness. The writings are dated 5 B. T. (5 years Before Twins), placing them around the year 2006.
As you can imagine, there was much rejoicing in the Twinfamy camp, as my Prodigal Brainchildren had been found. However, it is with a heavy heart that I report one of these pieces is already missing.
Which is the reason I’ve called you all here.
“Did you see that link I sent you today?” my wife inquired, placing a bottle of freshly-pumped breast milk in the fridge.
I looked up from the boob-funnels I was washing in the sink as bewildered as the seventh graders I’d stumped similarly all day, searching my exhausted mind for the answer. At four months old, the Twins were still rarely allowing us more than three hours of continuous slumber, making us bumbling idiots more often than not.
“I’m sorry, which link? Remind me.” Having vaguely drawn the line between today and other days in my sluggish mind, I could now narrow the possibilities to 3-4 links, as my wife sends me multitudes of information daily, ranging from infinitely fascinating to a notch above “waste of time,” but much more often the former.
“That stay-at-home dad article. From the newspaper.”
“Oh, right, that one. Yeah, I did.” Since our recent decision for me to quit teaching for stay-at-home fathering and Ph.D.-ing, my wife had taken to sending me SAHD resources during the workday, partly to show me there were lots of dads in my situation and partly (as I learned months later) because she was secretly terrified of me being in charge and was covertly boot-camping me up to snuff. This particular article was one of countless SAHD-penned rants about how when out in public during work hours, people don’t often understand why the kids are with their father, asking such intelligent questions as “Are you on vacation?”, “Where’s their mother?”, and even “Did you lose your job?”
“What’d you think?” my wife prodded.
“I don’t know. It was all right.” I gently adjusted the Baby Bjorn strap so as not to wake the napping son ornament on my chest. “I guess it was kind of funny, but not all that different from stuff already out there.”
“True,” she overemphasized, and fell silent.
Huh. That was weird. Where’s she going with this?
“You know,” she continued. “You could do better.”
My son has created a catch phrase that very well could sweep the nation. You may not have heard it yet because it is currently being swept under the nation’s rug, but once this news hits the interweb, look out.
The pop culture revolution began with my mother, who watches the Twins twice a week while I doctorize on campus. As the kids slowly become geniuses just like their parents, they are constantly acquiring new skills and lifehacks–like standing up and walking on their own, infiltrating government-grade security measures, or composing their very first rock opera (entitled American Infant) with nothing but a toy xylophone and Daddy’s GarageBand app.
Appropriately, whenever the Twins would use their newfound superpowers for good, my mother made a point to positively reinforce these behaviors, thus congratulating, “You did it!”
This became an overnight chart-topper with the kids, and soon, around November, every time my son accomplished a task, he’d triumphantly proclaim, “Did it!”
I just got the numbers in today and I couldn’t believe it.
I double- and triple-checked them, just to be sure I wasn’t mistaken before taking the news public, but they were, indeed, accurate.
As it turns out, according to the year-end statistical report compiled by my fleet of information superhighway patrol robots, 2011 was Twinfamy’s biggest, best, most successful year to date!
And I have you, O Loyal Reader, to thank.
Since its humble beginnings eons ago in May 2011, I have watched this fine publication grow from absolutely nothing to the kajillions of you frequenting the site every day, and I wanted to take this opportunity to offer you all my sincere gratitude.
Many years ago, in a time before the Twins and even before my wife and I began dating, I was a Writer. I never did it professionally, but I did do it passionately, daily, and religiously, and will say that a few times, I came pretty darn close to a paid gig. However, it was only a matter of time before I needed a real career instead of a speculative one, and so as I checked American Dream Boxes and became a teacher, husband, and DVR owner I watched my writing time grind to a screeching halt. Ever since then, I’ve haphazardly logged hours on various unfinished writing projects I still completely believe in but just haven’t had the time to realize.
Then came my children.
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?