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.
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.
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?
By the Friday of every week I am completely exhausted. After wrangling the Twins, beating the snot out of my house-husbanding chores, and writing this fine publication (which many have recently remarked that they cannot believe I have time for), I am spent. So spent that my during-the-rest-of-the-week 2:00 pm crash usually hits at 11:30 am, while lying on the floor with my progeny in the middle of Tummy/Rolling All Over the Place Time, as I nod off mid-pseudo-engaging-baby-critical-thinking-question-about-the-toys-they-are-marvelling-at. (“What color is that ball? What shape is that ba–Zzzzzz…Ow! Did you just punch me in the nose? … What color is my nose?”)
With that in mind, I usually set few, very small goals for Fridays.
Take last Friday for example. It was the end of my busiest week in a while. In addition to my regular duties (huh-huh, I said duties), I’ve been doing some contracted tech work as well as boxing belongings and seeking out new residences for the Pseudonymous family since we have recently decided to move.
And so, as I resuscitated myself with my super-charged Friday morning coffee, I decided to aim low. Aside from the givens (twin care, dishwashing, ninjutsu training), my primary objective was to browse the iTunes store for music and determine what I would purchase with the $15 gift card my wife got me over a month ago for Father’s Day. (Would you believe I haven’t had time?) I’ve had it sitting out on the counter as a reminder ever since receiving it from my wonderful wife, and have caught taunting glimpses of it while making bottles, folding laundry, and soothing meltdowns.
With months of trophy husbanding experience under my belt, I believed this iTunes iTask to finally be within my iGrasp. Even if the kids were particularly grumpy, I could line up my sonic candidates like reality show contestants waiting for the red rose of approval, hit play, and discriminatingly consume. In fact, the Twinfants would most certainly enjoy the ever-changing sensory stimulation generated by the constant toggling of song clips.
No problem, right?
Well, of course not. Why would I write about that? It failed miserably.
The primary reason the plan disintegrated like a drool-drenched Graduates Puff was that we had absolutely no Nap Overlap. Those of you who are Loyal Readers know this means my children were never asleep at the same time. In fact, for the entire day, they were on completely opposite sleep schedules. As soon as I delivered one to Sleepy Town, the other was just waking up. All. Freaking. Day.
Now, I will admit this situation has its advantages, for instance facilitating quality one-on-one time with each of the twins individually, which is something all the books about twins that I don’t have time to read seem to say is important. On the other tiny hand, such a rhythm does not facilitate Daddy getting a freaking second to himself. Not to go to the bathroom, not to eat (unless I combine them), not even to accomplish tedious tasks like defunkifying dishes, laundering laundry, and listening to smooth on-hold jazz while waiting to haggle with customer service representatives.
Plus, at almost seven months old, the Twinfants are teething and especially irritable. As a matter of fact, amidst Frankenstein-monster moans akin to dueling banjos, transparent vampire-fang drool trickles flowing from each mouth corner, angry head-butts to Daddy’s sternum, and the frantic gnawing of foam books, plush pandas, and human fingers, we have sprouted the First Two Teeth of Pseudonymous: The Next Generation, with our son’s inaugural chomper emerging on Thursday evening and our daughter’s fashionably late pearly white fanfaring into view Saturday morning.
Guess which day was right in the middle? That’s right. Friday, the day iFailed.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Although both kids had their share of I-need-you-to-hold-me-right-now-Daddy-or-I-will-shatter-every-window-with-my-squeals moments, there were also a few peppered throughout the day when they seemed content, or, as Snoop Dogg wouldn’t say: “Rollin’ down the floor, sucking teething rings, sippin’ on baby formula, laid back, with their minds on their (stuffed) monkeys and their monkeys on their minds.”
Then, I got greedy.
On at least three occasions, I thought, Okay, they seem pretty chill. I could maybe squeeze in a song sample or twenty. I even lowered my laptop’s volume and strategically placed it in accessible but out-of-baby-sight locations, as I have learned they do NOT like to compete with Skynet for my attention. On my final Hail Mary attempt, I even tried earbuds. However, every listening session ended abruptly, about five seconds into the first clip, as they noticed I was not staring at them, hanging on their every gesture, the only proper response for which, of course, is a tantrum. This did not make for an optimal music previewing atmosphere.
I’ll admit I missed an opportunity around 2 pm, just after bottle-guzzling. They were happily cooing at their playthings on the floor, and I home-run trotted to my computer. This is it! I thought. It’s all happening! I chose an album (The Features’ Wilderness) clicked “play all samples,” and rejoined the munchkins on the floor. As they chattered and smiled at me occasionally, I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling fan, listening to my prospective new jams. Which made me think of seeing the band live when they came to Phoenix a few years ago. It was just my wife and me then. Simpler times. Not “better” times by any means, but definitely simpler. And I remembered the electrifying onstage energy the band had, and the badass hollow-bodied guitar their frontman rocked. Which made me think about how Pseudonymous hasn’t “Gone Electric” in a while. I’ve been folking out with the Twins acoustically, but haven’t “plugged in” for months. I should do that. Do I need new strings?
Before I knew it, the song previews had ended 15 minutes ago and I had still only paid attention to the first five seconds of the first song.
Now, before you decide that this poor, frustrated soul is clearly on his last nerve and take it upon yourself to send in your magical parenting guru suggestions about what I should have done in order to achieve my iGoal even though you: 1) weren’t here, 2) weren’t as tired as I was, and 3) have never met my children and thus don’t know what works (and what doesn’t) with them, I want to emphasize that in the scheme of things, I don’t care about the stupid iTunes card. (I also already tried your suggestion anyway since eating Wheaties daily makes me a Champion by definition.)
The more I pushed to “git-r-done,” the more I realized that purchasing music was just not in the cards for me that day. (Haha, get it?) Even more importantly, every day I could focus on achieving little tasks like buying music, getting every last dish washed, or writing yet another genius blog post–and in doing so, continually exasperate myself because the Twins usually need me more than I anticipate. Or, instead, I could remind myself what a privilege staying home to raise them is. Even though I spend more time with them than anyone else, it still feels like they’re growing up so quickly. I know although my wife enjoys her job, it doesn’t hold a candle to seeing them all day on weekends, and remember when I first returned to work from paternity leave, I felt like I was missing out all day.
Every moment I have with them is an opportunity for me to savor the awe-inspiring experience that is parenthood and, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
There will be plenty of time for me to buy my stupid music in the future, and yes, over the weekend, I was finally able to redeem the gift card one night once the kids went to sleep. As it turned out, it was an even better Fathers’ Day present than it first appeared to be.
It reminded me how lucky I am to be a Dad.
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If not, maybe you just need a day off. It worked for Cameron.