My wife’s employer graciously allows her to work from home one day a week so she’s able to spend more time with the Twins, and although she’s asking them not to slam on her laptop’s keyboard for a good portion of the day, it’s better than not seeing them for most of the day. However, because she’s not home very often, we’ve noticed that when she is home, the Twins tend to be way more whiny than usual. Apparently, this is a thing with moms and kids–that kids act more needy around Mom than with Dad–as many of my wife’s friends with kids have reported the same phenomenon. I have to say, I feel fortunate to be the one they “man up” with instead of the one they cling to and whine at every five minutes.
This week, Mommy’s work-from-home day was especially challenging in the whining department, and once the kids were in bed for the night and we’d poured ourselves some wine, she offered a particularly eloquent reflection on the last 14 hours:
“I love being home with my kids. Except for when they drive me bananas.”
— My Wife
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.
Six Sigma is a process in business management that strives to find the most efficient method for performing tasks, supported by thorough analysis and statistical findings. While it is said to work phenomenally in the business realm, I believe such critical task analysis can be just as helpful at home–after all, it’s my place of business.
As a stay-at-home parent of twins, I need to be efficient. Any way that I can streamline what I do literally makes things twice as easy and keeps me from enduring a meltdown duet, and I’m always searching for thrilling new ninja skills to apply on the domestic battlefield.
For the duration of my husbandly homemaking career, I have kept my methods under wraps, locked away in a heavily-guarded location that makes the Disney Vault look as secure as a wallet shoved all the way into the toe of a shoe on the beach. However, I have been given security clearance from the U. S. Department of Defense to share these secrets with you, as long as I do so gradually, in brief installments.
On that note, here is the first.
Six Sigma Parenting Tip #1: Snack While Peeing
Those of you Loyal Readers who are parents know that while caring for young children, a trip to the bathroom becomes less casual, leisurely, and spontaneous than in your distant past life. This is because using the facilities means putting yourself in a state where you cannot necessarily immediately respond to any urgent child matter at hand, particularly while mid-stream.
Thus, affording oneself an excretion opportunity typically involves the placing of children in cribs, Exersaucers, various harnessed baby furniture items, or simply bringing the child(ren) on a field trip to see Where the Magic Happens. It also often ends with a panicked flush and rushed hand-cleansing over a lavish score of screeches and whines, as the thirty seconds or so you’ve attempted to acquire for yourself are simply too long for your little ones to endure.
Another once-leisurely pastime that becomes a breakneck parenting dash is eating. Gone are the days of actually sitting down at a human-style table, imbibing your meal without interruption, especially during breakfast and lunch when you’re a trophy spouse like myself. Given the narrow window of both Twinfants being moderately distracted or even–*GASP*–asleep at the same time, it’s go time. I’m suddenly in college again, seeking out the food item with the smallest from-deciding-to-eat-it-to-putting-it-into-my-mouth time, and I can almost hear my fraternity brothers chanting “Chug! Chug! Chug!” as I perform near-kamikaze hydration.
Since these two necessary-to-life processes–eating and excreting–can become such hindrances to maintaining sweet radio silence from your babies, why not combine them?
Before you get all grossed out, just think about it.
If you’re already going to the bathroom, you’ve secured your children, and possibly any well-meaning canines that love to swallow baby socks, not because they taste good, but because it gains the ever-waning attention of their master. With your household dependents on lockdown, you plan on being occupied for a good 30 to 60 seconds anyway, so you might as well pick out a quick snack from the pantry.
I suggest granola bars. Not only are they scrumptious–they also take just about as long to eat as it does to exit bodily fluids.
NOTE: This Six Sigma Parenting Tip is designed exclusively for Waste Type #1 bathroom trips. I fully and literally subscribe to the folk notion of “not sh!tting where one eats,” so if you will be depositing a twosie, Twinfamy does NOT condone eating during the extraction. That’s just gross. (If this whole idea still makes your skin crawl, I’ve accounted for that, too. Check out Version 3 below.)
Depending on your personal preference/microbial outlook, I am providing procedures for three versions of this genius multitasking innovation.
Version 1: The Classic
Once you’re in the bathroom, assume your gender-fueled position. Whatever equipment you’re packing, you’re sure to have a free hand that you probably haven’t even used to touch anything that would make it too dirty to eat with. Use this hand to feed yourself.
Version 2: The Chug
If it is thirst-quenching you seek, this slight variation of The Classic involves any bottled beverage of your choosing (water, sports drinks, malt liquor, etc.). Simply position yourself, place the bottle in your mouth, and bottoms up. I recommend bottled versus open-lidded beverages as their narrow openings provide spill-free mouth delivery while taking care of business. This is an excellent way to stay hydrated, as you are replenishing liquids leaving your body.
Version 3: The Germaphobe
If it disgusts you to eat while performing this act, fear not! You can still rock this tip with a slight variation. Take your snack with you to the bathroom and complete all bathroom-oriented tasks first.
Then, on your way back, linger just outside the bathroom door, out of your loinfruits’ eyeshot, and chow down. In fact, if they are quiet and happy, I suggest hiding here until they are not, as it may be your only free moment of the day. If you bring your smartphone, you can even read Twinfamy from e-cover to e-cover.
Sure, you may hear the natives getting restless during any of these processes, but you, my friend, have killed two birds with one stone.
And that makes you a Six Sigma Parent.
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If not, wait here and watch Elmo for a minute. I’ll be right back.
The moment I get both twins down for a nap is one of victory, invariably punctuated by a touchdown dance I’ve developed during my six-week career as starting Cry Receiver. It begins with the Running Man at a safe distance from 2nd (kid) Down, erupting into a Super Mario Brothers Fist-Raised Leap as I cross into the End Zone/Kitchen–during which I bump the ceiling, triggering a shower of Gilded Pacifiers–followed by the spike of a full baby bottle on the floor (empty ones don’t thud or bounce quite as badassly). I Raise the Roof with legs of Jell-O while willing myself not to White-Man’s-Overbite, and then, as I go into a little soft-shoe routine, die-hard face-painted fans, animal mascots, and cheerleaders emerge from drawers, cabinets, and Crock Pots, all remarkably donning the color of whatever spit-up-stained t-shirt I happen to be wearing. I sign the bottle with a Sharpie, fling it into the masses–who will argue for the ensuing two hours about who had it first–and launch myself into the Dawg Pound, crowd-surfing my way through high-fives.
Yeah, it’s a work in progress.
The “Holy Crap, a Nap Overlap!” Shuffle (working title) may seem a tad extravagant, but that’s because rarely does this occasion occur. Unlike many modern technologies, you cannot set twinfants to automatically synchronize. People often assume twins are uncannily in-tune. I definitely see yin and yang dynamics emerging, but my experience has shown that–as fraternal, boy/girl twins–they truly are two unique people, and with that comes unique sleep patterns. (I’ve heard identical twins tend more towards similar sleep habits but won’t at all claim to be an expert on that.)
It goes like this. My son, the Reigning Naptime Champion, usually conks right out, often even collapsing in his jumper or drifting off mid-teething-ring gnaw. My daughter, on the other hand, will show signs of tiredness, but will resist the falling asleep part at all costs. So after soothing, rocking, defiant de-socking, carrying, pacing, wide-awake goofy-facing, singing, swinging, pacifier flinging, and even laying her down to self-sooth until she’s so loud she’s about to wake her brother resulting in an fiery inferno of dual banshee shrieks, by the time I finally get her to sleep, I’ll often hear him waking from a 45-minute nap before I can even Mario Jump.
However, against these insurmountable odds, I usually manage to get them down at the same time once a day. This magical phenomenon, Daddy’s Time, allows me to do. Whatever. I. Want. It feels strangely similar to my parents letting me stay home alone while they ran errands, leaving my ecstatic mind reeling with unfathomable possibilities. Should I go through drawers? Blow out the stereo speakers? Snoop for Christmas presents?
So, once the crowd returns to their hiding places in appliances and cabinets, I am left alone with my thoughts, the most common of which are the following, in this order.
I first must harness the butterflies and giggling pink unicorns in my head and decide what I will do, because the clock is already ticking. A quick survey of the towering pile of dirty baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers in the sink, the full laundry hamper, and the labyrinth of play gyms on the floor reminds me that I simply must work on my next blog post because the idea is genius and will surely be the one to gain the attention of a publisher who will commission Twinfamy: The Book which will be optioned for Twinfamy: The Movie or possibly The HBO Series, which will in turn surely win a record-breaking amount of awards and acclaim, and I will be so wealthy that I can pay someone else to do the damn dishes, laundry, and tidying.
2. Oh, no! Don’t wake up yet!
Too often, I’ve begun The Shuffle prematurely. I’ll hear a youthful groan and an absolute hush falls across the stadium as we all spin towards the JumboTron to watch the baby monitor video feed. You could hear a grain of rice cereal drop as we await the child’s decision, willing him or her to drift back off.
Other times, I’ll be in the middle of something crucial, such as finally finishing the episode of Futurama I’ve been trying to watch during Daddy’s Time all week (since my wife dislikes cartoons, even stellar grown-up ones), or again, penning that all-important next post, but as I finally hog-tie a muse and the ideas come oinking out, I’ll hear a rustling. Oh, no, please God, just give me five more minutes…Or if you’re having a good day, twenty works for me, too…
It’s also at about this point in the day when my dog realizes she has the floor. “Hey! Wait a minute! Those little upstaging bastards are asleep! It’s my turn!” She’ll make a dog-beeline for the closet and return on a unicycle, juggling rawhide bones, and wearing a scrolling LED belt buckle that reads: “Come on, Dad! Let’s play fetch, and then you can rub my tummy, and then…” And so, once I see her enormous black eyes glimmer expectantly, I have about three seconds to stop her from whining, barking, or howling Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and waking the kids. Having given my poor, outshone-by-Twinfants canine some attention, I will then return to chores and/or Awesome Things. She’s usually fine with this until any sound whatsoever breaks the silence, prompting her to alert me via bark messaging that the air conditioning just clicked on, or the garbage truck has arrived, or that I have just closed the microwave, which brings me to…
4. How badly do I want to close this microwave?
Whether I’m finally nuking my first meal of the day or washing and steaming the aforementioned baby apparatus in our microwave sterilizer (neither of which I usually get around to until Nap Overlap), the microwave is a staple of Daddy’s Time. The problem, of course, it that it is impossible to close a microwave quietly. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, try. I’ll wait.
See? Told you. (My apologies if you’ve woken up napping children during Your Time.)
Even when I try to soften the blow with my fingertip as a silencer, I’m left with the same deafening bang and a sore finger. If this predicament were a movie trailer, it would go something like this:
In a world…
where silence MUST prevail…
on every slam.
Can YOU take the heat?
In theaters this Summer.
5. Did I brush my teeth today?
Now, before you get all grossed out, let me explain. I take morning coffee seriously, and carefully select blends I find to be delicious. However, the Tooth-Brushing/Coffee-Drinking Paradox dictates that brushing when I wake up causes the paste taste to linger and infiltrate my morning mug. I endured Minty Baking Soda Mochas for years via travel mug on my way to work, but can savor coffee with a clean palate now that I stay home.
The only caveat is the all-consuming nature of my “dayjob” sometimes causes me to forget to brush once the coffee’s done. All hail Daddy’s Time.
6. What did my wife tell me not to forget to do?
I knew it was something, and it must have been important, otherwise she wouldn’t have made a point to tell me. I think it had a “W” in it. I could ask her, but then she’ll know I forgot. Dammit.
Additonal Twinformation for New Parents
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
My wife and I consider the microwave sterilizer I mentioned in Thought Number Four one of our best new-parent purchases. After a quick scrub and rinse in the sink, we throw them in this badboy, heat for 2 minutes, and play a Ring Toss/Horseshoes-style game to get them on the drying rack. I highly recommend this fine piece of equipment, especially over those disposable bags that burn the hell out of you every damn time and aren’t “effective” after X amount of uses.
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If not, that’s fine. Just please don’t wake up my kids.