Monthly Archives: February 2014

Other People’s Children are Adorable

Last night we had some good friends over for dinner. Before they had even had the chance to close the door my five year old boy bounces out of his chair at the dinner table and runs into his arms laughing and screaming and shouting “Yah!”. I mean, common, that is about the best welcome you could ask for. I felt bad that his wife didn’t get the same welcome only because she entered our house second and I considered for a moment imitating my son’s response with her, but I was afraid it might end in an awkward embrace. So I passed on that. My son continued to climb on him and giggle and laugh and be cute. Well, cute to them. To me, it wasn’t so cute.

When we have people over for dinner, depending on what I am making, I sometimes have the kids eat first. Since this night was Thai curries that tend to the spicier side of life, I had my two youngest dine early so my oldest and the adults could eat together. So when they walked in and he jumped out of his chair, the only thing that went through my mind was the fact that I had just told him to sit down and eat. Not cute. And when I reminded him to eat his dinner he promptly ignored me and giggled and tossed his curly haired head back in a laugh. No. Not cute.

Some other friends of mine have a four year old girl and twin boys under two. They all have blonde hair and blue eyes and are always smartly dressed for church. I was at their house for dinner awhile ago and walked in to have all three of the kids want me to play with them. How adorable! They would laugh and giggle and hand me trains to play with and come up to me with their arms raised in the air like they were worshipping me, or that’s how I like to imagine it at least. Maybe they were wanting to be held, but I just let them stand there. Anyways, they were so adorable. To me. To their parents they were people who needed to be put to bed. Not cute.

Yesterday my five year old was drawing pictures. He has just developed the ability to appropriately configure people to have bodies and eyes and hands instead of the pumpkin people he normally draws. While I was conducting school with my daughter, he was out at the kitchen table composing various pictures. The picture below is of a fireman. I love the happy face, the two toned fireman’s hat, the hose, and the little fire he is putting out. Very cute.

Steve's Phone 062

Cute.

The next picture he drew was of a man driving a truck. I asked him why he chose to draw such a random subject and he replied that he thought I should get a job. He thought that I should be a UPS driver so I could get more money and buy more unspecified stuff. I replied that my job is to take care of my kids. I then let my guard down and asked him if he thought I was good at my job.

Steve's Phone 061

Not cute. Ok, a little cute.

“No.” he replied. “You need a real job.”

Not cute.

At the zoo the other day other people’s adorable kids are running around being amazed by all the animals. Small fingers pointed in amazement, cute baby noises, eyes wide with amazement. My kids on the other hand are misbehaving by not listening to my commands to stay by my side and to stop running. Isn’t it adorable how excited those children are to see the giraffe? Oh, look at the little one running to see the lions! Ah, the baby is yawning….isn’t that cute! My kids on the other hand need to stop trying to touch the tiger by climbing over the wall. I’m glad they’re excited but they need to relax a little. And, oh, your yawning? Ya, get your butt to bed earlier tonight. Not cute.

I try to stand back from my children on occasion and see the cuteness. The way they giggle and play with each other. Their small fingers and wide eyes. They are cute. They are also work, a lot of work. I think panda bears are cute too but I bet if I had to clean up panda bear poop all the time I wouldn’t think they were that cute. I bet if I did get a real job I might think my kids are as cute as other peoples kids, but then I would miss them because of their enhanced cuteness. What am I to do? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it involves delivering boxes.

Never…Stops…Talking…

never stops talking

If silence is a virtue, then my children are hedonistic pagans bent on creating anarchy and chaos. The only time they are silent is when they are asleep or staring at a screen. If they are asleep there is a good chance I am too so that time doesn’t count, and since we have a disciplinary system that controls how much screen time they get I am often left with children who simply make noise.

One of them whistles. Yes, whistles. A lot. Another one likes to whine and chew gum at the same time. And the last one, my youngest, is a Pentecostal in training.

All of my children have gone through a faze where they talk incessantly. My youngest child is currently smack in the middle of it. If we were Pentecostals, I would think he was speaking in tongues all the time due to the sheer number of sounds coming out of his mouth. Words, utterances, guttural noises, and bizarre facial expressions come forth out of him all day long. While he appears possessed by a spirit at certain times, I am unsure it is the Holy one. I think Holy spirits are supposed to bring meekness, gentleness, and self control. This one brings screaming, shouting, and animal sounds. It could possibly be an Old Testament spirit or maybe I should consider converting to the charismatic side of life. He would at least get extra credit while going through this stage.

I take much comfort from the thought that he is just going through a stage although everything I know from my two older children tells me he is simply being himself. They make noise all day too and they are way past his age. Still, I’m not going to stop telling myself this untruth because it gets me past the moments and getting me past those moments is better than throwing the adult fit I feel like throwing because, as most of us know, adult fits can be noisy.

Before I was a father I would spend time over at a friends house. His kids would occasionally call for him about a dozen random things as children are want to do and he would habitually ignore them the first three times. This drove me crazy. I  secretly vowed I would always answer my future children right when they asked me something so as to avoid this mindboggling game. Now I get it. If you don’t answer them sometimes they just go away.

So much so, in fact, that I used to have five kids.

My children will ask me over and over and over for whatever random thing that pops into their minds. Can I have a snack? I’m cold, can you get me a blanket? Will you hold me? Sheesh people! What do I look like, your father? Wait a minute…yah, that doesn’t make me look very good. I’m really a pretty good dad, but sometimes the noise just gets to me.

If all the noise were gone, as some day it will be, would I miss it? Yes, terribly. The noise is, in fact, a sign of the vitality and individuality that inhabits my house. It is a sign that the people I love the most are living their life in my presence. They feel free enough to just be who they are and say what they need and make random annoying noises. Without them I would be lonely, or asleep; either way I would, after a small amount of time, miss them.

Fine. I’ll put up with the noise.

Well, someone is (what?) calling (huh?) for their (I can’t hear you!) father,

Steve

The Laundry Man Cave

laundry man cave

I am a man that enjoys a little solitude from time to time. A cup of coffee on a quiet porch. A book under the shade of a tree. A lock on the bathroom door. Before my wife and I embarked on the journey of creating a family I often found myself fishing alone, journaling, or reading. I liked being alone left to my own thoughts and feelings. It’s not that I didn’t like the company of other people; obviously, I fell in love and got married and a strong social life has always been important to me. Still, solitude was something in which I found a lot of comfort and clarity.

And then came the kids. Early on nap time was a welcomed break,  but that soon evolved into getting everything done that couldn’t be accomplished when the little one was awake which was virtually everything. This conundrum only got worse as we added child number two and then child number three. My days were filled with people constantly at my feet, on my back, and in the bathroom. They would fight with each other over toys, fight me for supremacy, and fight for the day old cracker on the floor needing me to stand a constant watch to ensure everyone’s life and liberty. Solitude became an idea from my youthful past like innocence and gas free Mexican food.

Now that my youngest is five, I find I can step out of the room for a few minutes without the fear of Family War XXILXILXIXLX starting. But, I can’t just go anywhere. The kitchen leaves me open to the requests from the living room to bring someone a snack. Out of the library door come the calls to fix the internet. My own bedroom is somehow the family movie theater with my bathroom as the common room for everyone. I have only one room in my house that no one, and I mean no one, will enter. The laundry room.

I have made the laundry room my new man cave. I know that other men adorn their rooms with guns and dead animals and beer cans but I chose the fresh scents of Downey because, and this is the only reason, no one will enter my space. I can spend as much time as I like in my new cave and while people may call for me, no one will come and get me. Why? Because I am armed with a basket full of clean clothes and, hey, while your down here, why don’t you go put these away. Nobody in my house wants to hear that and so everyone stays away.

I suppose until my children eventually move out I will be the one doing the laundry. Laundry suits my solitary nature. Sorting, washing, and folding has its own rhythm and regularity. Maybe eventually I can sneak in an ipad and wine fridge and kick my feet up on the dirty pile of laundry. Then I will have all that I could want at least for a couple of hours.

Homeschooling Demon Spawn

demon spawn

When our first child was born my wife and I talked a lot about homeschooling our kids. We didn’t consider homeschooling as a way to protect our kids from the evil, godless world around us but more to protect the world from our evil, godless children. No, I’m kidding. No, no I’m not kidding. Yes I am.

As she grew older I began to question the wisdom of our homeschooling dreams. Our daughter never went through the “terrible twos”. She went through the evil demon zombie stage and brought the term “stubborn” to new levels in the dictionary. While I was pretty confident I could educate any of our children, this new manifestation of demon spawn was a little intimidating. When her younger brother was born just six weeks into her newly manifested subspecies of humanity, I was sure she would have pulled his arms off and beaten him with them in the time it took me to take out the trash. Because of that, our house went through a period where it didn’t smell so good, but I am happy to report that my son still has both of his arms.

We enrolled her in preschool with the hopes that a little socialization may temper some of her wilder sides. We also took out a personal liability policy just in case she was especially adept at creating anarchy. She cried every morning as we approached the door to her classroom clutching to my leg like I was leaving her with strangers so that I could have a little break, which, of course, I was. Then when I returned three hours later, she would cry that I was taking her from her best friends, which, again, I was. We did this week in and week out for the entire school year.

For some mysterious reason, prekindergarten and kindergarten went off without a hitch. No crying as the teacher pried her off my leg, no grand bargaining about what I would do if she could make it without crying, and no turning of her head in a 360 degree circle. She seemed to be having fun at school and so reserved all of her misdeeds for the moment she walked back into the house.

She continued through her scholastic career all the while slowly maturing. As she completed second grade the thoughts of homeschooling started to creep back in, as did my doubts. I wondered if I could really handle her all day, everyday, for months on end. Could I maintain my well designed façade as a patient and loving father if we were sitting side by side her trying to teach her the basics of algebra? These and many other doubts went through my mind but in the same way as I ignored the doubts about being a good father before I created her, I ignored my own doubts once again and decided to homeschool.

We are now onto our second year of homeschooling. Having done this for two years now I am either a glutton for self induced frustration, or I am trying really hard to do the right thing. Really hard. My daughter is an image of myself and the things I find most frustrating about her are, predictably, my own personal struggles. We both have a hard time with patience. We both could use a little more compassion. We both like soup and noodles which is neither here nor there but is something we hold in common. And, I love here fiercely. I have loved being with her and we know each other in a more complex and nuanced way for our time together.

She has decided to go back to public school next year. She misses the day to day fraternization with other spawn such as herself. I understand. But I am beginning to pray now for a saint of a teacher to continue the exorcism that is the raising of children. Hail Mary, full of grace…

Happy FO Day!

fake

We all know that Valentine’s Day has very little to do with the man whose name graces the day. So let’s move on from that topic and talk about what this day should really be called. FO Day, as in Fake Orgasm Day. I know at first it is a little shocking but give it some time to sink in. Valentine’s Day is about the managing of someone else’s expectations about what constitutes a good time on this particular holiday. You hope to manage their expectations so that no one gets hurt. It’s not that you want to be fake or disingenuous; in fact you’re hoping to communicate that you love them. Its just that putting so much hope in a single day puts a lot of pressure on it and, well, sometimes faking it makes everyone happy.

If you choose to rename the day as I have suggested I think you will find FO Day both lowers and raises your expectations in ways that are both pleasing and beneficial. It lowers you expectations by implicitly acknowledging that, yah, it’s not going to be as good as you hoped it would be. Our secret expectations could never really be met and so we should start to mitigate those desires now. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be fun. Pleasure is found in many ways and just because we may act like we love the flowers and gifts more than we really do doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the ride.

FO Day also raises our expectations by remembering that, hey, we’re still going to get something out of today. Someone is trying to say that they love you, that they care enough to put themselves out there like that. They are concerned enough about your feelings to, metaphorically speaking, close their eyes and scream that you’re the best thing they have ever had by the way they bring you chocolates and paper cards. And I’m ok with that. In fact, I really don’t mind. It’s better than just laying there, right?

FO Day should be a celebration. It’s not an embarrassing thing to be loved in that way. And at the end of a long day, when everyone is finally in bed, and all the gifts have been exchanged and the cards open, faking it just helps to put it all to bed.

I Am a Human Tampon

human tampon

Today I shuttled my youngest off to a daycare for the day because I was having problems with my internal absorber. We have had a lot of snow days recently and he has been home for hours and days on end. Hours and days, I say. On end. Inside the house. People always talk about how you need a lot of patience to raise children. Well, they’re right. Children require, at least for me, a lot of absorption. It’s the ability to soak up all the random shit they throw at you. You have to soak it up because you can’t simply give it back to them or let it bounce off of you and on to one of your other kids. It makes you look, well, like them.

All three of my children have now gone through the phase where they say “Dad” a hundred times in a day. It happens around the ages of four or five. Suddenly their little minds start to expand and become aware of things they had never thought of before like how do we get oranges?, why do zebras have stripes?, and why does that woman have a mustache? (yes, out loud). I don’t mind answering any of these questions but the sure pace of them tests my ability to think on my feet. And to make things worse, sometimes they call me and have nothing to say. The other day in the car my youngest says “Dad?” and of course I answer “What?”. He sits there a bit and then says “Umm”. He didn’t have anything to say. He was simply sitting there and spontaneously said my name like spontaneous human combustion but with words. And, even if what they say isn’t directed at me the things they say are still within my field of awareness. Yesterday, out of the blue, I hear him say “Fluffy unicorns!”. What? Where did that come from?

The stress of being the sole adult for the majority of the day goes beyond being the only one to answer questions. The ubiquitous squabble of siblings is in itself an unpleasant fact of life. The sibling relationship, that fertile ground of mutual understanding and protection, is forgotten and discarded at the hint of misunderstanding. Words are shouted, faces are curled in anger, and blood is shed as the house descends into chaos. In the middle of these daily, sometimes hourly, events I am to remain calm, cool, and collected. I am supposed to absorb. I am the family’s sanitary napkin.

I think the not often talked about reality of parenting is that sometimes these people in my house are really annoying. On a human to human level. Annoying. I can’t say that to them because they are my kids and I would hurt their soft, little, brutal hearts but the truth of it is they bother the shit out of me sometimes. They say dumb things and chew gum in my ear and leave crumbs in my bed and smell and spill their food. Since I cannot say these things to them what are my options? Absorb, absorb, absorb, drink wine. I added that last one just to throw you off a little. And I like wine.

So as a human tampon I spend my day soaking up all the yucky stuff. And since these kids did come out of my wife’s who who I think the metaphor of being a tampon is really clever. But I can’t tell them that either. There is no way I could explain how it is that there are people who bleed for five days and don’t die. I don’t think they are old enough to absorb that yet.

Well, someone is calling (absorb) for their (absorb) father (absorb)

Steve

Don’t Ever Role Your Eyes at a Girl

girl rolling eyes

The other day when I dropped my youngest son Sawyer off at preschool we were standing at the door to the class room. I was getting his backpack off and telling him goodbye when I heard a voice from behind him call in a soft, gentle, four year old little girl kind of way “Thawyer, Thawyer”. Behind him was one of his classmate, a beautiful blonde girl with brown eyes. He turns around abruptly and says “What!?”. She demurred at his offensive ways and asked him if he would like to play blocks later, or something like that. Sawyer rolled his eyes and walked away to put his backpack in his cubby clearly offended by the attention of a girl.

Oh how things change. My wife and I have been happily married for 18 years. While we have been married for over 20 years I do not hold those 2 years against her as some of it was surely my fault (or all of it if your reading this, honey!). It’s just that we weren’t totally happy for about 2 years time and the fact that those were not two consecutive years but the grand total of unhappy times gives us pause to remember all of the other great parts of our marriage. Come to think of it, of our 20 years we have been asleep for roughly a third of that so let’s say 7 years of our marriage we have been neither happy or fighting, just lying next to each other with our mouths open. That leaves 11 years of happy marriage. But, if I am to really think about it, we have also worked the entire time save a few short vacations which cuts out roughly another 7 years of not really being together. So I guess we are at 4 years of happy, and I mean happy, marriage.

I think when Sawyer gets a little older I’m going to do the math for him. He seems, at this point in his life, to not want to spend any time with a girl, but I think if I show him the real numbers and how you’re really not together for as much time as he thinks, he might be more receptive to spending time with the little girl at his preschool. She is really adorable. Especially with her four year old lisp. And as he grows older into his teen years I think I can use these same numbers to limit the amount of time he will want to spend with a girl. I will talk to him about not spending all of his emotional energy obsessing over someone he may only spend about a fifth of his actual life with. Or, if you’re going to obsess over her, limit your obsession times to a fifth of your total time. Spend the rest of your time thinking about school, world peace, and how you’re going to take care of me in my old age.

And, (he really needs to listen to this) do not ever role your eyes at a girl. If you make a girl angry when you are young she will relentlessly pursue you in an attempt at revenge. If you do it when you are older, she will leave you before your eyes come back down. It will mess up all of my numbers.