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)