24 May 2012

Dazed and Confused

So, school’s out. For the summer. Yeah. That happened.

I have no idea how. The Doozer has completed an entire year of school. Preschool, sure, yeah, but again—an entire year of it. It’s over.

How did this happen?

Of course, we do have a stack of artwork to attest to the passage of time. His early, Pollock-influenced, spattered canvases: raw, spare, impulsive, informal. And then there are the more recent additions, the more complex constructions, the ones that required scissors and glue and sometimes multiple types of materials. He learned to use scissors. He learned to use glue. A lot can happen in a school year.

He’s taller. He has bigger feet. He got a baby brother. He discovered the Avengers. And realized that his favorite kind of cheese is smoked gouda. Mastered the Kindle. And Angry Birds. He made friends. Kind of. Got a girlfriend (we think). He used tools. Memorized the dialogue from Cars and the lyrics to “Rumor Has It.”

He grew up. He’s growing up.

The picture of the two of us on the front stoop from the first day of school? I could’ve sworn that the wife took it yesterday. We look the same. And totally different, I realize now. It was just yesterday. And it was also forever ago. Part of me wants to live in that moment forever.

All of me knows that I’ll never have that moment again.

It was only nine months or so, but it was also a lifetime. A blueprint, for the years to come. He’ll just go to school more and more. There will be more accomplishments, more projects, more teachers, more assignments, more friends. More, more, more. Then Little Brother will join him and everything will double. Experiences will multiply. I imagine it will be hard to keep up.

School years will end. Summers will pass. Time will go on.

I know I can’t keep it from happening, but perhaps I can slow it down. Enjoy every peal of laughter as the Doozer runs through the sprinkler on a warm, sunny day. Smile at the smear of soft serve ice cream across his face on a Friday evening. Sing exuberantly along with him in the car to the songs of Adele (until he insists that I stop). Watch him on every trip to the zoo or the lake or a family barbecue, see him smile, hear him laugh, feel his boundless energy. Be the boys of summer. Every day. Every hour. Enjoy. Appreciate. Love.

Because soon again the leaves will change, the temperature will drop. T-shirts and shorts will be traded for new sneakers and sweatshirts. Summer will end and school will resume. And in a few more falls, the Doozer and his Little Brother will both be headed off, away from home. More school days, more experiences, more life.

We have just a few short summer hours to spend together. Better make the most of it.

18 May 2012

Eight or Higher, Bro

In this week’s season finale of How I Met Your Mother, new parents Marshall and Lily found themselves having to draw a line in the sand with their single, childless (and slightly self-involved) friend, Ted. While tending to their newborn, Marvin Wait For It (aka, best middle name ever) Erikson, they had to explain to Ted that they were now in charge of a human life and could not handle his issues, unless they rated an eight or higher on a scale of importance.

At the time, he was trying to figure out how to respond to a text he’d received from a girl he just met. The more Ted tried to elicit advice about this non-situation, the more Marshall repeated the phrase, “Eight or higher, bro. Eight or higher, bro.”

It was funny. It also got me thinking. About what separates us now, those of us with children and those without. It really is a thing you cannot explain.

I’ll admit, this must look crazy at times (or all the time) to someone on the outside. You’re exhausted, always. Not just physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Just drained. There's not much room left in your brain for other stuff. You try not to fall behind. To maintain communication and friendships and everything else. And you fail. Because you're responsible for another human life. It’s not just a time management issue. I mean, you try to approach it that way. But you can’t.

Because, again, you’re responsible for a human life. We are keeping them alive. Every minute of every day there is that one goal: Make sure that they keep breathing. That’s a heavy responsibility. This entity’s entire well-being and survival is based solely on my ability to not drop the ball. That’s a lot of pressure. There is nothing else like it. And if you’re already a person susceptible to anxiety, it only gets worse. Every waking moment is a potential horror show.

And really, you brought this all upon yourself.

When news came recently that a friend was expecting their third child, we predictably expressed complete and utter bafflement as to how one would approach and manage such a situation.

“Are we just not good at this?” my wife wondered aloud.

I did not respond.

But it got me thinking. Maybe we’re not. Maybe we have no business being parents. If we can’t maintain contact with our friends, if we can’t go about our lives and be ourselves and not just completely fall to pieces and accomplish absolutely nothing except for merely keeping our progeny alive, then perhaps we aren’t cut out for this racket?

Of course, we are routinely presented with examples of parenting worse than our own. On a recent trip to the farm with the Doozer’s preschool, I spotted the rotten apples mere moments after arrival. They inevitably acted out and time after time, parents expressed surprise and disbelief about their behavior. Really? I kept thinking. Really? I could tell your kid was a little shit the moment I laid eyes on him and now you’re acting like he’s never done this before? Right. Nice parenting.

And also, thank you for making me feel just slightly better about myself. At least momentarily.

Of course, I’m sleep-deprived. So you could easily dismiss all this as the lunatic ramblings of an overtired, stressed-out, growing-dumber-by-the-moment parent of a newborn. Overly tired and seriously hopped-up on coffee. Desperately attempting to crawl out of the black hole that is the experience of being the parent of a newborn child.

So, I'm sorry if I forgot your birthday, or haven’t called you back in a while, or generally seem to have dropped off the face of the earth. I’m a jerk. Granted. But I’m also a parent. Which is not to suggest that I’m better than you if you’re not. Not at all. Dumber than you, perhaps. For having chosen this path. Who knows. Time will tell.

Now let me go check if those kids are still breathing . . .

10 May 2012

Title TK

Ed. Note: Although we received a draft of a new blog post for this week, it has turned out to be nothing more than completely incoherent gibberish. If we did not know any better, it would appear to have been composed by candlelight with a broken crayon, after a four-day, meth-induced jaunt of vicious debauchery and complete sleeplessness.

It would seem that the author may have gone off the rails due to the exacting pressures of keeping a newborn child alive, as well as the side effects of general sleep deprivation. But don’t worry. We’re sure the situation will turn around. Eventually. Keep watching this space for further dispatches from the frontline of new parenthood. Coming soon. We promise. We think.

Honestly, though, we think he may have been inebriated or something when he was writing, we can’t really think of any other reasonable explanation, but at the same time we cannot be certain and we definitely don’t want to pass judgment, but really, seriously, who drinks like that when they have a newborn child in their care? What kind of person does that?

Okay, maybe you can be the judge. Most of what we got was just a random (and repetitive) assortment of notes and keywords (at least, that’s what we think this is):
Sleep. Diapers. Diapers. Sleep. Poop. Lightning McQueen. Poop. Sleep. Stab my eyeballs. Filthy, dirty urchins. Lazy. Useless. Dirty. Food everywhere. War of attrition. F’ing McQueen! Why do people think this is funny? Beer. Binky. Binky. Swaddle. Binky. Beer. Poop. Noise. Screaming. Death. Sweet relief. How awesome is Girls? Somebody kill me. Diapers!

Again, we apologize for the technical difficulties. And we assure you that we will have it all sorted out by next week. Or the week after. Or possibly in 17 years and 10 months.

As always, thank you for reading. And . . . good day.

04 May 2012

Man to Man

I’m not the biggest aficionado of . . . the sport, so I didn’t entirely understand the reference when I first heard it. When we were awaiting the arrival of our second child, and on the rare occasion that we expressed to outsiders our concern about being able to handle the new dynamic, we often heard, That’s easy, That’s still man-to-man defense. It’s not like zone.

I guess I still don’t know what any of this means.

It’s amazing to me how insanely difficult it is to get out of the house. For anything. For any reason. There’s just so much stuff, for one. So much stuff. Like, so much stuff that it requires multiple trips from the house to the garage to load the car. To go to, like, the grocery store. Ridiculous.

This week, I was recruited by the wife to accompany her and both our children on a class field trip for the Doozer’s preschool to a real farm. There was no way she was going to embark on this endeavor alone. She wasn’t prepared. I understand. I wouldn’t be, either.

I’m glad to report that we survived. And I wouldn’t even go so far as to describe it as an ordeal. We managed. We were late. Obviously. But we still managed.

And this is our life now. Man-to-man defense. And it does feel like defense. It’s like these two children are the barbarians at the gate, trying to crash our lovely grown-up existence and reduce our world to rubble and chaos. As a result, we must divide and conquer, man up and face them head-on, preventing the complete and utter annihilation of our way of life and well-being. It means devising a divide and conquer strategy on a daily basis, tagging in and out of challenging situations, steeling ourselves to confront these pint-sized terrorists.

So, at the farm, while watching our son clamber over bales of hay, feed a goat, milk a cow, and sit on a very small horse (not ride, mind you, just sit), I also calmed a fussy baby, changed his diaper on a picnic table, and generally kept him occupied. And for the most part, yes, it was a success.

Although, I did discover a downside to this new arrangement. With your focus fixated on both your kids (and possibly even just one at a time), it’s difficult to let in other stuff. You know, for instance, the directions of a farmer on how to properly feed a pig. Which is kind of important information if it is something that you have never done before—and are going to allow your three-and-a-half year-old child do it.

So, I only heard part of the directions. And after lunch, allowed the Doozer to stick his hand through the fence into the pig pen and drop part of a strawberry and a wrap onto the ground. And as the giant pig charged across the enclosure toward my son’s outstretched hand, it dawned on me that Farmer Don might have said something about not doing it this way. About dropping food from a greater height, above the fence. And possibly even to have an adult do it.

Luckily, the Doozer pulled his hand back and watched through the fence as the pig ate the remains of his lunch off the ground, none the wiser. Looking around, I saw no scolding reactions from fellow parents or the wife. That was close. But yes, I’m the guy who almost allowed his son to have his hand bitten off by a giant pig. Yep, that’s me.

So, man-to-man defense at the farm can be qualified as a success. The same cannot necessarily be said of the period later that evening when I was left alone with both children for several hours as my wife attended to what was surely very important business of some kind, as I attempted to wrangle a screaming baby and an overtired toddler at bedtime and feeding time, without the aid of even a small amount of alcohol to help me maintain composure.

But that’s a story for another time.