Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good Enough for Me

I am addicted to cookies.  I used to enjoy them a lot as a kid, but now, as a stay-at-home dad, it's almost impossible for me to get through a day without them, especially since the second child was born.  Coffee keeps me awake, but cookies keep me sane.  Yes, I know it's not healthy.  I've tried to wean myself off them from time to time, and I think I'm down to one pack a week.  Sometimes I even opt for the gum, but spearmint is no match for peanut butter chocolate chip.  No, cookies are my vice.  It's a little after noon as I write this paragraph, and I've already had three.  Kyle isn't even home from nursery school yet.

Jennifer has laughed at my addiction, and has mockingly called me a Cookie Monster from time to time.  I admit that I am, but she's not innocent in all this.  No, she's an enabler.  Just look at the thing sitting on top of my refrigerator.  Do you see that?  That's a gift she gave me a couple Christmases ago.  Yes, it is emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo.  Yes, it says, "Big King Size: Ice Cold."   But don't be fooled: there's nothing cold in there.  There's no Coca-Cola in that jar.  That jar was given to me for one thing: cookies.  Sweet, beautiful cookies.  Mmmmmmm.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, the cookie jar.  I suppose it was a necessity.  I was already deep within Nabiscoland by that Christmas, and Jennifer was probably tired of seeing an open package of Chips Ahoy! in the kitchen.  At least the jar is neater.  I like it because it's quieter than the crinkly packaging, especially now that I have to hide my addiction from my three-year-old, who enjoys the treat as much as I do.  Often while he's sitting on the couch, watching TV, I sneak into the kitchen and slowly and carefully open the jar.  I grab a couple and then close the jar, hoping he doesn't notice.  Sometimes I accidentally clang the lid against one of the edges, and then my boy's finely-tuned cookie monitor dings, and I hear, "Can I have a cookie, Daddy?"  It's very difficult to say "no" to that, especially since I can't really say anything at all with a cookie already in my mouth.  Mmmmmmm.

Okay, so maybe that's a little pathetic.  How did it get this bad?  I look at the picture below and I say, how did it NOT get this bad?

Mmmmmmmm.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Blaming the child.  Kyle drove me to this.  Back when I was a brand-new parent, with a brand-new baby, I suddenly found myself alone with brand-new dirty diapers, brand-new tantrums, and brand-new anxiety.  Did you know that when a baby wants a bottle, and when you tell that baby you're getting that bottle ready, the baby doesn't sit and wait patiently?  Did you know that sometimes a pacifier doesn't pacify?  Did you know that a baby can cry when he's tired and cry when he doesn't want to nap - at the same time?  Did you know that diapers sometimes don't do the one and only job they are supposed to do?  Did you know that it often takes at least 45 minutes to get out the door with a baby if you are planning on going outside for about 45 minutes?  I think at some point, as I was rushing around, trying to figure out what this constantly demanding child needed, I realized I needed some relief.  Something for myself.  Amazingly, the taste of a cookie did the trick.  Well, not just one... more like five.  Ah, who cared if there was still half a day 'til bedtime?  I was happy, at least for a moment.  Now there's no going back.

Sometimes I look at the Nutrition Facts and laugh at the serving size.  Really?  Do they actually believe a person would eat just one or two of these things?  Maybe some people do, as a special treat in the middle of the day, on a little plate next to one of those miniature cups of espresso.  But these people probably don't buy several packages of Chocolate Chunk at a time, or even go for the supermarket duplex cookies.  They prefer the quality cookies.  I usually don't have time for quality cookies.  Even when I do, I wouldn't eat just one.  Sometimes Jennifer has to stop me from eating a whole package of Pepperidge Farm in one sitting.  Really, what are these "Nutrition Facts" people thinking? 

Time does play a factor in my cookie-eating abilities, and so does my cookie-loving son's highly-sensitive ears.  I must eat my cookies fast, quietly, and with nobody noticing.  So I have learned how to eat them like a frog eats a fly.  I grab a cookie and, using my tongue, zip the entire thing into my mouth.  Now you see it; now you don't.  It's one talent I have perfected as a stay-at-home dad, and I'm awfully proud of it.  I have eaten hundreds of cookies without Kyle noticing, and now I'm sneaking them in as Adam screams for a bottle.  Mixing formula is a whole lot better while slowly munching on some Oreos.

That's what being a stay-at-home dad has done to me.  Cookies and coffee have kept me from turning prematurely gray during the toughest parts of the past three and a half years.  Could be worse, I suppose.  And while I often cower in a corner with my addiction, there are many other times when my kids make the job easy, and during those times it's fun to live it up... sharing a cookie together.  Mmmmmmmm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Real World

Believe it or not, there are some who say a person must have more than one child to be considered a REAL parent.  Jennifer ran into one such person at work, months before Adam was born.  Naturally she was offended, and a bar fight ensued.  Once Jennifer came home (and recycled the broken beer bottles), she told me about the comment, and I was disgusted too.  How arrogant or mentally unstable would you have to be to say such a thing?

Then Adam was born, and now we're seven months into our two-kid adventure.  Sometime last week Jennifer brought up that comment again, after the two screaming kids went to bed and we began the hours-long process of cleaning up and imbibing.  Once again, we both agreed that the person who made the comment was wrong, and I'm not just saying that because I don't want hate mail or death threats from my closest friends and some family members.  You simply cannot be sprayed by a child at 3 a.m. and not be called a real parent.  But these days it is easier to see why someone would make such a comment.

Here's a little snapshot of what happens most days:  let's begin with my three-year-old son Kyle, who is suddenly STARVING, even though he had a snack not too long ago.  He won't stop telling me about it.  "I need a snack, Daddy!  I need a snack, Daddy!  I need a snack, Daddy!  I need a snack, Daddy!"  This usually happens right after nursery school, while I still have a jacket on and am trying to get a wailing (and also hungry) Adam out of his baby carrier.  Since it is, indeed, snack time, I tell Kyle to hold on and I'll get him one soon.  There's a pause for about a second... then, "I need a snack, Daddy!" 

After I pull Adam out of his carrier, I put him down in his bouncy seat, and I go get Kyle a snack.  Adam starts whining for a teether while Kyle complains that the bowl containing his Goldfish is not up to his high standards.  While this is going on, I measure out some water for Adam's formula and start warming it up in a bowl of hot water.  I get Adam a teether and then take my jacket off.  Adam flings the teether to the floor, and Kyle realizes that Goldfish make him thirsty.  "I need water, Daddy!  I need waaatteerr!" he cries as if we just came back from a retreat in the desert instead of nursery school.  Adam is tired and hungry and sick of being stuck in one place, so he whines some more as he tries to flip himself around in his bouncy seat, and each day he seems closer to succeeding.  I grab him another toy. 

"Daddy, let's play Christmas!"  Kyle has developed a new game in which he and I sit down for a half-hour, pretending to give each other presents by opening two of his plastic boxes over and over again while feigning excitement and gratitude (he's practicing for the future, when gifts become less fun and more underwear-like).  Christmas will last all year in our house.  But tears are streaming down Adam's face, so I tell Kyle not right now.  "But why, Daddy?" he whines, "I want to play Christmas."  I start to mix Adam's formula, and Kyle forgets how to walk.  He trips over his would-be Christmas toy (rejected by that cruel Scrooge Daddy), and falls to the ground.  He starts to give that open-mouthed, wrinkled-faced, red-cheeked cry.  So I stop what I'm doing to give him a hug and I check to make sure there's no blood and all joints are working properly.  Adam stops whining for a second, but once he realizes that his brother is okay, he goes back to his demands.  In very kind words I tell Kyle to suck it up and get over it and then I walk back to Adam's bottle and open container of formula.  I stand there, confused.  Before the cry, did I put one scoop or two scoops in?

As I shake the formula, I pause to tell Kyle to stop licking the dishwasher.  I then put the nipple on the bottle and I stop Kyle again, this time before he makes a pretzel out of Adam's arms.  "Gentle," I say, "he's still a baby."  Kyle doesn't believe me.  By now I probably should have put on the TV, but I plan to save that card for later, when I want to have my coffee without a kid jumping on me and scalding my hands.  I pick Adam up and he's all smiles.  Hooray!  Daddy to the rescue with formula!  I walk towards the chair to feed Adam, when Kyle blurts out, "I have a dirty diaper!"

I suppose I could just let Kyle sit in it, and sometimes I have told him to wait.  But in the end it's easier to just get it over with than to smell it while I'm feeding the baby.  So I put Adam back down, and he screams like he hates my guts and will move out once he can walk.  But then, after I change Kyle diaper and deny a few more of his "Christmas" requests, I grab Adam and he's my best friend again.  Feeding time is here!

So that's about twenty minutes with two kids.  Fortunately, the entire day is not like that; thank God for nursery school.  And once the TV is on, Kyle becomes too riveted by the plot (Will Oscar find true love?  Will Cookie Monster ever recover from that cookie ponzi scheme?  Who murdered Snuffy?) to take his eyes off the screen.  Adam naps, too, and that gives me a little break.  Yes, life with two kids is more intense than it was with one kid, but the jump from one kid to two is nowhere near the perilous leap from zero kids to one.  And at least I don't have three kids.  Maybe that's when a person becomes a "real" parent.

Of course, adjusting to this new life is taking quite a bit of time, and that's why you haven't heard from me much.  I think I'm finally getting into some sort of rhythm, at least until Adam changes his sleeping habits.  So maybe, just maybe, I'll be back next week.  But I'm not making any promises, at least until the kids go to college.