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.

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