Friday, August 7, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: Getting to know you

Full disclosure: I won’t lie on this blog, nor will I gloss over the truth. With that said, the past few weeks have been less than stellar here on Greenwood Avenue. Since Elijah moved in, things have been crazy and pretty stressful. He’s been fine; it’s Anna who is giving us the grief. I am certain that she will dig this stuff up some day and bring it out over dinner or before a big date when she is in high school: “PAPA! Why did you blog about me when I was three???”

I did it because it needs to be said.

A lot of our friends have said that we have the perfect lives here… two relatively cute kids, a strong relationship, and we are both pretty happy with our professions. Well, this post is to pull that cloak of deception aside and to show you what’s really going on here in Mayberry. With the coming of Eli came my return to work after my sabbatical this winter, the day after to be exact. I went back to the first day of classes back in May with a foggy kind of hangover clouding my every thought and action in the studio.

I was going to be a dad again.

Thankfully, it wasn’t going be an infant. I was pretty much done with midnight feedings and the continual diaper changing. Having a 13 month old kid move in was like buying a used car. All the new stuff, although fun the first time, was gone and the breaking in period could begin in earnest. Eli has been amazing through all this and has adapted to life with two dads and a somewhat crazed big sister quite well. He is the chillest kid I have ever met. It’s like he came to us via Jamaica and he should be wearing a Marley shirt and dreads. Nothing really seems to faze him at all. He gets whiney at times, but it usually a tangible thing:
I am hungry
I need a new diaper
I am tired
Not this nebulous bullshit Anna is bringing to the table lately. Oh sure, she’s three going on four, but she KNOWS what she is doing with us. She is cunning and very aware of all her actions including the door slamming and heightened drama. She’d be a perfect serial killer. I had a taste of my future one day when this took place (thanks to Tod for his journaling of this episode):
Anna: I’ve got to go potty.
Tom: Okay, go and come right back.
[Bells hanging on door handle ring as front door is opened]
Tom: Where did Anna just go?
Tod: Apparently out on the front porch.
[Tom running to front door]
Tom: Anna, why did you just pee on the front porch? That was very naughty, you are in time out.
[Five minutes later while feeding Anna dinner]
Tom: Why did you go out on the front porch to pee?
Anna: [Arms crossed in front of her chest] because I’m mad at you.
Tom: Why are you mad at me?
Anna: Because you ruined my life!
Tom and Tod: [Hysterical laughing, unable to talk]
And… scene.
Oh sure, laugh now bitches, but apparently Cheri is letting the kids watch Maury and Jerry at day care. I RUINED HER LIFE?
Not two days before I took her and her BFF Chloe to Cedar Point for a day of rides and sugar. The next day we hung out and enjoyed life as we do here on Greenwood. I got my comeuppance a few days later when she had a giant sucker that she won at the Toy House at their 50th birthday party out on the front porch. I suggested that she eat the massive sweet from a bowl but she unwrapped the confection and headed out to the front porch not heeding my suggestion and a few moments later promptly dropped the saucer sized sucker on the porch shattering it into a dozen or so pieces. She bent down and began to pick up the pieces as I handed her the bowl that I sneaked out behind my back and she began to put them in the bowl. She looked up and asked, “Papa, can I eat these?” I looked her right in the eyes and asked, “I don’t know, has anyone peed on the porch lately?” She gave me her best three-going-on-four “bitch, please” look and stuck a chunk of the sucker in her mouth.
We are in so much trouble.
But with this insane behavior comes our reactions as parents. We’ve been on edge for sure this summer. The not knowing and waiting for Eli to be placed with us has taken its toll on our collective nerves. Adjusting to a new kid and adjusting to our kid adjusting to this kid has been rough. Tempers have flared, words have been shared and voices have been raised. There is much screaming coming from our house, and since it is summer, I am sad that our windows are open to our neighbors. I fear that we have become “that family” on our block that everyone hears and talks about. I am certain that Eli’s first words will be “NO ANNA, NO!” and that he’ll grow up thinking that in order to communicate with your family you have to scream at each other.
It’s been a chore adjusting, especially before he moved in officially a few weeks ago. We valiantly attended the Saline Celtic Festival back in mid July. The day was hot, muggy, and doomed from the get go. My initial thoughts of “turn this Kia around!” went unsaid but we soldiered on and made it to the park. Did I mention it was hot? It was like the Nazi at the end of the first Indian Jones movie. Remember, the face just melting off of the skull? That was me. We tried to do a few of the events, especially the Highland Games which always is good for some beefy, kilted, man candy. The kids would have nothing of it. Even the kid’s area held no appeal; it was just too damn hot. Anna wanted to play in the play area in the park, an area in the full sun. I lasted about 10 minutes and we went back to Tod and Eli screaming in the shade. A woman next to us offered up the chestnut of “you should have got a babysitter!” and I wanted to beat her to death with our stroller. Sure, we could have, but then we wouldn’t have had this chance to share this time with our kids. We got to the beer/music tent and things seemed to calm down.
Did I mention that there was beer and food?
Always a good thing for crabby kids and parents. Things weren’t going well, and as the afternoon wore on, I doubted my fitness as a parent of two kids. There was a very sublime moment of bliss as I was holding both kids, both crying in my kilted lap and from a distance I heard the bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” as an unexpected cool breeze flew into the tent and began to cool my body, mind, and soul. I closed my eyes for a moment and let it flow over me and for a bit I was okay with it all… but as the evening played on and keys were misplaced and tempers flared, that grace disappeared.
Tod and I have had some pretty big conversations about all this, but in the end, it comes back to the fact that this is what we need to do. Things are coming around, slowly. We get little tidbits of hope from Anna and her behavior as the new big sister. She’s coming around, and realizing that she has not been put out to pasture and that her kingdom is indeed still intact. I am certain that once we start up our “normal” life of school and daycare in the fall, the routine will offer some solace on all sides. This summer has been anything but normal, but that’s life and we need to learn how to dodge the bad parts and embrace the good parts. I had Eli in my arms this morning, and as I was yelling at Anna to brush her teeth (it seems that screaming is the only thing that works lately with her) Eli was patting my shoulder as one would do to comfort a friend and say, “hey, it’s okay, it will get better!” I looked at my new son and he smiled his amazing smile at me and did his grunt of happiness and content and continued to pat my shoulder as I dealt with Anna and her tooth brushing. This won’t be easy, but together we’ll make it happen.