EVENT 1 – GIRL
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and are taller than four feet and aren’t absolutely horrified of heights and / or water, you’ve probably been on Splash Mountain, arguably one of the greatest attractions there… certainly my favorite. It’s a wonderful little ride where you sit inside of a boat shaped like a log and sail gently through an underground wonderland filled with animatronic characters from the Brer Rabbit tale. They sing wonderful little songs to you about Zippidee-doo-dah-Zippidee-yays and bluebirds on your shoulders. It’s a truly magnificent ride, both calming and engaging at the same time. You can’t help but be enveloped by the attention to detail all the while being lulled into a false sense of security.
About the time you think the ride is ending, things unexpectedly take a turn for the dark side. The lights get a little dim, the song turns from a “diddy” into something that can only be described as a “dreary” and there are suddenly haunting portrayals of rabbits tied to stakes being prepared to be cooked, singing you their sorrows. The shadow of a great wolf dances on the wall. Truly horrifying stuff.
Click. Click. Click.
Your log canoe begins it’s slow ascent towards the heavens, taller and taller and taller, higher and higher and higher until finally, you’re simply staring out over the park, watching hundreds of thousands of people gleefully eating churros and hugging Mickey Mouse. Meanwhile you have one brief instant to tell yourself that “This is Fun This is Fun This is Fun This is FUUUUUUU–” and then the next letter that comes out of your mouth is definitely not an ‘N’ at all and some camera takes a picture of you and your mouth is agape and your eyes are squinting and everyone in the log looks like Gilbert Godfried.
You come out the other end sopping wet, looking like you’ve just peed your pants just as your’e released into the celebratory Dome of Happiness. There are roughly 50 characters all standing about on a giant Mark Twain style party boat, singing merrily as though your life didn’t flash right before your eyes moments ago. And just like that, you’ve forgotten everything that came before. All that matters is this wonderful celebration you’re apart of. You’re tapping your foot and you don’t care that there is water squishing in your heel. You pat the knee to your soggy jeans and you laugh and hum with your family.
My afternoon with the children was not dissimilar to this.
My wife leaves the house to go on a photo shoot and I’m so grateful for the time the children that we get to spend alone together. Obviously not because I despise my wife, but because there is something truly tangible about one on one (or one on two) time with them. We sing songs together; we sing The ABCs and we go through all their animal noises and all the words they know (over 30!) and it’s such a pleasant and wonderful experience.
We chase each other around the house and we tickle each other and wrestle with one another and laugh and then there’s a point… it’s that click click click point. Things suddenly and unexpectedly go dark. The sun passes behind a cloud and my daughter quits being the cute little rabbit and becomes the shadow of the wolf, laughing and licking her chops… and when I say laughing, I really mean screaming. I have no idea what got into her today but she just unleashed some serious wrath. She didn’t even appear to want anything; it was like the animals in Splash Mountain; they just did as they were programmed. There was no reason behind why they were always happy or sad, it was just the truth at that time on that day and do it they must.
After getting a timeout that seemed less than fruitful, I fed them and eventually decided that it was simply nap time. The click click click was getting higher and faster and I could now look down at all the people in the park and go, “You have nothing to worry about! You’re all down there eating your churros and pooping in your diapers! Why are you crying! Have I not given you all I have?!” and then whoosh! I’m rushing down the hill.
I scoop Rory up in my arms and I take him to bed, giving a cursory glance behind me to see if Quinn is following… which she is. I put Rory down in his bed and… Quinn is missing.
I call her name and step into the hallway. I call her name. Nothing. I step into the living room. I call her name. Nothing. I check the bathroom. Nothing. I check the dining room and under the table. Nothing. I look into the kitchen. Still nothing. Have I just lost my daughter for the third time this month? I immediately check both front and back doors, my mind immediately slipping to the worst case scenario which is, of course, a neighborhood pervert breaking into my house in the middle of the day. When I find that both doors are closed my mind goes to the second scenario, which is her hurt somewhere. I have fears of both of them getting their necks tangled around the strings on the blinds or getting into the chemicals under the sink or somehow finding a roach trap that I’ve overlooked from months and months or even years ago.
Then my mind comes to terms with the third possible scenario.
Is she… hiding from me?
I slowly walk into the laundry room, a tiny 5x5ft square in the very back of our house that is usually full of laundry and dog food. I slowly peek around the corner and… still nothing. This is weird because there’s really nowhere else for her to go. Have I been outsmarted by a toddler? Things are getting weird and I can feel that Splash Mountain falling feeling in the pit of my stomach. The water is splashing up onto my jeans and I’ve got a Gilbert Godfriend face on while I try to process– wait a minute.
I notice something. On the ground, sitting right next to a dirty pile of laundry is this weird little snowball. It’s Quinn’s blanket that she carries with her absolutely everywhere she goes. She doesn’t leave it alone anywhere so it’s sort of strange that it’s here all by itself. I sort of lean down and really slowly grab it, half expecting to find some kind of troll or skeleton underneath.
My heart thumping, I gently pull the blanket back… to reveal a doll. Scary. And then Quinn; she’s curled up in a little ball on the floor, covered in her blanket genuinely hiding from me! As soon as we make eye contact she begins to giggle and I scoop her up and I say, “Were you hiding from Daddy?! Were you HIDING?!” and the truth is… yes she was. She was hiding from me and it’s so simple and cute and wonderful that I forget everything else. I forget her throwing her food and the insanely high-pitched, non-sensical screaming. I forget it all and I only hear the song that is her laugh as I put her down for a nap.
EVENT 2 – BOY
All magic comes at a cost.
For example, there is something bordering on the realm of fantastical about having your child in bed with you. Waking up in the middle of the night and rolling over, forgetting that they’re there and then bumping into them, finding their tiny hands or tiny toes and then just going back to sleep touching their skin. It’s hard to say who it’s more soothing to; you or them.
Two mornings ago I opened my eyes and found Quinn’s face staring back at me. Well, staring isn’t quite correct as she was still asleep, but facing me in any regard. I shifted around a little and got to actually watch her wake up. Her little eyes popped open very slowly and I watched, unblinking, as her vision came into focus. You could tell she sort of saw me… or at least saw something and then realized it was me. A huge smile broke across her face and the first words out of her mouth were, “HI!” She just wakes up that way, ready to greet the day.
Conversely, last night Rory slept with in our bed. I feel as though he has a slightly more overt tendency to cuddle up with us at night than Quinn does, which is strange because their personalities are the exact opposite during the daytime. I’ll wake up and he’ll have his head resting on my shoulder or in the crook of my elbow or he’ll be draped across my stomach so our bodies are forming a lower case ‘t’. I’ll wake up and he’ll have his foot across my neck or he’ll have stretched himself along the top of the pillows, connecting his mother and I in a shape that resembles the pi symbol.
You can grab him easier than Quinn and shift him around, cuddle up with him like a teddy bear. Quinn wants to find her own spot and claim it while Rory will be content with giggling while you pretend to bite his neck and growl in his ear and it’s all very magical.
But all magic comes at a cost.
In the mornings when the sun shines through the windows, my wife and I are awoken not by a gentle and cheerful, “HI!” but by someone poking us in the eyes or jumping on our chests or pinching us or kicking us in the stomach while screaming. Sometimes we awake to find that he’s slithered off the bed, has found our iPhones and has begun to delete apps. Sometimes he gets off the bed and wants to get back on but is too lazy to climb so he just yells at your face until you lift him up.
As I write this it is nearing 11pm and I have to stop and wonder which, if any, of the kids we’ll grab tonight. I know it’s a terrible habit, teaching your children to sleep in bed with you, but it’s FUN and I LOVE THEM and they’ll have plenty of time to ignore me when they’re older.
Until then, I will pay whatever blood price I must for the magic that I love.