When you think of the word “life” or “parenting” or “family”, I wonder what images come to most people’s minds… I assume birthdays and graduations and weddings and Christmas mornings and Thanksgiving dinners and first steps and first words and, I believe that, obviously, these things are all large movements – the act breaks of life – but I don’t believe that it’s the broad sweeping strokes that make up our existence.
Like most things, the devil is in the details.
Two weeks ago, a good friend of ours, a young woman named Lacy, found herself in LA after a cross country road trip from New York and, as friends do, she contacted us to say, “I’m in town, I would love to see your family, let’s get together and chat and catch up and do that friend thing that we do,” so we do this thing and she shows up and she brings flowers and we all hug and she’s excited to see the kids and she says, “Oh my gosh, they’ve gotten so big and they talk and they’re like… I don’t even know… people, I guess,” and then she looks at the little baby and she says, “That’s a little baby! That little baby is just, like, so small! I don’t even know! This is crazy!” and then she squeezes the baby and hugs it and says, “Rory, come here, I want to give you five!” and he looks at her with these complete dead, emotionless eyes and, instead of saying anything, he just blinks.
The silence caused by him goes on for so long that it becomes comical and I say, “I’m really glad you got to experience that Lacy. That moment is parenting at it’s finest. It’s like… all these little events that you can’t really tell anyone about because they have nothing to do with anything. It’s just like these little gems or bread crumbs that the kids lay down for you and they’re just treasures that you get to enjoy and then they’re gone,” and then Quinn walks through the room with a box over her head, humming to herself.
Lacy and Jade laugh and I say, “This is it.”
And so, with that, I’ve decided to collect a few of these orphan moments into one collection and share them with you; these memories that don’t have homes or purpose anywhere else; things with no greater story arc than their pure and simple existence. They are vignettes and I hope half of the weirdness from these moments comes across as you read and enjoy them…
Rory and I are lying on the floor, each of us taking turns pushing around a few trains on a track that we’ve built. Rory says, “Choo! Choo!” and I say, “Excuse me, got a load of coal coming through!” and Rory says, “Watch out, Daddy!” and I pretend that my train spirals out of control and flips off the track and starts on fire and people are screaming and Rory is laughing and I say, “We’re going to need paramedics! Quick! Get the ambulance!” and Rory stands up and says, “Okay! Where is it?” and I point and say, “There!” and he takes one step, puts his foot on top of a toy train, which slides out from underneath of him and he falls to the ground where another train gets crushed by his tail bone.
He reaches behind him, grabbing at his lower back and screams, “Owwww!! Daddy! Owww!” and he stands up and unbuttons his pants and pulls them down and quickly pulls down his underwear and turns around and begins backing into me and so I quickly sit up and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, homeboy! What’s up!?” and he says, “Kiss it!” and I say, “What’s that now?” and he says, “Kiss my owie, Daddy!” and I say, “Where, exactly, is it?” and he points and shows me and it’s just grazing his butt crack and I say, “That is unlikely to happen, buddy,” and he shouts, “Daddy! Kiss my butt! Kiss my butt, Daddy!”
I kiss my fingertips and pat his butt and say, “There ya go! All better!” and, like magic powder, he really is all better. He pulls up his underwear, pulls up his pants, asks me to button them and then fetches the ambulance.
Jade and I are sitting on the couch together, me reading a book and Jade simultaneously playing Words with Friends on her phone and breast feeding Bryce sans cover. Quinn approaches me and says, “What are you doing?” and I say, “I’m reading a book. What are you doing?” and she repeats my question back to me because I don’t think she understands, exactly, what it means. “What you doin’?”
I pull her up onto my lap and she reaches out and says, “You readin’ a book?” and I say, “Yes,” and then I flip through the pages and say, “I’m sorry. There are no pic–” and then Quinn’s arm shoots out, points at Jade and says, “BABY IS BITING MOMMY’S NIPPLE!!!”
This is Quinn’s introduction to breast feeding.
A few days later, Jade is at it again when Quinn wanders into the room, stops and stares. She approaches the couch slowly and says, “Baby hungry?” and Jade says, “Yes. Bryce is hungry,” and Quinn says, “Okay… Okay…” and then turns and exits. When she reappears moments later she has her cabbage patch doll in tow, dangling it by one arm, it’s soft rubber body bouncing off of our wooden floor.
Quinn drops the doll, lifts up her shirt, tucking it under her chin, picks up the doll and shoves it face into her own tiny nipple. She says, “I feeding baby.”
Bryce is lying on the bed in nothing but a diaper while I dig through her drawers trying to find a suitable outfit for her. It seems to me that all baby clothes are just one solid color or contain patterns so intense that looking at it might give you motion sickness. I ultimately decide on a melon colored onesie and stretchie fat kid pants that are blue with tiny white stars… and then stumble upon this really crazy looking Eskimo hat that I simply can’t say no to and then these really bizarre socks that seem to be made really poorly. I mean, I’m really struggling to get them on and they seem to barely fit but whatever, okay, they’re finally on and I guess they’ll keep her feet warm.
In the other room I sit down next to Jade and she says, “What a cute outfit!” and I pridefully say, “Hey, thanks!” and she says, “Why is she wearing mittens on her feet?”
Rory kneels on the floor over a loose sheaf of notebook paper, a red marker in his hand, his brow wrinkled. I say, “What you drawin’?” and he says, “Hang on…” and then, a moment later, he lifts up his master work and says, “Look, Dad!” and I see a circular scribble that really closely resembles a circular scribble. I say, “That’s incredible! What is it?!” and he says, with a complete straight face, “It’s a red pig’s butt!”
I stare at the rendering and think to myself that, strangely, it actually does look a bit like a pig’s anus although I’ve no idea where he would actually have found one to base his illustration off of. Wanting to support his passion, regardless of how bizarre, I say, “Really, really good pig anus!” and he says, “Thanks!” and then goes back to drawing.
A few moments later he lifts up the paper again and shows me another circular scribble that looks identical to the first one and I say, “Wow! Another pig butt!?” and he looks at his drawing and says, “No… that’s you!”
Ah… a portrait. Thank you.
We’re all sitting at the dinner table and everyone is eating except for me. My stomach has been acting up all day and I feel like any kind of food that I try to ingest is just going to make an encore appearance. Rory takes a bite of his chicken and says, “You not going to eat, Daddy?” and I say, “No… Daddy doesn’t feel good,” and Quinn says, “You’re sick,” and I say, “Was that a question or a statement?” and Quinn says, “Dad. You’re sick!” and I say, “Please stop saying that,” and then she points her spoon at me like a wand and says, “You’re sick! You’re sick! You’re sick!” and I say, “Why are you acting like a New Orleans Black Voodoo Priestess?” and Quinn cackles. She doesn’t laugh. She cackles and says, “Daddy, you are sick! You are so sick!” and I say, “Are you a witch? Are you putting a spell on me?” and she says, “I am a witch! You are sick! Hee-hee-haw-haw! I am a witch! I am a witch!” and I feel my stomach turn over and am pretty sure I’ve just been cursed.
I suppose that there are a hundred million other moments like these that we’ve had with the children, both pleasant and bizarre; Quinn walking around the house with a guitar, playing it and shaking her hips, singing into a baseball tee for a microphone; Rory hopping off the toilet, asking me to wipe his butt, bending over and somehow getting his head stuck between the steps of a small stool, me having to fold his ears down to pull him to freedom; Bryce sitting in her electric lamb that plays music and lulls her to sleep, the batteries dying and making a horrific demonic noise, she waving her hands in the air looking as though she were conducting Hell’s orchestra; Quinn taking a nap in our room and then crawling into Bryce’s crib; Rory leaving his bedroom in the middle of the night and making a small bed for himself on the kitchen floor, pillow, blankets and all.
I love every minute of it and you’ve got to stay sharp. The kids throw things at you so fast that you’ll miss them if you’re not paying attention. The way they see the world and interact with the environment and people around them is incredible.
There are only 24 hours in a day and never enough time to document them all.