Tag Archives: parent

HUG CONTEST

I’ve got this thing that I do.

At night, after I’ve got the kids in bed and settled down, books read, conversations had, questions answered, minds settled, I announce a Hug Contest.

One by one, they each get to give me a hug and then, at the end, I announce a winner. And yes, I announce an actual winner. I tell one of them that they gave the best hug. I try to mix it up but I also try to be fair because, honestly, not all hugs are created equal.

When we started doing this, Rory was more of a quantity over quality type of guy. He would jump at me, throw his arms around my neck and squeeze so hard that I would begin to see black dots in front of my eyes. I would fall to the ground, he would wrap his legs around me and wheeze into my ear while straining, “Is… this… a… good… hug?” Instead of answering, I would tap out.

Bryce is always a welcome competitor afterward as she likes to gently but firmly wrap her arms around my neck and squeeze. It is as though she often times actually embodies the hug. Becomes the hug. Her hair nuzzles up against my cheek and tickles my nose.

Quinn likes to mix it up – she’s kind of a mixed martial artist in that capacity. Little bit of technique from here, little bit from there, put em all together and what have you got? I never know what’s going to come at me. Sometimes it’s quite nice. Sometimes it is exceptionally painful. Sometimes she takes the Rory route, sometimes she takes the Bryce route and sometimes she just gives me a quick squeeze, almost an accidental brush-by and says, “How was that?” like she’s gaging my reaction in order to perfect the technique.

But here’s the thing about naming a winner in a Hug Contest… more important than the execution of the hugger is the need of the huggee.

Sometimes I want a warm hug. Sometimes I want it to linger. Sometimes I want Rory to put me in a rear chokehold until I black out. The kids are aiming at a moving target but they don’t know it. Which is great because they just try their best every single night.

And every night there is a new winner.

And the winner is always so happy. The winner always goes to bed smiling. Because the winner won.

And the best thing? Even when you lose, you’ve still gotten a hug.

I started by just rotating winners and that worked for a bit. Rory, Quinn, Bryce, Rory, Quinn, Bryce. But it quickly became too predictable, even for a three year old. I wanted to keep them on their toes. I didn’t want them to think that they were trapped in a thankless system where they just won every third day.

So then I started actually judging them. And then I told them why. I would tell them why they won.

So then. Quinn had proven herself victorious in the Hug Contest two nights in a row and then Bryce had won the following evening which ended with Rory saying, “I never win!” and then on the fourth night, just as I was getting Quinn into bed, she says, “Can we do the Hug Contest tonight?” and I say, “Sure! Let’s do it,” and then Rory says, “I want to be the judge,” and I say, “You want to be the judge in a hug contest that you’re competing in? Do you know what conflict of interest means?” and he says, “No.”

So I tell him that he can’t be the judge and I tell him this because I know. I know. I know what this little scoundrel is thinking. He’s thinking that if he is the judge then tonight he could rig the competition in his favor. He will nominate himself as best hug giver. He will reap the plunder.

But I’m a parent.

I’m smarter than that.

I’m smarter than him.

And so I say, “No. Sorry, man. You can’t be the judge. You can’t do it. Not if you’re in the contest. It wouldn’t be fair,” and he says, “PLEASE!?” and I say, “No, dude. It isn’t fair,” and he says, “Ug, doood.”

And so we round robin this thing and at the end I’m feeling quite loved and quite wonderful and I tell them all, their six eyes staring at me, “You guys… this is a first time ever, history making event, in the annals of Hug Contest history…”

They wait with baited breath.

We have a three way tie!”

I applaud and then Quinn says, “Yippie!” and Bryce echoes her and Rory moans. “But who won?” he asks and I say, “You all did!” and he says, “I want to be the judge,” and I say, “You want to judge?” and he says, “Yes. I want there to be a winner. Not a tie,” and I say, “Alright. Let’s all give Rory a hug and he can decide who wins. A second Hug Contest in one evening! Another history making event!”

And Rory gets serious and he says, “No. No dad. I don’t want to,” and I say, “You don’t need any hugs?” and in my head I think, How convenient. You don’t even need to see the competitors. You already know who the winner is. You’ve got a lot to learn about being shady, bub.

And so I say, “Okay. Let’s hear it, Rory. Who’s the winner? Who is the winner of your Hug Contest? Who… have you named winner?”

And Quinn and Bryce and I sit and stare at him as he holds a finger to his lips. He says, “Hmmmm…” and really mulls over the options. Decent form, I think. He’s obviously fooling the little ones but not me. I’ve got your number, pal. You think you’re being shady? I invented shade. I am the tree that casts it.

And then he smiles, completely aware that now is the moment he is unveiling his master plan. He looks at me and says, “You are the winner, dad! You give the best hugs!”

And then my heart breaks. And then my stomach turns inside out. And then my eyes begin to fill with tears.

Ah, shame. Guilt. Stupidity. Give me your best because I deserve them all. I am insignificant and putrid and vile. I am disgusting and full of loathing. I am selfish and stupid and, worst of all, obtuse and ignorant.

Aren’t I a humble parent? Aren’t I a humble person? No. Not at all. You think you know so much but you know nothing, Johnny Snow. You see the worst in people. You expect people to act selfishly. You anticipate people to act in a specific way. You think you are better. And this is one of your greatest faults.

The mirror is a painful place to look. Oh, there’s a shortcoming. And another. And another. And another.

It is one thing to look at yourself, examine yourself, and come to terms with certain facets of your personality, slowly turning them over and slowly revealing them. There is something soothing in that process – the process of growth, which we are all on over many, many years.

Oh, but the pain of having a child reveal the entire ugly picture of yourself to yourself, all at once. It’s like the coroner pulling back the blanket on the corpse of a loved one and seeing them diseased and rotting. But it is not a loved one. It is me. And it is not my rotting skin but my heart.

I leave their room with my head down, the weight of my pride dragging me to the ground.

 

 

 

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Code 5 Quinn-pocalypse

I’m walking out of my house – I need to run to the grocery store to pick up some waters. It’s a quick in and out job. Super basic. I’ll be gone ten minutes. Max.

I hit the door and drop down the porch steps and I’m almost to my car when I hear Quinn behind me. She does this whine – it’s full of panic and concern. This tone that is like eeeeeeehhhhh! It’s a noise that sounds like she’s on the edge of a full nervous breakdown. Her voice wobbles and quivers. “Daddy! Wait! Wait! I didn’t give you a hug and kiss!

I can hear her shouting this from the living room. “Yeah! I’ll be back in just a minute! One minute! I will be right back, I promise!”

NO! HUG AND KISS! EEEHHHHH! PLEASE!

I keep walking. She’s on the porch now. Squealing. Now she’s running down the steps. Running towards me. I keep walking. “I will be right back, Quinn! You will see me in two minutes. I’m just buying a water.” And then my internal monologue kicks in, which goes something like this: What is wrong with this kid? What have we done to this child to give her such separation anxieties? This noise that she makes is killing me. It is driving me up the flipping wall. I wish she would just relax. Her panic is so dumb. And so senseless. I’m going to be right back. Why isn’t she listening to me? If she would just stop making these stupid whining noises and listen to me, she would know that I’m going to be right back. Why is she wasting my time?

This is the routine whenever either Jade or I leave the house. Every time. Every single time there is a fantastic meltdown over hugs and kisses. If you do not properly connect your lips with Quinn’s lips and give her a very proper hug that has a fairly specific form to it, then you are dealing with a Code 5 Quinn-pocalypse.

This is not, like, a thing. This is A Thing.

I’ve driven away before. I’ve been like F it. This is ridiculous. I’m leaving. This must stop. I get in my car and drive away. In my rearview mirror I see her standing at the very edge of our yard, waving her arms and jumping up and down and screaming, “HUG AND KISS! HUG AND KISS! DADDY! PLEASE! HUG AND KISS!” and I have no idea how long she stands there and does it for.

To remove all sugar coating and to be as primitive about it as possible – it is annoying and it gets under my skin and it drives me crazy because it doesn’t make any sense to me and, if I’m being completely honest, the vast majority of the time that I give her a hug and kiss, I do it as quickly as I can and just roll through the motions so that I can get to wherever it is that I’m going.

I brush her off.

And I’m not just brushing her off like she’s blathering on about how she wants mac and cheese for lunch but we just ate breakfast so please give me a second to finish doing the dishes but I’m actually brushing off her affection.

And so I’m standing on my front sidewalk and I say, “Quinn, yes. Hurry. Please. Hi. Hug and kiss. Okay. We’re done. Thank you. Go back inside. I’ll see you in a hundred and twenty seconds. Goodbye. Finally.”

And she says, “Okay! See you in a minute! I love you!” and then she runs back into the house.

And then I’m standing on my sidewalk and this feeling of… it was a light bulb turning on over my head. It was a feeling of illumination. I had a moment wherein I saw the darkness and I saw that I was swimming in it.

I was engulfed by it.

And I didn’t know it.

What has happened to me? What am I doing? What is wrong with me?

My child. She has come to me to see me off. To show me affection and admiration. She has come to me, small and powerless, to say I love you and I will miss you while you are away. You will only be gone for two minutes. But in those two minutes, I will think of you and I will wish that you were here. And I want you to know that.

And this is, apparently, just too fucking insignificant for me to waste my time with.

Sometimes I catch sight of myself and, for all the good I like to think that I do, I realize that I am still just a selfish piece of shit that knows nothing about humility.

 

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Broken Bones over Broken Hearts

Thirty-three weeks ago I broke my oldest daughter’s arm.

I double bounced her on the trampoline and shot her straight into the cosmos with all of my weight, launching her into the crisp blue sky. When she came down, I heard a little pop noise and then she started to cry.

At first glance, there was nothing wrong with her arm. And it wasn’t until I grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her towards me to say, “What are you belly-aching about?” that I noticed her bone to be shaped like a crescent. Which is to say, her forearm had a very unnatural drape to it.

She was put in a cast for several months until we finally got it sawed off, exposing her healed, albeit pale and slightly atrophied, new arm.

And then you think to yourself, you kind of play the odds, because this is what we do – not as parents but as people. We kind of think like, “She broke her arm. Cool. Now that’s out of the way.”

Now that’s out of the way.

There’s this idea that, for some reason, statistically speaking, it probably won’t happen again, right? We see this kind of reasoning in Vegas all the time. “It landed on red three times in a row. It must land on black soon!” We’re all endowed with this logic that events of the past somehow affect the possibilities of these things recurring. We like to think that bad news somehow gives us a pass from more bad news for the foreseeable future.

And even as you read this and comprehend the reality of that statement, you still believe it to be true. There is this hope in us that continues to fight the hopelessness of everything going wrong always.

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And it is in this state of mind that I’m sitting on my porch at sunset, sipping hot coffee and trading tales with a friend of mine. His daughter and my two oldest are both on the trampoline. Bouncing. Being kids. Being stupid. Being stupid kids. I watch as Quinn crawls outside of the protective netting, squats down and then jumps into the grass. Perfect execution. I give it a 10. Or I would have.

Her palms hit the ground as she tries to land in some kind of cat pose – her big thing is pretending that she’s a cheetah. She likes to run around on her hands and feet, actually galloping through the house. She cleans herself by licking the back of her hands and she drinks milk from a saucer. I could realistically spend an entire separate essay speaking about whatever that is but I don’t want to get off topic.

The next 30 minutes all happen very fast.

I watch as Quinn’s head pops up. She starts to cry. Something in my stomach feels wrong but I don’t move. Jade says, “Please don’t tell me you broke your arm.” Quinn stands up and starts running to the porch – not on her hands and feet but just on her feet, her left arm sort of dangling at her side and looking a little funky. Not bad. Not weird. Well, sort of weird. But mostly just funky. I’m looking at it while she runs and I’m thinking, “This is not looking good,” and then my second thought is this. “Thankfully it’s not a broken arm because she just broke her other arm a few months ago.”

That’s my thought. That’s my logic. It couldn’t be a broken arm. Her other arm was just broken. These things don’t happen twice. That survivalist hope is flickering in me. Not it!

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Quinn runs up the porch step and heads to Jade, who says, “Which one hurts?” Quinn signals with her head – sort of nods towards her left arm. “This one,” and sticks her shoulder towards Jade.

I look at Curtis, sitting next to me, and raise one eyebrow that I’m sure he reads as, “Kids, man. They’re always falling into pits and getting hurt, ruining my nice coffee.”

Jade begins to roll up Quinn’s sleeve, one, two, three times. She rolls it all the way to the elbow and I breathe a little sigh of relief because her arm actually is fine and I kind of was starting to worry that this was going to– Jade moves Quinn’s arm slightly and my angle changes.

It’s funny how a new perspective on reality can shift your world.

Her arm is not all right. Nobody would ever describe that arm as all right. There is something fundamentally wrong with that arm. It is shaped like the letter U.

It’s broken. This thing has been snapped like a dried twig.

I put my coffee down and stand up. “Thanks for bringing over pizza, guys. I really wish we could eat more but it looks like we need to mosey towards the hospital.”

I grab the car keys, throw Quinn in the front seat with Jade and back out of the driveway and, insurance and the American healthcare system being what it is, instead of driving to the hospital four blocks from our house, we floor the silver bullet to ninety and gun the twenty minutes on the freeway to the closest Kaiser Permenente.

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As I glide the mini-van back and forth between lanes, Quinn whimpers softly next to me. “Are they going to give me a shot?” I look over and see her forearm bent at ninety degrees and shiver. “Yeah, Quinn. They’re probably going to give you a shot but you know what? It’s going to make you feel a lot better. It will take the pain away from your arm.”

She sniffles a couple times and then gets quiet. Jade asks her what she’s thinking about. Quinn takes a moment to collect her thoughts and then yawns like she’s bored. Super lackadaisically she says, “You know what? My arm is actually feeling pretty good. I don’t think it’s broken anymore. We can probably just go home. We don’t have to go to the hospital.”

I look over and see that ragged skin bag holding the broken fragments of bone. “You know what, Quinn? Maybe it would be best to just let a doctor take a look. You’re probably right – it’s probably fine. But just in case, yeah?”

She sighs, resigned, and then falls to sleep, probably in a state of shock.

My heart breaks for her. There is a feeling of mad urgency to our movements. Urgency that must be thought through and defined. Every move must happen quickly. But we must be smart about it. Cooler heads will prevail. I can do nothing. I can just drive. I can just tell her it will be okay. I can take her to the hospital. I can do my part.

At the hospital we enter Urgent Care and find a line of eight people waiting to speak with the receptionist. Quinn is whimpering. Everyone turns around. A man with an eye patch at the front of the line says, “Is she, uh, okay?” and Jade says, “No. Her arm is broken,” and the man says, “Come on up here, lady. You can come on up here,” and everyone in line nods his or her head.

Thank you, humans. May good things come back to you.

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A receptionist named Flora says, “Next,” and we approach. She takes our name and information and tells us there is about an hour’s wait. Jade says, “This five year old has a broken arm and she has to just sit with it for an hour?” The woman shrugs. “I just work here.”

I ask, “Can we take her to the Emergency Room?”

Flora, “Yes.”

Me, “How much will it cost?”

Flora, “I don’t know.”

Me, “Will the wait be under an hour?”

Flora, “I don’t know.”

Me, “Do you have any pain medication she can take if we wait?”

Flora, “I’m not a doctor.”

Me, “Yes, I can see that. But can I speak with someone about some Advil or Tylenol or just a hammer we can bash her in the face with to knock her out?”

Flora, “You can speak to a nurse in about an hour.”

There is nothing I can do. There is only logic. Cooler heads prevail. Make the best decision with the circumstances provided.

We walk into the waiting room and I say, “Jade, do you have any cash on you?” and she says, “No. Why?” and I say, “Because I’ll just pay the person whose first in line. I’ll slip em a hundred bucks – that’s someone’s co-pay – we’ll slide in first.”

Jade says, “I don’t have any cash,” and I say, “Me neither. Plan B.”

We sit down and stare at Survivor on the tube.

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Forty minutes later they call our name. I stand up and fireman carry Quinn through the door. In Room 9 I set her down on the bed, careful not to disturb the broken 2×2 that is her arm.

Everything goes fuzzy for me – we’ve been back from Africa for less than 48 hours and my brain is still eleven hours ahead. I can feel myself falling in and out of reality – my vision keeps going black – someone is standing in the room with us. “Time for an IV.”

A thin woman with straight black hair tells us to lay Quinn on her back. Quinn says, “What’s an IV?” and I say, “It’s one shot that they give you so that they don’t have to give you anymore. Does that sound like a good thing?” and Quinn quickly does the math in her head. “I guess so.”

The woman says, “Okay, so let’s have you say your ABCs and by the time you’re done, I’ll be done too. Sound good?” and Quinn nods as a tear rolls down her cheek. Jade takes her face in her hands and begins to run her thumbs along the corners of her mouth. I put my hand on Quinn’s chest and my other hand on her elbow, readying myself to restrain her when she kicks against the IV.

I would take your place if I could.

The nurse asks, “Are you ready?” and Quinn says, “A. B. C. D. E. F. Gee…”

I watch the needle slide in and I watch Quinn’s eyes turn into glass plates and I listen to her voice rise several octaves and I listen to the alphabet begin to tumble out of her mouth as she races to the end, knowing that it will all be over once she hits Z. “HIJKLMNOP!”

“Slow down, Quinn. Slow down.” I hate needles and I hate IVs and my stomach is running and rolling and my mind is wheezing and my hands are sweating. Just being this close to needles sends me into this very anxiety filled place. Be cool. Be cool. Show no fear. Stare at Quinn. Be cool. Be strong. You are a source of courage. Mother and Father are the name of God on the lips of children.

QRSTUVWXYZ! Take it out! Take it out! Take it out! It’s done! Take it out!” Tears are racing down her face as she stares at the ceiling without blinking. “Take it out!”

I look at the needle and see the nurse pushing and pulling it, sliding it left and right, fishing around inside her arm. “The, uh, the vein keeps moving on me – keeps trying to get away. Try the alphabet one more time…”

ABCDEFGHIJ-J-J-J-J–

“Okay–nope.” Still fishing. The needle is making me sick. I hate needles. I can’t even look at them sitting on a table without feeling like my soul is twisting up inside. Tears are streaming down Quinn’s face and her mouth is stuck in a grimace of letters, “XYZXYZXYZ!”

“We almost got it. You’re doing really good. Could you give me the alphabet just one more time?”

AYEbeeCEEdeeEEefGEEEEEEEEEEE!”

“Alright, I have it.” The nurse pulls out the needle and tapes it and stands up as Quinn says, “Zeeeeeeeee. Zeeeeeeee. Zeeeeeee,” and then falls asleep before the nurse has left the room.

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I ask someone if there is a coffee station around and they say, “No.”

I slap myself around a little and pet Quinn’s hand while she sleeps. A doctor enters and says that he’s sorry about the wait but he’s ready if we are. We nod and a nurse inserts morphine into the IV while Quinn sleeps. Halfway through the syringe Quinn wakes up and sees a woman with a thing that looks like a shot poised at her arm and lashes back, “NO MORE SHOTS!”

“Sure, sure. Right. No more shots. There is no needle here.”

The nurse leaves and the doctor steps up. He’s a good looking Ken-doll type. Rippling muscles, beautiful face. Blond hair. A doctor. Lots of money. Has probably never broken his daughter’s arm double bouncing her on a trampoline. I look over at Jade just as she finishes scribbling her number onto some scrap paper. She hands it to him and mouths, “Call me,” and then winks.

Doctor Ken says, “Alright, dad. Let’s get her sitting on your lap and then you’re going to… I don’t want to say restrain… but it’s what I mean. You’re gonna want to make sure she doesn’t run anywhere.”

Jade says, “Is the morphine going to help?” and Doctor Ken says, “Uh… a little.”

I would take your place if I could. I wouldn’t want to. But I would do it.

He gently picks up Quinn’s mangled wing in his massive hands and feels it gently – touches it here and there. Tests it. Finds the sour spots. He says, “Do you know any songs?” and Quinn says, “I know uh, My Favorite Things,” and the doctor says, “I’d love to hear you sing it to me.”

And next is the moment wherein I realize two things. The first is that not much has changed in the last 100 years of medical science as far as bone-setting goes. The second is that I will never hear My Favorite Things the same again.

Quinn starts singing in a perfect voice, “Whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens!” and then Doctor Ken pushes the heel of one hand against the top of the break and the heel of his other hand against the back side of the break and I watch as his muscles strain under his shirt and his face distorts into a knot that looks like he’s trying to either pick up a heavy weight or fire out a huge turd.

Quinn begins to scream.

I’m sorry.

She doesn’t yell. She doesn’t shout. She doesn’t holler. She screams. And the worst part is that she does it while she continues to sing.

Bright colored packages! Wrapped up in AAAAHHHH!!! Wrapped up in AHHH ribbons! AAAAAAAHHHHHH! AAAAHHH!! STOP! STOP! THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS! AAAAHHHH! IT HURTS! IT HURTS! WHEN THE DOG BITES! WHEN THE BEE STINGS! PLEASE STOP! YOU’RE HURTING ME! IT HURTS A LOT! WHEN I’M FEELING SAD! PLEASE STOP! I WILL SIMPLY REMEMBER AHHHHHHH! MY FAVORITE THINGS! AHHHHHH! AND THEN I DON’T FEEL AAAHHHHHHH! SO BAD!

The doctor releases his pressure and the assistant steps in and wraps her arms in gauze that hardens into a plaster cast.

“Is that it?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Pick up some medicine from the pharmacy. Get rid of your trampoline.”

We go home and eat the cold leftover pizza. We go home and I pick up my old coffee, a fly drowned and floating on the surface. I carry Quinn to bed and set her down between Jade and I.

She says, “Sing me a song.”

And without looking at each other, Jade and I both begin to sing an off-key duet of My Favorite Things as she drifts to sleep.

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But I know this is not the end. I know this is not the last time. I know that she will spend her life being hurt and hurting. I know she will fall down and scratch her knee and cut her arm and maybe even break more bones. And I know Jade and I will be there to kiss them and bandage them and even take them to the hospital when it is necessary.

But it is the wounds that I can’t help heal that scare me. It is the broken hearts and the tumors of the soul that form when no one is watching. It is the wounds that cannot be healed with medicine. It is the day-to-day hopelessness that creeps into people that I fear for my daughter.

Someday she’ll come to me with a broken heart and what will I say? Someday she’ll come to me and say that she doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life and what will I say? Someday she’ll come to me and ask me hurting questions that I don’t have the answers to. Why did this happen? Why did that happen? It hurts me and I don’t know what to do. Why did my husband get cancer? Why did my child die?

I don’t know, Quinn. Life isn’t always fair.

But I’ll take broken bones over broken hearts everyday.

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Bedtime Stories: Chapter 1

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Every night before going to bed my children ask me to read them a book. Sometimes it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, sometimes it’s “Curious George”, sometimes it’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, but as of late I’ve become bored with reading and reading and reading the same stories over and over and over again and so I’ve decided to write new stories for them.  We gather on their bed or on the couch and I say, “What is tonight’s story about?” and they give a simple suggestion… and so it begins…

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I’m sitting on my couch, my oldest daughter on my left and my son on my right.  Both of them are curled up in their favorite blankies, both of them staring at me with wide eyes and big smiles.  I say, “Once Upon a Time… there was a Little Boy and a Little Girl and they were brother and sister.  And one day, they were walking along a street when they noticed that they were passing a very old house that nobody lived in.  Nobody lived there.  It was completely empty–

(Sometimes you have to hammer a point home because they’re so young).

–but, even though it was completely and totally empty and no one lived there, they heard….” and this is where I look at them because they help me tell the story.  It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure for them that I make up as I go.

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I look at Quinn and I say, “What did they hear?” and she whispers, “I don’t know…” and so I look at Rory and I say, “What did they hear?” and he says, “They hear a ghost… and a ghost says, “ooooooo-oooo-ooooOOOO!“” and I say, “Actually, what they heard was………..RAAAAR!!” AND I SHOUT AND LUNGE TOWARDS QUINN AND SHE SHOVES HERSELF BACK INTO THE COUCH AND PULLS THE BLANKET UP OVER HER HEAD AND SAYS, “Don’t do that!  You scared me!”

“And so the Little Boy and the Little Girl were afraid and so they ran home to their Mommy and Daddy… but the next day they were walking past the house again and…. what did they hear?” and Rory says, “A ghost!  And a ghost says, “ooooo-ooooo-ooooOOOO!” and I say, “RAAAAR!” and I lunge at Rory and he drops his blanket to the floor and his eyes well up a little and he says, “You scared me, Daddy,” and then his little bottom lip begins to quiver and I feel pretty bad…

I continue, “So the Little Boy and the Little Girl were scared and so they ran home to their Mommy and Daddy but the next day they were walking past the empty house again and what did they hear?” and Rory says, “They… heard…. ghosts….. and a ghost says, “Ooooo-ooo-oooOOO!” and I say, “They heard a noise that sounded like this, “Ooooo-ooo-oooOOOOO!” and the Little Boy and the Little Girl turned towards the empty, abandoned house and they started walking up the sidewalk, towards the front door.  Click-clack-click-clack went their feet up the sidewalk and reeeeeee-reeeeeee went the squeaky front steps and then knock-knock-knock went their tiny little fists on the door and then eeeeeeeeeeeee went the door as it swung open and inside the house… what did they see?

And Rory, in fully obsessed form says, “A GHOST!” and I say, “They saw a white sheet floating in the middle of the room… and then another… and then another… and then another and then do you know how many ghosts they saw?” and Quinn says, “Eight” but my story was much bigger than that so I bent her choice a little with my own and I say, “100.  They saw 100 ghosts floating around and dancing because they were having a Ghost Party.”

It’s at this point that I make a beat that sounds like a cross between ghost noises and dub-step music just to add to the general ambience.

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And then–

RAAAR!” I SHOUT and both kids jump and Quinn covers her face and Rory says, “What is it?!” and I say, “It’s a monster and it’s coming down the stairs!  It’s coming to the ghost party!” and then in my scratchy monster voice I say, “I’m a monster that lives upstairs and everyone is afraid of me because of the way I talk and RAAAAR – I’m just so alone and lonely and I don’t have any friends.  There’s a party happening down here in my own house and no one invited me and now my feelings are hurt.”

And then I turn to Rory, stare him in the eyes and say, “Will you be my friend, Little Boy?” and Rory say, “I will be your friend.  Yes, I will be your friend, Monster,” and I say, “That is very nice.  Can I have a hug?” and then Rory comes in close and hugs me and says, “I love this Monster,” and I say, “I love you too, Little Boy.”

I turn to my daughter and I say, “Little Girl, will you be my friend?” and Quinn stares me dead in the eyes and says, “No.  No, I don’t want to be your friend,” but Rory quickly interjects and says, “Be our friend!  Be friends with us!” but Quinn holds her ground, “No… I don’t want to…”

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And the story continues, “So the Little Girl left the house and she shut the squeaky door behind her and she stepped down the wooden steps and she walked down the sidewalk and she went all the way back home to her Mommy and Daddy and–”

“But… where is the Little Boy?” asks Quinn.

“Oh, he stayed in the house with the monster and became the one hundred and first ghost of the party.”

The children both look at me and so I say, “The… End.”

Rory says, “That Ghost Party is fun,” and Quinn says, “Does the Little Girl see her brother again?” and I say, “No.  He stayed in the house to play with the monster and he never came out,” and Quinn asks, “Does the Little Girl see her Mommy and Daddy again?” and I say, “Yes.  She goes home and she lives with them for a very long time,” and then Quinn says, “What do her Mommy and Daddy do?” and I say, “They just work regular nine to five jobs,” and Quinn says, “Oh.  Ok.”

 

The End.

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Crumbling Castles

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I play rough with my kids; really rough.  Horseplay, in my house, is not only accepted, it is encouraged.  I love sitting with them and reading books and cuddling up to tell them stories but one of my favorite things to do is to chase them through our home, tackle them, tickle them and then drag them kicking and screaming back to me as they try to escape my clutches.  I hang them upside down and howl.  I pin them to the ground and growl in their ears.  I crawl across the floor like a primitive man pretending to be a primitive horse, snarling and thrashing after them.  I pick up pillows and I throw them at their fleeing backs.  Hard.  I hit them behind their knees with said pillows as they run, knocking them to the floor.  Usually they’re fine but sometimes they bang their hands / arms / heads / faces against the ground.  This is the cost of horseplay.

They run and laugh and squeal and scream and hide and then beg me to keep chasing them.  If I get tired they slowly approach me and say, “Get… my… fooo-hooot….” and then they wiggle and waggle their ankle at me just out of reach.  It goes without saying that I’ve been kicked in the teeth and headbutted more than once.  Last month my son stuck his finger knuckle deep into my eyeball… twice.  That is not an exaggeration.  My eye was pink and blood shot and everything went fuzzy for several hours.  It was both painful and horrifying.  Sometimes I lie on my back and my daughter jumps off the couch and gives me two knees to my ribcage, causing me to spit out a harsh, “WHOOF!”  This is also the cost of horseplay.

My children love me and I love my children and we know that we are just playing and we’ve had many conversations about Good Hit / Bad Hit and how a Hi-5 is a Good Hit but slapping someone when you’re angry is a Bad Hit and… children just have a very interesting way of not only absorbing information and processing it but they’re also amazing at outputting certain… enlightenments, I guess is a good word… that hit you in the gut harder than their tiny fists.

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Two days ago my daughter walked past me and I stuck out my foot and tripped her.  She stumbled, once, twice, caught herself, turned around and gave me the stankiest eye I’ve ever seen.  It cracked me up.  I thought it was absolutely hilarious.  Further, I thought that SHE thought it was absolutely hilarious… which is why I do it whenever I get a chance.  I thought our little game was like, “I pick on you in an endearing way and you think it’s playful and funny and it’s our quirky little relationship,” but, my wife, who apparently doesn’t “get” the thing I do with the kids, she says to me, “You’re so mean to the kids,” and I say, “Mean?  Mean?  What is this, mean?  Oh, give me a break.  I’m not mean.  I love them and I’m playing with them!  They love to play!” and she says, “No.  You pick on them.  You’re That Guy,” and my stomach churns because, to me, there is no worse insult than being called That Guy.  It could mean any number of horrible things but, whenever someone says it, you know exactly which one they’re talking about.

I say, “I am not That Guy,” and my wife, refusing to back off her horrible, stupid opinion, says, “Yes you are.  And you’re hurting their feelings.”  Yeah, right.  Didn’t she see how I was laughing when my daughter stumbled?  Didn’t she see how funny that was?  I push myself off the couch and lie down on our floor, calling my daughter over to me, “Quinn!  Quinn… C’mere a sec…” and Quinn approaches me and I pick her up under her arms and lie her down on top of me, belly to belly so we’re eye to eye.  She doesn’t flinch and she doesn’t fight it and I say to my wife, “Yeah, she looks really afraid of me…

I turn to Quinn and I say, “Quinn…” and my three year old daughter says, “Yes, Daddy?” and I say, “Is Daddy mean to you?” and Quinn, without skipping a beat says, “Yes,” and I literally feel something in my heart pop and snap like a crusty bungee chord.  I want to put my daughter down and run away, hide in a closet, shut off the light and live the rest of my days in complete hermitude.  Quinn, unaffected, continues.  “You tease me… you tease me a lot,” and I just stare at her, into her eyes and I wish I had one of those weird whipping devices that the albino in The DaVinci Code had.  I need it.  I need to use it on myself.  I am a horrible person.

However, since I don’t have that archaic whipping device, I decide to torture myself by just pressing on.  I need to hear it.  I need to hear all of it.  I say, “Does Daddy hurt your feelings?” and my daughter, instead of saying anything, she just sticks out her bottom lip (NO!  NO!  NOT THE QUIVERING BOTTOM LIP!  GIVE ME THE WHIP-THING!  NOT THE LIP!  NOT THE LIP!) and she just nods, her eyes wide and sad and… they’re just so… SAD!

I gulp hard and try to decide how much I hate myself right now.  Is it like an 8 or a 9?

My daughter, apparently recognizing my weakness, decides to deliver the coup de grace with the most despondent phrase I have ever heard a three year old utter.  She says to me, “You hurt me.  You hurt my feelings.  I take my feelings…” and then she reaches up and pretends to pluck something out of her hair before shoving it behind her back, “…and I hide them away.  I hide my feelings away from you.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no!!!!!!!!!

I feel like I’m going to puke and then pass out.  This vision and view of the world I had in front of me is crumbling and blowing away before me like a castle made of stale bread.  I grab her gently by the shoulders as my eyes begin to fill up with tears of remorse and stupidity and selfishness and I say, “Quinnie, Daddy is so sorry.  Daddy is so sorry for hurting you,” and she looks at me and then says, “Ohhhh-Kaaaaay,” and just like that, I am forgiven.

Kids are incredible.  What a lesson in humanity this three old just schooled me with.  “Hey, Dad!  KNOWLEDGE BOMB!”  KER-BOOOOOM!

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My daughter gets up and scurries away, leaving me feeling broken and alone.  I call my son over, deciding to get all the dirty work out of the way at once.  If I’m going to be emotionally flogged, let’s just be sure to break me completely…

“Rory… hey, Roar.  C’mere a sec…”  My son approaches me and flops down onto my chest, knocking the wind out of me.  He laughs and pretends to bite my chin.  “Yaaaahhhhsssss?” he says in some weird Southern drawl and, like tearing off a Band-Aid, I respond quickly with, “Is Daddy mean to you?” and, in matched speed he answers with, “Nope!” and I say, “Are you sure?” and he says, “You’re not mean, Daddy!” and I say, “Do I hurt your feelings?” and he says, “NO!  You don’t hurt my feelings!” and there is a little wash of relief that pours over me.

Good, good, good, good, good…

I say, “Okay.  Thanks, buddy.  I love you.  Go play,” and I stand him up before  shutting my eyes to recount this revelation as he begins to walk away but… too soon.  He doubles back while I’m not paying attention and drops both knees into my abdomen, his laughter the only sound breaking through my pain.

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It’s just another reminder that, no matter how many parenting books you read, seminars you attend or videos you watch, there is no right way to raise children because each and every child is so completely and stupendously different.  Just because you have two children (and this goes double for twins) doesn’t mean that you have two of the same child.  They are people, like you and I, each with their own sets of bends and interests.  Each has their own sets of needs and desires and wants and what hurts the feelings of one may actually be the fuel that powers the second.

My children never fail; they are unceasingly unapologetic in their quest to build me into a better man, father and human.  They constantly remind me how far I’ve come but are sure to keep me humble by reminding me how far I have yet to go.

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Time Machine

If it wasn’t for a clock’s ability to keep track of a relative path of time, I would never know where I’m standing in the universe.  Time is not like the sun’s movement in that it cannot be counted on.  Like a junkie with a speed addiction, Time seems to get the jitters and talk fast before crashing into a slow motion daydream for weeks on end.  It doesn’t move the way the sun moves.  It jerks and shakes in chaotic shifts and you never know what tide you’ll get trapped in or for how long.  Why does Time move so fast when I’m having fun?  It’s a horrible trick of existence – to make the wonderful times slide through our fingers like so much watered down gravy.

I look around me and realize everything is moving too fast.  I feel like I’m driving through the desert to Vegas and I’ve suddenly glanced down at the speedometer.  110 mph!  I wish life had a break pedal or at the very least, cops to pull me over and say, “Kids are turning three.  You done everything you need to, son?”  Everything is getting away from me.  Everyday is this intangible trinket that I can never touch or see again.  All I’m left with is a memory of what happened… or what I think happened… the way I remember it…

If Time truly does fly when you’re having fun, then I’ve been in a private jet since my two oldest kids (twins) were birthed into existence.  Two nights running I’ve broken down crying while saying prayers with them and I feel like a woman on a cheap Lifetime movie.  I just see these two children and they’re so… big.  They just look like little… I don’t know… children and this is both beautiful and sad.  They don’t look like babies… because they’re not babies.  Time, that witch, has stolen my infants.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s given me two beautiful children to replace them but… I don’t know… I want it all.  I want them both.  I want to hear Rory recite his entire bedtime prayers, ABCs, 123s, Itsy Bitsy Spider and color wheel out loud, all alone, without help… but I still want him to be a chubby baby that can’t sit up without assistance.

I want to carry him and hold him and he’s already getting to the age where I ask, “Can I hold you?” and he says, “No,” and even on those occasions where he does stretch his arms towards me, asking to be lifted up, I find that he’s nearly becoming too heavy to carry around for any reasonable length of time, his feet dangling down and kicking me in the dick while I carry him through Target.

I guess it wasn’t really so entirely noticeable until the third baby was born; Bryce has put everything into perspective; locked us all into a new view of ourselves.  Before, when it was just the twins, I had that memory, that intangible trinket; I had the memory and the rules and regulations were set by me.  I didn’t see them changing.  They just… they went to bed and they woke up and they were a little older and bigger and smarter but I never noticed a difference.

Bryce makes the intangible tangible.  She says, “This is how small they used to be.  This is how helpless.  Enjoy me while you can,” and then I’m on my knees trying to scrape those sand grains into my arms, trying to keep every moment from blowing away.  I don’t want it to leave me, I don’t want to sleep at night, I keep everyone up until the very last possible moment, knowing that sleep will rob another day from me.  I wish, momentarily, that there were Time Machines but, the truth is, Time is the Machine and it will never break and never stop, the most flawless watch to ever be created.

I want to shake Quinn and say, “Never leave!  Live with me forever!  I’ll build you a tree house in the backyard and it can all be yours!  No!  I’LL live in the tree house and you can have the front house; just never leave your Papa!”  I want to clip her wings so she can never fly but… I know that would be wrong…

My mother is in town right now, staying with us for several weeks to celebrate the birth of our new daughter, having arrived just on the coattails of my  mother-in-law, both of them from South Dakota.  I look at them and I wonder and I think and I try to imagine what it’s like to have your children living halfway across the country.  What is it like to only see them three or four times a year?  What is it like to applaud your children’s success and encourage them to chase their dreams even though you know it means breaking your own heart and sending them away into the wild where they’ll be out of reach, out of call, out of touch.

Maybe this sounds like so much hand-wringing to anyone without kids but… you’ve just got to trust me.  Children are the party that you never want to end.  They are the DJs of your life and the entertainment.  They are Fonzie.  They are your friend with the trampoline in the backyard.  They are Saturday morning cartoons and pancakes for dinner.  They are Hide-and-Go-Seek and Jim Henson and adventure and cheese quesadillas all rolled up into one.

There’s nothing we can do to stop time.  It’s not a tank we can stand in front of, it’s not a rope we can grab onto and it’s certainly not a vehicle we can drive.  Time is just a cannon we’ve been fired from and we have our arms outstretched and we’re watching the scenery pass by as sticks and bugs slap us in the face.  The trick is to not shut your eyes.  Open them wide and watch.  Watch everything as it rockets past you because this is the only trip you’re getting.  Touch the grass, smell the roses, whatever you need to do.  Just make it worthwhile because when the trip is over… when you hit the ground with a thud… that’s it.

Fly.

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The Best Recipes in Oz

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Darkness is shining in through both of my bedroom windows when I finally retire for the evening.  Bryce is already in her crib, sound asleep while my wife sits in the dark manually breast pumping.  I just hear a squish-squish-squish noise as a I navigate over mounds of laundry and sharp furniture.

I set my book down with a thud, I set my phone down with a tink and I set my clothes down with a sluff, my belt latch hitting the wood with a piercing ting!  I look up and Jade is staring at me – squish, squish, squish – and says, “Could you make any more noise?  And, with completely impeccable comedic timing, I fart.

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For reasons unknown to me, I’ve been nursing a Monster Energy Drink for the past two hours and now, preparing to lie down, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to sleep.  I’ve  been sitting on the couch for the past hour reading The Wizard of Oz, hoping to bring on The Drowsies but to no avail.  I crawl into bed… my head hits the pillow… who am I fooling?  I dream about things both vague and nonsensical; things that make no logical reason in the waking world.  People I know play new roles in my dreams; my boss is my cousin, ex-girlfriends are my boss, South Dakota is Los Angeles.  I accept it all without question.

A shriek pierces through the dream clouds and I look towards the sky… open my eyes… I’m in bed.  The baby is crying.  Panic shoots from my brain to my heart and out my limbs.  I throw the blankets back and sit up, completely positive that something horrible is happening but completely positive that I have no idea what it is or how to remedy it.  Everything is moving slow and stupid, myself included.  Instead of turning on the light I just sit in the dark and stare at my toes trying to decide what my next move should be.

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Jade says, “Are you going to get the baby?” and I say, with just a hair too much anger in my voice, “Yes.  Yes, of course I’m going to pick up the baby.  You think I’m just going to sit here and let it cry?”  and she says, “Let her cry.  She’s a girl,” and I look down at my hands, still unsure about just what is going on.  I’m stuck in that horrible, horrible, terrible place where I’m not asleep but not awake, where hallucinations are possible and everything feels like you’re floating along in a drug induced coma.

Jade says, “JOHN,” with just a hint too much anger in her voice and I say, “Lay off!  I have no idea what’s happening! and I sit up and pick up the baby, stand up, set her on the changing table.  I unwrap her swaddle, unbutton her pajamas, pull out her feet, prep the new diaper, prep the wipes and open the old diaper.  This is the part that’s always like the worst game show of all time for parents.  What’s behind door number two?!  It’s……. JUST A BUNCH OF PEE!

Not tonight.  Tonight is a smear of yellow dookie that looks like someone power sneezed it into a Kleenex.  I wipe, clean, dry, replace old diaper with new diaper, put the squirming legs back in the pajamas, button them up, set the baby in the swaddle, take the left side over the right and then the right side over the left, tying her up in some weird cloth burrito that seems to me to be a complete claustrophobic nightmare but the baby seems to love it.

I hand her to Jade, turn and head to the kitchen to throw away the diaper and then to the bathroom where I pee and wash my hands.

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Back in the room I’m sitting on the edge of the bed and Jade says, “She’s asleep.  Here.  Take her.  Be gentle.  Don’t wake her,” and so I take Bryce from her and, instead of placing her back in the crib, I just hold her in my arms and bounce her and stare at her and say, “Jade… it’s absolutely incredible that your recipes are so…” and the other words I’m about to say are, “widely used in the land of Oz,” but I stop myself because I realize that this is somehow wrong and ill-timed and not meant for this world and just what is happening in my brain?

Jade says, “What?” and, me, still convinced that the first half of that sentence is a fairly factual statement and, thinking I can somehow slide by the fact that I have no idea what is happening I say, “Your recipes, babe.  Your recipes.  It’s incredible that they’re so…” and she says, “What are you talking about?  Put the baby down.  Shut up.  Go to sleep,” and I set Bryce down in her crib and then suddenly, a darkness lifts from my vision and I can see the world around me.  I say, “Jade,” and she says, “Yes?” and I say, “I’m really sorry.  I’m really tired.  I have no idea what I’m saying right now,” and she says, “Why are you so tired?” and then I get panicky because maybe my brain is still screwed up.  I say, “Because… it’s 3am.  That’s normal, isn’t it?”

Isn’t it?

I just don’t know anymore.

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ABOVE: BRYCE IMITATES THE POPE.

The Baby is sleeping.  I lie on my back and pull the covers up to the bottoms of my eyeballs.  I turn on my side, then my other side, then my stomach and Jade says, “Can you make any more noise?” and then, with impeccable comedic timing, Bryce farts so wet and loud that she wakes herself up.  She farts again and I would bet that it’s really more of a shart.  She sharts again and that diaper is full.  I shut my eyes, but not to sleep.  It’s more in that resigned way that one might do after accidentally sending an email to a person who isn’t suppose to receive it because said email is full of insults you’ve written about them.  You know it’s too late.  You know it’s futile.  You know you have to deal with the consequences.

I turn on my light and say, “Bryce, stop picking on me.”

Jade begins to snore.

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Dinner Table Stock Exchange

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My wife, being 4 weeks away from dropping calf on our third child, has, surprisingly, not had any pregnancy cravings, strange or otherwise.  No pickled pig snouts.  No watermelon sushi.  No salmon au gratin.  Nothing.  She enjoys one small bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios every evening before bed, but, I believe, this is only to curb her cravings for red wine and hard liquor.

My sister, who recently had a baby, hates bacon… or rather, hated bacon… until she got pregnant.  In her entire life, she claims to have eaten only four or five slices, a statistic that, frankly, baffles me.  As a constant purveyor of turkey bacon, which is supposed to be healthier, even I enjoy some thick slices of pork candy from time to time.

During her second trimester she called to tell me that she couldn’t stop eating it.  She told me she was eating bacon every day, sometimes more than once a day.  She and her husband (but mostly just She) were going through packages and packages and packages of this product that, three months prior, she detested and couldn’t even stand the smell of.

Nevertheless, it was somewhere during this phone call wherein she told me that she’d just read an article about pregnancy cravings and that, truly, I should be properly warned.  “Cigarette butts,” she says, “Soap,” she says, “Dirt,” she says.  “Women are eating these things.”

In my mind I try to imagine being pregnant and sitting alone at some kitchen table, an ashtray in front of me with a few stale cigarettes resting inside of it.  I try to imagine what it would take to eat one.  Not just the taste.  Not just the texture.  What would it TAKE for you to overcome every human nature and instinct and pick up an old cigarette butt and eat it?  I imagine glancing suspiciously over my shoulders just to make sure no one is home.  I mean, I know no one is home but still… I’m feeling a little guilty about getting ready to eat this ashy wand.

I pick it up in my hand and smell it, running it under my nose like a fine cigar or piece of garlic bread.  Yum.  I lift the cigarette to my lips and bite down on it.  It doesn’t crunch but rather just goes limp in the middle where my teeth hit.  I have to tear it in half like a piece of over cooked beef jerky.  The filter is in my mouth and I’m chewing like a yak and the door opens and my husband (because in my imagination, in this specific scenario, I am a woman) says to me, “What are you doing?” and I say, “I don’t know,” and then I weep and fall into his arms and he holds me and strokes my hair and caresses my cheek and — never mind.

The point is, we all have things we love to eat that may appear strange to others.  Personally, I like to take chocolate cake, put it in a bowl, pour milk over it, mash it up and eat it like a freaking gruel.  However, conversely, I can’t stand peas.  Overcooked, undercooked, raw, fresh, canned.  My wife asks what I don’t like about them and I say, “Taste and texture,” which pretty much covers every quality there is about a pea, what with them lacking proper personalities and all.

But, being the dad that I am, when my wife prepares dinners and she uses peas, I choke them down my tightened gullet, fighting every gag reflex inside of me just to be a good example to my children.  I figure that they’ll develop their own complexes soon enough and they don’t need me to help them along.  But today, at this lunch, something is different.  I just… can’t do it.  I’m staring at the macaroni and cheese with peas mixed in on my plate and it seems like the ratio is all screwed up.  It’s not a fair 80/20 split of noodles to peas, instead it seems closer to a 50/50 mix and… I close my eyes and take a bite.  I try to smile but imagine I look more like a rapist trying to pass as a human in Christmas photos.  My wife says, “What’s wrong?” And I open my eyes and she’s just staring at me.  She puts her fork down and says, “Why do you look like a rapist?” and I say, “Uh… the peas.  There’s just… so many,” and she says, “Well, I just want you to know that I wasn’t even going to make you lunch.  You… were an afterthought.”

Well!

I mumble something to myself about “…afterthought you and pillow over your face while you sleep,” and she says, “What?” and I say, “I shall try my best to feast upon these peas.  Long live the pea.  God Bless You!”  I ask my son if I can have a drink of his water and he says, “Nope.  This is my water,” and, while I don’t agree with that statement or his decision, I do respect it.  I encourage the children to share but don’t force them to.  I say, “But I’m really thirsty,” and Rory says, “That’s your coffee,” and he points and he’s correct.  Coffee with peas.  Gross.  I sound like a pregnant lady.

I take a bite and cringe again.  Bugs are popping in my mouth, little beetles exploding.  I gag and swallow and then begin to mechanically separate my food, peas from noodles, into two separate piles.  “Are you… are you kidding me?” my wife asks, like I would think this is a very clever joke.  I say, “No.”  She says, “You’re setting a bad example,” and I say, “I know… I know… but I just… I just can’t.  This,” and I wave my hand over my plate, “Is not happening.”

Jade turns to the kids and says, “You’re eating so good.  You’re eating your peas so good!” and I echo her and the kids echo both of us and then, like lightning, an evil plot hatches in my tiny brain.

I turn to Rory and I say, “Rory… Rory, would you like to have some of daddies peas?!” and his eyes get really big because he loves eating anything that comes from my plate.  “Do you want Daddy’s peas!?” and he says, “Yeah!  Peas!” and I start shoveling them into his bowl, ladle after ladle, load after load.  Jade raises her eyebrow to me, questioning my motives.

I say, “Good job, eat all those peas!” and he’s so excited to be getting all these little green gifts showered down upon him.  His lunch goes from a fair 50/50 split to mostly just a mound of peas with a few scattered noodles…  And then, like a snake in the grass, I slither in for the kill, “Daddy loves you so much!  Daddy loves you so much that he wants to share his delicious peas with you!  Daddy loves to share!  Sharing is so nice!” and Rory says, “Sharing is nice!  Daddy’s being a good boy!” and I say, “That’s right!” and my wife says, “Hmmmm….”

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I finish emptying all of the peas into his bowl and I gently say, “Rory… Daddy has given you all of his delicious peas,” and he says, “Thank you, Daddy,” and I say, “You’re welcome… And all I ask in return, all I ask, is for a drink of your water.”  And this boy that just moments before covetously gripped his cup to his chest in blatant refusal to commune with me, now eagerly grabs his chalice of life giving drink and thrusts it at me.

“I will share, Daddy!  Rory a good boy!”

“That’s right,” I say, “You are a good boy.”  And then I turn to Jade and I say, “And you were right as well.  I am setting an example for the children.”

She raises another eyebrow and sort of half smiles while I wash the disgusting taste from my mouth and finish my noodles.

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