Thursday, July 8, 2010

Multiplication, Not Addition

            Can’t barely find any time to write. I’m drowning in fatherhood, thrashing around under the parenting waves, constantly attending to two kids and an edgy wife. Every once in a while I can come up for air, but it seems like I’m being forced to learn to hold my breath for longer stretches.
            I’m reminded of when Celia was one month old. The biggest issue I faced at that time in my life was learning to give up my old ways. It’s the next step in losing freedoms. Going from being single to married is kind of like a ball-and-chain, but a different sort. Yes, I had less time to myself, but my wife and I were able to go out at night, socialize with friends, I played lots of sports, had hobbies, and we generally had a grand old time together.
            Add one child to the mix, and suddenly we didn’t feel like going out anymore. What’s the point? We’d have to find a babysitter, which is either expensive or a big favor from a close friend. If not a babysitter, we’ be packing up for home by 7:30pm so we could put the kid to sleep and not have a miserable cranky child in the morning. Not my idea of a fun night out on the town. May as well stay at home and invite friends over.
            Now, with a second child the challenges have multiplied. Let’s say that Celia is somewhere around a “6” for her level of difficulty. Not so hard as she used to be, but still needs lots of attention. Then bring into the picture a newborn who, I hate to admit it, is probably “colicky,” which is another way of saying that he cries a lot, and doesn’t seem happy as often as other newborns. I hope that his issues will be resolved as his hip and pelvis gets put back into place – I do see a vast improvement from when he was born. But anyhow, I’d put him around a “9”, because he’s not necessarily a full “10” for difficulty, but he’s pretty darn close.
            Now, here’s the misconception – I think people tend to come into this second child business thinking that you simply add the difficulty levels together, but I discovered just the other day that you have to multiply them!
            Let me explain.
            Child B has a difficult night, crying for hour-and-a-half spurts, spitting up milk, pooping constantly, and wreaking havoc on Mom’s sanity. Then, at 2am Child A starts freaking out and wailing. She requires Dad to hold her for forty-five minutes, and can’t explain in the morning just exactly what all the fuss was about.
            At 4am, after Dad has managed to catch a few winks, Mom plops Child B onto his chest and says, “You burp him. I’ve had enough.”
            Dad looks up at the bright-red-faced whimpering child on his lap, and makes a feeble attempt at burping while lying down, which of course results in escalated wails. Dad sits up and does a proper burp, at which point milk spills all over his pajamas.
            Child B is now shrieking, the opposite of what Mom had intended, so Mom says, “Give him back to me,” and Dad conks out instantly, smelling like sour milk in the morning.
            Meanwhile, Child A starts wailing at 6am, so Dad gets up and starts his day, shaking his head when he looks in the mirror at the dark rings under his eyes.
            Now, here’s a little trivia. Who had the roughest night?
            Child B?
            Dad?
            Wrong! It was Mom! She slept a total of somewhere around two hours, because she’s a light sleeper to begin with! So, now a very tired mom comes staggering downstairs at 9am and hands Child B to Dad, saying, “You take him.”
            Dad is shocked at this arrangement, because he is paying for Child A to be in daycare so that he can get a plethora of things done. But, he looks into Mom’s eyes and silently holds out his arms.
            That’s what I call multiplication. 6 x 9 = 54.
            Holy smokes! It’s off the ten-point scale! Is it humanly possible!? Is it!? I ask of you, how can a 54 on a 10-point scale be manageable!?
            Michelle is the most tired I’ve ever seen her. I pray that she can make it through all the packing and move to Montana, on top of all this sleeplessness. Constantly listening to the indecipherable wails of Child B is starting to wear down both of us.

            Yesterday morning I sat with Celia in the rocking chair in the living room watching the fish eat their breakfast. She lay her head on my chest and stared into the fish tank as she slowly started to wake up. I rocked quietly and enjoyed the feel of her little body nested into my lap. I imagined that she was sitting there listening to my heart beat, and I felt a heart-connection in myself.
            Then, I sneezed, and Celia said, of all things, “Bless you, Daddy.”
            I smiled. And it grew into a grin as I realized what just happened.
            My child just blessed me.
            I wonder how long it generally takes for that to happen – for our children to bless us. Or maybe the better question is how long it takes for the parents to realize it. Maybe it was there all along, and now she finally has the words to say it.
            Either way, I sat there in our moment of peace and felt blessed. I felt truly, and deeply, blessed.

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