Reality Week: Fighting Monsters

Reality Week: Fighting Monsters

In addition to my anniversary—the highlight of my recent memory—I’d been looking forward for quite some time to watching Pacific Rim this week. I missed my chance to see it in theaters over the summer, so when I saw that it was coming out on DVD on Oct. 15, I pegged it as something with which to mark the end of a busy batch of days. It features giant mechanical warriors pummeling equally giant—like, Godzilla-sized—monsters (kaiju, to you), and there doesn’t need to be any more explanation than that.

I tend to do organize my busy life that way. I pick some upcoming event on an upcoming day and set my sights on it, thinking to myself, “Just make it to then, and you’ll be fine.” It’s a good way to not get bogged down by daily stresses and sadnesses, of which there are an Artax-sinking plenty, but the method also has some major flaws.

First, it keeps me from the present. I won’t necessarily be fully here if my mind is camping out there.

Second, it’s not a real ending. I get to my Friday (or whenever) finish line, only to find that it’s actually just a checkpoint. I know the race isn’t over, but I still act like it will be.

Third, it’s easily derailed. If I’m burning all my energy and focus with the expectation of a reprieve, and then something happens to delay or cancel it, I’m stuck with a stressed-out self who put all his eggs in one basket and then balanced that basket on the edge of a wobbly table.

Still, I have to admit it’s how I operate, for good or for ill. And despite the method’s flaws, it has its payoffs.

In addition to my regular family and work responsibilities this past week (and, yes, the amazing anniversary on Wednesday, which was a recharging checkpoint all its own), I had a long evening meeting on Thursday and a big freelance deadline on Friday. Plus I recently tasked myself with creating art and text for daily blog posts (if you hadn’t noticed), which has kept me busy.

Around Wednesday, my middle kid suggested a game-centered family night for Friday, and since my wife got me the cooperative Forbidden Island for our anniversary (despite that fact that she likes games like I like jazz: It’s fine in small doses, but not generally my thing, and the longer it is and the more thinking’s required, the more its appeal drops), we had the makings of a solid end to the week. Anticipation mounted.

When Friday finally rolled around, I met my deadline. My wife said she’d make risotto for dinner. Then she picked up the last available Blu-Ray copy of Pacific Rim at our local rental place.

That’s when I started to get antsy. I came out of a work meeting to see I had a voicemail from “Wife”—as she’s literally labeled in my phone—and my first thoughts were not so much concern about whether one of my children was injured, as is often my fear when my cell rings, but that someone was sick or majorly misbehaving and the perfect Friday I had been imagining/longing for/counting on was evaporating.

Changed plans are a staple of parenthood.

But even the fact of plans changing isn’t 100 percent guaranteed.

And that’s reality. Not everything is meltdowns and car troubles, emergencies and Band-Aids and throw-up buckets. Those things will come, yes—and I’m still waiting for another shoe to drop, even as I write this, since my middle kid complained about an upset stomach as she went to bed—but there are also nights when the children don’t bicker; the risotto is cooked perfectly; the family works together to win the game; teeth-brushing and pajama-putting-on and storytime go smoothly, the baby stays asleep; and a huge robot rocket-punches an extra-dimensional lizard right in its face.

Repeatedly.

I needed that.

Reality Week: Momentum

Reality Week: Momentum

We had dinner out. More dinner than we probably should have had: chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates; spice-roasted beets with herbed goat cheese mousse, arugula, chili-walnut honeycomb, and citrus coulis; fried chili chickpeas—and those were just the appetizers.

Thanks to a generously given gift certificate, we were dining large for our nine-year anniversary (traditional gifts are pottery and willow, if you’re wondering). Sure, my presents to my wife fell a tad flat—I’m not the best, apparently, when it comes to shoe or underwear shopping for her—but there was a particularly thoughtful handmade gift in the mix (not the underwear, if you’re wondering), and the evening was, on the whole, a success.

Lulled, perhaps, by the meal and the attendant alcohol, we cavalierly ignored—ignored!—our babysitting friends’ offer to watch our children for longer than we had originally agreed. “The girls were already up late last night,” we reasoned, “and they’re so tired, they’ll just go to sleep when we get home. The baby, too. And then we can keep celebrating.”

I will reiterate: We had the opportunity to go to our kid-free home for about 45 minutes on our anniversary, and we convinced ourselves that there was a better option on the table.

The girls went relatively quickly to bed. The baby did not. He vacillated between manic laughter and weeping, pausing only to suck down water from a blue sippy cup like he’d just eaten a whole little Zen tray’s worth of sand. When he’d emptied one, I got him another: an orange one, which was unacceptable. I was to go blue or go away.

He didn’t want to be held. He didn’t want to be put down. He wanted my wife. He wanted me. He wanted more water. He wanted to pour the water on the bed. He didn’t know what he wanted.

And then, he flung his head backward. Into my lip. My readers without kids of their own may have heard that babies have soft spots on their skulls, and that’s true—for a while, anyway—but most of a 1-year-old’s head is actually quite hard.

Now here’s the thing: I didn’t get a cut. I didn’t bruise. My mouth throbbed for a minute or two, and then I was fine. But his little skull was like a period on a typewriter, hammering into the paper of my face.

It ended the sentence.

We tried to pick up steam again later, after I finally patted and hummed the little guy into unconsciousness on our bed, transferred him to a pillow, carried that pillow to his room like I was a waitress balancing a plate of stuffed piquillo peppers in a basil oil red wine reduction, and left him—finally!—in his crib. But it was too late.

Literally.

Don’t feel too bad for us, though. We had already managed some kid-free time (!) that morning when we first woke up.

Still, can you top our what-were-they-thinking moment when we picked up the children despite the offer for more time alone?