Tag Archives: thirdborn

The Party You Are Trying to Reach is Unavailable

locked out

The text from my wife read, “We’re at the movie. I had 2 shots of honey bourbon before we left (yay for not driving)! Feeling very luxurious. I love you!”

I didn’t encourage my wife to go out with a friend this evening to earn any special treatment from her, but the thought of her buzzed and happy and feeling thankful when she got home certainly made me optimistic for, well, the sort of evening that unfolds when my wife is buzzed and happy and thankful.

I put away dinner and got all three kids into their pajamas at the closest to bedtime we’ve been all week. The thirdborn, at 19 months old, has a strict routine he wants to follow every night. It involves a particular book about a puppy (which I couldn’t find tonight), and humming a hymn, and holding hands to pray, and turning a white noise generator to “ocean waves,” and hugging three stuffed animals before pushing them away, and then flopping around forever. My wife usually goes through most of this routine with him in our room while I read three stories to the girls in their room.

My firstborn lost two stories today for behavior issues, which presented a logistical problem akin to getting a fox, a chicken, and a sack of grain across the river. The girls would share one story together. The secondborn would get two more stories apart from her older sister. The boy didn’t want to stay in the girls’ room, and I didn’t want to leave the oldest alone while everyone else went into my room and tried to go to sleep.

So I read everybody a story in the girls’ room, then switched rooms and put my firstborn in my bed and equipped her with headphones plugged into an iPad playing Disney Pandora. I hunkered down on a mattress on the floor with the second- and thirdborn. We read two stories—substituting a second-favorite book about ladybugs for the missing book about the puppy—then turned out the lights.

Surprisingly, it all worked.

My son rolled and kicked, and my secondborn curled up on my legs, but everybody nodded off, one by one. When the last kid started breathing in that heavy “now I’m sure he’s asleep” way, I extricated myself from the tangle, congratulated myself on successfully figuring out the bedtime puzzle, and headed out of the room to do a little last-minute cleaning.

Upon descending the stairs I saw—serendipitously!—my wife just arriving at the back door. I went to let her in. And noticed her tear-filled eyes.

“Are you OK?” she asked, somewhere between a frantic gasp and a sob.

Before I explain why she asked that, let me set some more of the scene:

My son has recently figured out how to open our front door. During this past rainy weekend, I heard it slam and looked out our front window to see the guy purposefully limping down toward the street, one foot shoved into a yellow boot, the other bare. Tonight, I made sure I locked it. I’m getting into the habit.

I locked the back door behind me when I came home from work.

I often turn off my work cell phone in the evening, because it’s my work cell phone.

I left my personal cell phone in the girls’ room when I decided to move everybody into ours. I left my laptop in there, too.

The portable phone in our room (yes, we still have a land line) never made it back onto its charging base the last time we got a call (I’m note sure when that was, because only my parents, the blood bank, and telemarketers call the land line). Its battery had died.

We usually keep a window or two cracked in our bedroom for airflow, but we closed them both during the aforementioned recent rains and haven’t reopened them.

Got all that?

Here are the texts my wife sent me later in the evening, about half an hour before I came downstairs:

“I’m home and locked out.”

“Please let me in the house.”

There were also messages on my phone (“Hello? It’s your wife! I’m locked out of the house. Can you let me in please?”) and the house answering machine.

The Facebook message she sent read, “I’m locked out of the house.”

The white noise generator and faint strains of “Hakuna Matata” coming from my daughter’s headphones, coupled with my humming “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” for my son, apparently drowned out my wife’s shouts from the driveway. And her pounding on the doors. And the doorbell.

My trip downstairs to find her knocking on the back door was serendipitous only in that her own cell phone battery had just died and she was out of options for trying to reach me.

But she really liked The LEGO Movie.

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Outside Week: Worry Wednesday

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Taking the kids outside of the house means exposing them to germs. Forget fresh air; people don’t cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze around town.

Since I can’t actually isolate my children, they do get sick. My son started getting a fever on Tuesday evening—101.4 going up to 102—which pretty much shut me down with worry for the rest of the night. Yes, despite me knowing that it’s not even that high of a fever.

It’s not so much worry as it is dread, I think. Author Orson Scott Card once wrote about dread: “It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home hours ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.”

(I’m pretty sure that’s what I remember reading from a story collection of his back in high school. I couldn’t find the quote firsthand, so I turned to the Internet for help and can’t vouch for its total accuracy. I mean, it seems fine, but often so do words of wisdom mistakenly attributed to Einstein and Lincoln.)

Anyway.

At bedtime, I read a story packed with similes to my girls, and we took turns practicing creating some of our own: “We are as cozy as … ”

“Mice!” my firstborn said.

“We’re as sleepy as … ”

“Mice!” she said again.

I then turned to specifics of our family, saying one girl was as sweet as … and the other was as fun as … . Then I threw out: “Your brother is as sick as … ”

“A sick baby!” my secondborn shouted.

While my firstborn said, “Cancer!”

The little dude’s fever was gone the next day, and I know modern medicine has relegated to folklore the idea of teething causing a temperature rise, but darned if he didn’t have a giant tooth sticking out of his gums where there was just a little sliver of white before.

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Outside Week: The Wall

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I had my son with me for a little while at work today, so when I got a break, I took him out to a large lawn on the other side of the parking lot from my office. I work underground—literally—so some fresh air and sunshine always sounds like a good idea after I’ve been staring at a screen for a couple of hours.

The lawn slopes a tad toward a large white-brick wall, on the other side of which is a jungle-like tangle of plants covering an even steeper slope that leads to a creek.

When I freed my boy from the carrier in which I’d imprisoned him, he ran a few delighted steps on the grass, then headed straight for the wall and tried to climb it.

It’s what I would have done at his age. It’s what I still do, in fact, when faced with similar surroundings.

But why?

My son had a football-field-sized swath of green (proportionally to him, anyway) on which to walk, run, roll, whatever. There were plenty of dead leaves to kick around and crunch, sticks for waving and poking into eyes and nostrils, and little green and white pellets that were probably fertilizer, but looked like candy. But despite this carpet of riches, he focused on the wall.

He’s a bit young for strategy, I think, so I ruled out any desire of his to take the high ground and thereby gain a tactical advantage over his enemies.

Then I had two simultaneous thoughts. Try to read the next two lines as one single, overlapping sentence, to best approximate what was going on inside my head:

It must be our nature to not be content with what we have, to ignore what’s in front of us while we try to escape to what we imagine must be something more and better despite not knowing what it is.

And:

I am amazed at humanity’s fearless urge to explore this world, to not be content with the known and the safe and the carefully manicured and curated, to strive despite ferocious odds against the barriers we see or sense but do not accept.

Yes, I’m that eloquent in my head, even on the fly.

The opposing feelings made me laugh (again, in my head—I probably looked like a crazy person to passersby). Something as simple as my son trying to scale a wall more than double his height made me at once frustrated and proud, for him and for all people.

There is a tension here, in this life. Even at our happiest, I believe, we are still, however slightly, yearning for something more. The Not Yet. We are still looking to what Aslan, in the Chronicles of Narnia books, would call “further up and further in.” To believe in God—the Christian God, anyway, as I do—is to embrace (or at least be OK with) paradox. This life is great, on the whole, but there’s still something on the other side of that wall. I can be happy and discontent, grateful and dissatisfied. Here and there. Or wanting to be in one. Or the other. Or both.

Faced with such mysteries unfolding unexpectedly in the middle of a workday, I scooped up my son, handed him a stick too long to cause any eye-gouging damage (on himself, anyway), and plunked him on top of the wall. He refused to even sit on it without me holding his shoulders or hips—at first. But he soon raised himself to standing, and, with my help, leaned out over the other side to poke at leaves and branches growing close enough for him to reach.

Then he took my hand and walked the length of the wall, never once looking down at the ground on either side.

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Carol Week: Away in a Manger

 

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The decorations have been slow to come out this year, for some reason. Actually, I know the reason: our thirdborn, the 1-year-old. He’s not Christmas tree compatible, and a Douglas fir or whatever tends to be the centerpiece of the seasonal decor. We’re still planning to get a small version—something that would fit on a tabletop—but in the meantime, the nativity sets have been trickling out. My wife and daughters put up our first string of lights yesterday.

We have been listening to carols every night. After story time, the girls like it if one of us stays in the room for a while as they fall asleep. I tend to sit in a chair in the corner of their room and work on a writing project or play some mindless video game, and since Dec. 1, I’ve added playing carols, softly, to the routine.

Not much else, today. Last night was a very late night for various reasons, and a slice of life is what I’ve got in me this morning. May your day be merry and bright …

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Thanks Week: Over the River and Through the Woods

Thanks Week: Over the River and Through the Woods

When we begin a five-hour drive to visit our families for the holidays at 5 a.m., the trip goes something like this:

Firstborn: *sleeping*
Secondborn: *sleeping*
Thirdborn: *sleeping*
Wife: I love you!
Me: I love you! And hey, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is on! We should always do it like this.
Wife: We’re here!

When we begin a five-hour drive to visit our families for the holidays at 5 p.m., the trip goes something like this:

Secondborn: How much longer till we get there?
Wife: Um … about four hours.
Me: Let’s listen to a CD. I got one of dragon stories.
Thirdborn: *crying*
CD: “The Last of the Dragons,” by Edith Nes—
Thirdborn: *screaming*
CD: —she wore a—
Thirdborn: *shrieking*
CD: —told him—
Secondborn: I can’t hear! Stop it!
Me: *shutting off CD*
Firstborn: Turn it back on!
Me: Let’s wait until the crying stops.
Firstborn: Turn it back on!
Thirdborn: *crying*
Thirdborn: *crying*
Thirdborn: *quiet sniffles*
Me: *reaching for the play button*
Thirdborn: *screaming*
Firstborn (whining): My back hurts!
Wife: Stretch your arms up. Way, way up! That will help!
Firstborn: No.
Wife: It will help!
Firstborn: No.
Thirdborn: *crying*
Secondborn: *whimpering*
Me: What’s wrong?
Secondborn: *crying*
Wife: Are you going to throw up?
Me: What’s wrong?!
Secondborn: *sobbing”
Firstborn: My back!
Secondborn: *weeping*
Me: Fine. Don’t tell us.
Secondborn: My tummy!
Wife: Get your bag if you’re going to throw up.
(rustling noises)
Firstborn: I want the blue bag!
Wife: It doesn’t matter which bag you have.
Secondborn: She won’t give me my bag!
Wife: Give her the bag.
Firstborn: No.
Secondborn: My tummy!
Wife: It’s a throw-up bag. I gave her the blue one. Just hand it to her.
Thirdborn: *screaming*
Wife: Give her the bag! Now!
Me: Are you going to throw up? Is she going to throw up?
Secondborn: No!
Firstborn: *angrily huffing*
(more rustling)
Secondborn: How much longer till we get there?
Wife: Um … still about four hours.
Me: *crying*

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m thankful for safe travel, no matter how much screaming is involved.

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This is my baby

This is my baby

When my wife and I announced that we were having a third child, people would look at our two daughters and then ask me, “Are you hoping for your boy?”

The question annoyed me. It presumed so much: That I was dissatisfied with the girls. That a boy would somehow be more mine than my daughters are. That there’s a proprietary angle to our children. That dads need sons.

We chose to wait until we actually saw the baby to find out whether we were having a boy or girl, and I subsequently worried my way through the pregnancy.

Over the last several years, I’d developed a sense of myself as a good dad for daughters. I attended tea parties and gladly visited imaginary hair and beauty salons, all while championing my girls’ simultaneous desires to get muddy and rowdy, their dreams of being entomologists, and their rights to pursue whatever paths they chose, regardless of sex or gender. I proudly told people that they were the sorts of girls who liked putting on princess dresses before they climbed up on rocks and jumped off. I wrestle with them. I love camping with them. I enjoy the makeovers they give me.

I also not-so-secretly worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy, protesting that I’m not an athlete, not a typical “guy”—to which my wife pointed out that I was being just a tad sexist. My firstborn, after all, shows all the signs of being competitive, physical, coordinated, and eager to take up sports, and I have no worries about my future interactions with her. I was also raised under a model of unconditional support; my rec-major dad and super-active mom—both of whom have participated in team and individual sports my whole life—never failed to attend one of my ballet recitals or musical theater performances. Of course I will make every effort to try to understand whatever activities any of my children choose to pick up.

And then he arrived. I was convinced we were having another girl. But here was this additional XY in the house, and I found myself quickly admitting that, yes, I’m glad I now have a son. Part of me feels guilty in such an admission—but my wife, correct as usual, points out that I can be happy with daughters and a son. For different reasons. And I am.

So I’m working on not being ashamed to say that I’m thrilled to have this little guy in my life, one who already likes to watch me shave. I’ll teach him how to do the same, someday—and he’ll need to do it often. I’ll teach him how to tie a tie, if that’s his style. I’ll teach him about healthy relationships, and respecting women, and masculinity that has a positive impact on society. I hope. I’ll try.

I call him Mr. Dude or Mr. Boy, and I have only recently admitted that I am glad that there’s another person in this family who will—I think, anyway—someday see the world from a similar perspective to mine.

I don’t know any of that for sure, but I do know that he is my boy—as much as my daughters are my girls. And that’s OK.

What do you think?

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