Monday, June 22, 2009

"daddy getting angry"

This weekend I had the girls for 2 nights while M was off at her old college, planning for a reunion. It was a good father-daughter time, and it was a hell of a time, and I learned just how lousy a parent I would be if I was doing this without M.

Both girls slept poorly, by which I mean K woke up between 5 and 5.30 Saturday and Sunday mornings and came to join L and me (L in our bed isn't news any more, and since M was away, there was room enough for both of us, so I don't count that as "sleeping poorly"). Came to join L and me and wake up L and me.

So we started every day early. Quite early.
And had this conversation roughly 20 or 30 times a day:

K: "What (insert name of relative/neighbor/random zoo animal) doing?"
me: "Sleeping."
K: "Why sleeping?"
me: "Because for the rest of the world, it's still night time."

We made it through Saturday w/o too many problems, though K had a string of timeouts in the afternoon centered around hitting L with her doll ("Sammy" -- "Sammy boy daddy." "I know." "Why Sammy boy?" "Um... because you told me he was?"), pushing L, stealing toys from L.... the usual I suppose.

Sunday was a little harder, probably due to an accumulation of lost sleep (my lost sleep. I'm pretty sure K wakes up at this time every morning). So I was starting to get touchy. And when the dog nipped my hand while I gave her a treat for coming to let me know she'd pooped, and L was screaming in her highchair and K wanted to come outside to help me pick up after the dog, I said firmly, "You stay inside."

K: "K want to go out..."
me: "You stay inside!"
K: "Daddy, K want..."
me: "Stay inside!!"

And she did. And I stomped around the yard picking up the dog's poop and wondering how M manages every day like this. Then I went back inside and thanked K for staying in (she was standing with her face pressed against the glass of the kitchen door, unhappily obedient) and explained that I was frustrated because the dog had nipped me and L was crying and and and....

K: "Why nip you?"
me: "She wanted her treat and I wasn't being careful."
K: "Why not being careful?"

And so it went.

Thankfully M caught an earlier flight home and got there in time for all of us to swarm around her in grateful mobs and even in time for us to do a family dinner out at our local pub-grub joint.

I have to say, I have a new-found respect for everything M does to make it through each day. And I realize why it's not efficient for solitary, morose dads to be the primary care-givers. The children wouldn't survive.

After M got home, I heard K talking to her. M asked how the weekend was, and K said "Daddy getting angry." I sat on the couch in the other room, wondering what, exactly, she was thinking about when she remembered me "getting angry." I can only hope it's a small stone in the passageways of her life. I'll work the knife out of my heart over time, or at least learn to ignore the pain.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

father's day

We tend to be too young to fully appreciate our parents, and especially our grandparents. By the time we're mature enough to do so, they're gone or nearly so.

I have gained a huge appreciation for my own parents, now that I'm a parent myself. There's something about staying up late, holding a crying and helpless baby that makes me appreciate all my parents did for me when I was that crying and helpless baby. As a dad I begin to realize that my own dad, someone I wasn't particularly close to as a teenager, once did the things I'm doing now, felt the same love for his children that I feel for mine.

Dad, thank you for all you did. You weren't perfect, but then no one is, and at this point in my life I believe it's long past time for blaming anyone but myself for any issues I have. And, as K (my sister) says, the best we can hope for as parents is that we don't fuck it up in the same ways that they did.... Actually, K wouldn't ever say "fuck it up" but that's the gist of her point, with emphasis added by me. Yeah, we're going to mess up as we raise our own kids, but guess what?, they'll survive and maybe even come to appreciate us, once they become parents themselves.

Thanks again, Dad.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

definition: nausoleum

Where you go when you're "sick to death" of something.

Note: Can also be used for active barfing, if it's late and you're drunk.


Last night I had the honor of attending my niece's high school graduation. This meant driving an hour south in the early afternoon, waiting for hours in a hot college gym, and then driving an hour north late that night. But it was worth it.

My mom and younger sister came over from Maui for the event with my nephew, and my brother-in-law's parents made the trip from NY. M is the first grandchild on either side to graduate, but it was more than that. This was a very special moment for all of us.

M has been a wonder from the beginning.

She was born 3 months early, so early that it was touch-and-go for some time. So early that my sister didn't even get to hold her for weeks. So early that she would have fit into my open hand, if I'd been allowed to pick her up, if I'd had the courage to pick up someone that tiny, that delicate, that vulnerable. It was a beginning no one would have chosen.

And M now is a vibrant young woman, healthy and active, with a horse she rides and a group of equally energetic friends. She's also one of the sweetest young women I've met. So easy to love.

It seemed like every one of the speakers last night focused on the ability we all have to make a difference by making small efforts. To paraphrase, not everyone can make a big difference, but everyone can make a difference by making small efforts. This was the theme of the evening, or so it seemed to me as I sat crushed in a gymnasium with hundreds of other family members (not all mine!).

That strikes me as a good theme for M too. She's not flashy, not out leading the charge. But she has an impact by caring about those around her.

I managed not to get too choked up during the ceremony, but I was reminded of a time a couple of years ago when I did get choked up watching M. This was at the County Fair and she was there with her riding team. Part of the responsibility was to be present at the stables on the fair grounds and answer questions when curious people came by.

While she was talking to us, a small girl (8yo?) came by. M turned to her and said hello and the girl asked her something. I don't remember what the question was... something a small horse-struck girl would ask an older girl who is lucky enough to have a horse. M gave that little girl her full attention and shared her love for riding by taking her seriously, answering questions as graciously as anyone I've ever seen. I was struck by the thought that somehow she'd grown into an amazing young woman while I was busy with my own life, and it made me teary to see how far she's come, how sweet and generous a person she is. It wasn't that long ago that she was three and kicking the car seat, cranky and unmanageable during a long drive to the coast. How did this happen, and how did she become this wonderful woman?

It's a reflection on my sister and her husband, on the job they've done with M and her brother, but mostly it's a reflection of M herself, and it makes me a proud uncle to stand nearby as she starts to unbend her wings and look out on the rest of her life. I can only hope my two girls grow into people like her.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

at least we'll know what time she gets home from her dates....

I'm not sure how it's worked out this way, but we're a threesome most nights. And by "most nights" I mean every night but eight since L was born. 18 months ago.

Not exactly what we'd planned, but she seems fine with the arrangement.

Every night between 9p and 2.30a L joins us in bed, and now that she's approaching 19mo, she sprawls in ways and resists in ways that are counterproductive to quiet nights. There's something distinctly different between a fully-swaddled and immobile 3mo old, and a toddler who can shake her head emphatically when told she needs to Just Go To Sleep. "Uh UH!"

I'm afraid we missed the window, that magical "let her cry it out even though the neighbors are starting to congregate on the sidewalk" window. That "do your damnedest, scream your loudest, because we're going to be down in the kitchen eating Hagen Daz and drinking chardonnay" window.

One problem is our house -- it's really a one-bedroom house. Don't get me wrong, it's a GREAT one-bedroom house, but damn, another bedroom would be nice. K and L share a walk-through room on the way to our bedroom and this means that, though we were overjoyed to let K cry it out (she'll get deal with the trauma on her own time, in therapy), with L we tended to leap for her on the first hint of crying ... after all, what's worse, one crying kid, or two?

There's nothing so lacking in perspective as an exhausted parent, And when I say "exhausted" I fully acknowledge that M bore the brunt of those early long nights.

Unfortunately, this "shut her up at all costs, even if it means sleeping with her until she goes to college" hasn't turned out to be as a good a long-term solution as we'd hoped, and now we're paying for it.

Of the eight times she's slept in her own crib for a complete night (defined as until at least 4.30a) six of those were in the last two months, but none in the last month. There we were, imagining that we'd gotten over the hump, so to speak, when L caught a cold and everything went to hell in a handbasket.

Last night she slept in her crib until... 11.30p? Maybe. I'm pretty blurry about details when woken up from a dead sleep. In any case, it was long enough for us both to do some bedtime reading, which, truth be told, is probably the single thing we most miss when she gets up before 9p. Lately when she joins us, she's awake for 1-2 hours, kicking, squirming, sitting up and handing over her pacifiers ("All done!") and demanding water ("Water!!"), then wanting the pacifiers back ("Waciwa!").

Compounding the issue now is that K, at 3yo, has started to wonder why her sister gets the royal treatment (sleeping between us) and she's stuck out in her own bed. Try reasoning with an exhausted 3yo at 2.30a! No one is reasonable at that hour.

Good thing I get to go to work!