Archive for September, 2010

The Two Of Them

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Because I’ve never had a very clear personality (or, as some of my friends would put it, because I’m totally full of shit)(and yeah, those are my friends), I have batches of people in my life who can’t believe that I’m friends with other batches of people. This means that for some people, when I say I went to seminary, they assume I am lying, and for others, when I tell them I had a mohawk, they just assume I’ve misunderstood the word. This means that I sit here, at forty with two kids, not quite fitting in to the first group, who are living in Brooklyn and creating art, or the last group, who have kids going off to college. The former think I’m utterly suburban, and the latter don’t think two kids even counts as a family.

Marlo and Me

This isn’t to say that I’m particularly strange. Most of the people I know through Barnaby are in the identical situation I’m in. Two kids, making it professionally and living in a major city on the East Coast. But I have been stymied when it comes to this blog, for a thousand reasons, and I really wanted to just write something about what it is to be forty and have two children in 2010, so I know what it was in the future.

It is interesting that I begin with a stammering apology. I see both groups glaring at me as if I were the guy standing in the middle of the buffet line, unsure of what I want and slowing everything down. I find my own introspection to be nausea inducing, but what else can I do? By the time you’re forty, you pretty much know how you’re gonna be, and your life becomes less like the bumper cars and more like the roller coaster. I might hate the sudden drops, but I honestly don’t feel like I’m steering any more, so I’m just gonna go with it.

I am in the surprising position of being deeply in love with both of my kids. I say this because it took me a long time to discover that I was in love with Barnaby, but almost the second Marlena showed up, I feel completely under her spell. A big part of the reason is because Barnaby made me a father, and so I now know what’s happening, I understand the speed at which each phase evaporates and how quickly they become real people. Already, I’m seeing her take developmental leaps that took forever with Barnaby – while the truth is they took the exact same amount of time, I’m just enjoying it so much more.

Five Guys, and he still wouldn't touch the burger...

Five Guys, and still won't touch the burger.

Marlena loves me like an old man at a museum loves a painting. She sits there, looking off, taking in the room with this peaceful stoic stare, and then when she sees me, she breaks into a big smile. When she’s crying, she stops simply when I pick her up, but I don’t even have to. We had a million ways of calming down Barnaby, but I get Marlena to stop crying by looking at her and saying her name. She will look at me and, no bullshit here, will go directly from crying to smiling.

She doesn’t really cry that much. She hates being in the carseat in the car, weirdly, but other than that, she only cries when she’s hungry or tired. And if she’s hungry and we feed her, she stops. When she’s tired, particularly if she’s tired of being entertained, it’s a little bit of a thing – what she really needs is a sensory deprivation chamber, and that is easily attained with a hulking dad holding her against his soft flabby warm belly.

Barnaby loves me like a fat kid loves pie. He will often stop in the middle of a conversation with someone else and say, “I need to tell my daddy something”, and he’ll walk in to wherever I am and say something like, “what would happen if lava was covered in milk?” When it’s just the two of us, he wants me underneath him or on top of him, he wants to be covered in me, even if he has to claw his way to the center of me, like a tauntaun.

He likes to open his mouth wide and move in on my mouth, while he’s propping my mouth open as well. He says, “We’re gonna eat our ‘chothers!” (somehow, “each other” has become “our chothers”, and it’s so frickin’ dear, I’m kinda praying he never stops.) If I ask him two questions, he’ll ask me twenty five. We have had long rhapsodies, where we sit and stare out the window while he demands I explain the most insane shit he can invent.

Marlena is a mystery, while Barnaby is a taskmaster. I know his every opinion about everything, not a single experience passes through his mind without commentary. Marlena seems to take everything in stride. I will think that she holds a special place in her heart for me, but then I’ll see her smile at the number of lights on the ceiling. She adores me, but she seems to have plenty of love to go around, and I still don’t know who she is.

Barnaby teaching Marlena how to beat this game.

Barnaby explains how simple it all really is.

Mostly, it isn’t that I have a daughter named Marlena and a son named Barnaby, I have a developmental three month old girl, and a developmental three and a half year old boy. But that mysterious person, who smiles at me but might just as soon be by herself… that’s Jordana. And the oral compulsive, who complains about everything, who has no unexpressed thoughts, who will make everyone laugh until they’re sore and then keep going because he doesn’t know when to stop… That’s me.

It’s a dangerous and actually BAD thing to identify with your kid. It’s important to *empathize*, sure, but you can’t think “that’s me”. You can’t. It’s really bad for the kid, it’s really bad for you. And it is bad for me. I’ve felt powerless since Barnaby was born, I’ve felt crippled by the constant sense that I was a three year old, that all of his fears are my fears. I am awake right now, at 12:45 at night, because I made the mistake of thinking about Barnaby’s last trip to the hospital.

But that’s my problem. Those are ghosts I’m fighting. The real kids are miracles that I feel like I don’t even deserve. If I could make either of them different, I wouldn’t change a thing, not a single thing. I am in the surprising position of being in love with them both, and I think once I get past my own damage, it’s gonna be so lovely to get to be their dad.