“What color is that?”
“Ummmmm…Same color as da appo and same color as da stabarry and same color as da…and what color is da appo, da appo is red. So it’s red!”
“That’s right, sweetie. Are you ready for night-night?
“Nope! We haffa read Whyyyy-owed Fings first. You know dat, papa.”
“That’s right, Sweetie. And when we’re done with Wild Things, you’ll close your eyes and papa will go outside.”
“Okee, papa. But papa haffa come back.”
“That’s right, sweetie. Papa comes back in the morning.”
I can say “I used to be you,” but as I think that every last one of you is older than I am, you get the privilege of taking it from me in sagacious silence. The children win, of course, because they are immediately the us that we should have never stopped being. How long can I keep her stuck there, and how quickly will her insistence on enjoying herself outstrip that of her friends? And how quickly after that will she be diagnosed with some kind of disorder? I can just hear some uber-progressive Yoda at pre-school:
“Too much fun has that one. A disturbance I sense. Journey she must to the Oprah system, for the sustainable finger-painting of organic produce test. Fully charged must be her iPad, for she must read something, anything, written by a white American woman about Africa. She’s almost three years old, for Christ’s sake!”
OK, it ended a bit un-Yoda-ish.
Her moments of independence are almost as endearing as her moments of desperate need, which fall just short of her quirky routines. I cannot mount the staircase until she has ascended the entire thing, then turned around at the top to make sure I haven’t cheated. There is no verbal command to rise – “Lord Papa, riiiise (pouring on the Star Wars today) – just the implicit permission given when she assesses the situation as acceptable, then turns her back to me and goes about her business.
But nevermind the top of the stairs, she must be at the top of her game soon, which means laughing and smiling and taking nothing seriously, as she is a scant five months away from assuming the mantle of Big Sister. There is a boy looming, asking that we clear a space for him on or about January 26th.
It’s funny how uninteresting this one is for us. Pregnancy number one was “all hands on deck!” and all hands on belly. It was sweet and touching to monitor the growing mass, and to cradle it warmly when we were quiet. It was all-important to have crackers and water at the ready when mama complained of nausea.
“I don’t feel so good.”
“Okay, you go lay down, I’ll get you whatever you need.”
“I don’t feel so good.”
“Jesus. Still? Shouldn’t that have passed by now?
We are excited and awed, but also clinical and cynical, so there is so much less giddiness this time. I’m sure a second marriage is much the same way. The wedding part, anyway. All you remember from last time is which parts hurt the most and took the longest and how can we save a few bucks this time. How about for this particular birth we mix the old-fashioned with the new-fangled: I’ll be outside in the waiting room waiting for the doctor to tell me it’s all done and all good, except by “outside in the waiting room” I mean somewhere else, generally; and by “waiting for the doctor to tell me” I mean shoot me a text message when it’s over and I’ll be there in five-ten minutes.
I’ve seen the birth of a child. All new-age philosophy (ha! There’s meaningless term!) and grossly urbane sentimentalism aside, that’s a messy and unpleasant business. Women are happy to tell their men “You need to be there for me and the baby,” but they have the benefit of not being able to see what’s going on down there. Any of them who demand to have some kind of a mirror in place to watch their own little puppet show are just trying to find another item on the list of things they can talk about to sound deep and laudably sophisticated, without actually having their hearts in it. It’s gross. You cannot possibly want to see it. There is only dignity in admitting that. Dads: Resist. Be in the room, but stay up near your wife’s head where you can’t see anything. We had a nurse at the daughter’s coming out party who tried to trick me into looking. I remember a Brady Bunch episode where someone was trying to sue the Bradys for giving him whiplash in a car accident. One of the Bradys dropped a briefcase behind him in the courtroom, and he swung his head around at the noise. Ha! Caught you! That’s what the nurse did to me.
“Wow, you can see the head!”
She said it with so much excitement that a reflex kicked in, and one more thing that I swore I would never see was scratched from the list. She snickered at me. I hate that woman.
No name finalized yet, but I know I will call him Butch. It is my dad’s nickname, and I am not letting it get lost.