Monday, June 13, 2011

A Long Winter's Night

Some changes have been underway at the Daddy Life and I have been slow to recognize or define them. I blame the long dark nights of winter. I often clam up during the winter months; there are definite patterns to my neuroses.

Now it is finally summer in Portland (I can tell, because it's raining) and I am completing this reflection and introspection of the past few years all so that I can tell you about my spring.

The past six months have been great for me. I gained a level of competence with the two kids that allowed me to focus back on myself. I wasn't happy, buried in the dad life. So we made some changes. I think they were good changes, and they leave me feeling less like I sold my soul to have these children. Now it just feels like a lease arrangement.

I cut back on my drinking and increased my running. My close friends know that I always have some sort of program to hold down my alcohol consumption. This year I found one that seems to work. At the same time, I laid out a very detailed an very unambitious running plan to get back into shape. By March I was racing again, and in April I won my high school alumni mile. 4:57, baby!

We joined an athletic club. We always had gym memberships, but I got the bug to try to find something else. We live close to downtown, and even closer to a great big granddaddy of Portland institutions, the Multnomah Athletic Club. After my first year home with Jeep, I called one day to ask about joining. There was a lottery. We applied, got in, and then were waitlisted a year. Then it turned out I needed more member references. I found them. And then in February, after much discussion, we joined up.

I recognize that this is not something everyone can afford. I also recognize that the exclusive nature of a club is not for everybody. I don't really know if we are athletic club "people." There are certainly reasons to avoid this world, and as many reasons to embrace it. But here is the crux of the matter. I love it there. I go all the time: early mornings, late evenings, and in between. I put the kids in the childcare, I run on the indoor track, I work out in the gym. I take the classes. I read the paper. I take long showers and stand at the line of sinks in a towel and shave my face. This is exactly what I needed for this year of my life. I just needed a place to go.

Date night and the babysitter. When we joined the club, we also started a once per week babysitter plan. This was intended to give us a night to go downtown, take a yoga class, go for a run, and then shower and get out for dinner. The plan took a few months to get up and running, but now we couldn't be happier with the result. For babysitters, we posted an add on and found two excellent college-age women who have obliged our unique needs and sometimes trying children.

Two on the move. Eventually I had to commit to life with two. We have both planned and unplanned activities, but they are less ambitious than my wild adventure with Jeep. The zoo, the park, and the grocery store are more difficult, but not impossible with two. Now we just get out and go for it. It might be a little less fun than it used to me, but much more fun than sitting at home.

I don't know what the summer holds for us. The future is hazy. Or maybe the future is now. This morning marks the first day of our "summer". Jeep is outside on the back balcony, raising and lowering buckets and dropping stuffed animals. Ada is playing with blocks on the floor. The phone rings. (It just rang.) It's a mom friend, headed to the children's museum. We'll see you there.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Past Year

We began another school year, another round with the pre-school moms, another late summer of trips to the park and lunches to pack, but this time I had two of them.

Two children, two car seats, two baby carriers, two diaper bags, two of everything. And no days off in a week. At first Ada wouldn't take the bottle, so our days were noisy and our nights were busy.

My mother retired last year to help with the grandbabies, and help she did. Once a week she braved the early morning traffic to arrive on our doorstep and take the baby while I worked my shift day in the pre-school with Jeep.

Oh, the sweet, emasculating stickiness of this entire year. Cheerios ground into the carpet. Milk dumped on the couch. Singing lullabies, changing diapers. Now or in two minutes? Forts in the couch. Kids in the tree. Swaddle 1,2,3. You look into their tiny faces, bright-eyed, laughing and your heart breaks about twenty times a day.

And then sometimes you yell. Occasionally you spank. There are threats, warnings, and negotiations. They go to bed and you drink too much, brood about something intangible. You snore all night and your wife elbows you in the back. You wake up and make coffee and read the paper and don't go for a run.

That's life for awhile, and it seems like it will last forever. But it doesn't. Today is our last day of school before summer. Am I mourning the change of season? I think so.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Two For Flinching

It all happened so fast. (That's such a cliche.) How about this one - where did the time go? It is the busiest and craziest time of my entire life, with plenty of chaos punctuated by emotion and exhaustion.

These two little people made up our entire lives. We took all of Linden's maternity and unpaid leave that summer. It gave us time to build our family culture from the ground up. We did some travel, but some of it was too much for us. We relied on friends and family, but in the end we didn't settle down until Linden returned to work.

I have been very gratified to see the way that my children have taken to each other. From the beginning, Jeep loved his little sister. To this day, Ada follows Jeep around like a lost puppy. I don't know if we helped this relationship, or if it is part of the natural order.

Many things became more complicated with two, but one became simple. Caring for these two was now a full time job. For better or worse, I had fucked my way into job security.
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