Sunday, July 18, 2004

Sunday With a Sippy-Cup

 About a year or so back, I wrote in another blog about the absurdity of the term/concept of metrosexual. In that brief essay, I figured I semi-qualified: though semi-urban, I was somewhat interested in appearance (if only I could remember to get a haircut more than once every decade), I can make a mean Chicken Marsala, and pick a great wine to go with it, my house is MOSTLY clean and uncluttered... However, having 3 little ones definitely takes me out of the metrosexual running. Is that fair?
As I wrote in that previous blog, who cares? I don't think Salon or GQ would find me very metro and not just because three little lovelies are tugging at the tail of my Versace shirt. The ability to fix a leak in a washing machine is probably not on the metro resume and you probably won't find replacing the clutch cable on a 68' Bug on there, either (much less doing a full tune-up). Making a pretty cool set of shelves out of scrap lumber is also not part of the metro mystique. Fops don't fix things and fops don't make things.
Part of figuring all of this out is navigating this new identity. It's not something I asked for but it is something I have gladly taken on. I've always been for a new adventure and I have to hand it to my kids, they keep things interesting.
Necessity has been the father of invention, as a single dad, and just like my children I'm learning by baby steps. “Google is my friend” (is my motto) and typing in “how to” along with ket symptoms of my problem always gets me a solution. Oxyclean is likewise my friend. Most importantly, I know what wine goes well with ironing (although I prefer beer - India Pale Ale - to be precise) and how to get a 22-month old through washing his hair without shattering glass.
I've wondered what Single-Dad support groups are like, what they talk about. I mean, I really can't find a reason for attending something like that but I would have some questions. For instance, how do you get the little stopper-thingies from sippy-cups good and clean? Yeah, yeah, I know the pat "Well, don't let it sit all day so the gunk doesn't build up," but really, kids are wonderful with "Hide the Sippy". If time really is money (and I've never figured out that equation) then spending 10 minutes sticking a toothpick into sippy-cup parts is just about equal with tossing it and buying a new one.
For whatever reason, the little sippy-cup brushes are as elusive as the sippy-cups themselves. No matter where I keep them, they seem to escape, almost immediately. Or maybe the kids are hiding them. That would make sense because for each minute I spend toothpicking a sippy-cup, there's another minute for taking fish out of the fish tank and taking them for a swim in the puddle in the sandbox.
I’m pretty sure the other dads are with me on just tossing the sippy-cup, so maybe I’d ask them how to get mashed-up Pop Tart out of anything, short of scoring it with a razor blade.  The rule has always been, “No food leaves the table” but it seems Pop Tarts get pocketed; I find fruity-goo everywhere.  And once it’s there, it’s part of the furniture. Maybe I need a jar of liquid nitrogen.
Now that I think about it, I see no reason to go to a Single-Dad support group. I doubt metrosexuals need a support group, they seem like a pretty self-satisfied bunch (emphasis on “pretty”) and I doubt they have to deal with their hair-care products spilled all over a bed spread. Too bad for them; maybe their lives would be interesting.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Marni Says She is Blue

Marni is my middle child, my 2nd born, my 3-year old, the little reiteration of my soul. I knew how bound we were almost from the time she was born. She had an affinity for daddy almost from the beginning as she looked to me, constantly, rose in her crib when I got ready for work, scuttled across the floor to greet me when I got home. In her infancy, she saw things I could not.

Asking me who my favorite kid is like asking me what my favorite song is - it's unanswerable because it is such an absurd question. Zeke was good as gold all day while the girls were fighting, fighting, fighting and then Zeke takes a favorite houseplant and turns it into a mound of mud on the carpet... there is no playing "favorites" on this journey. There is only a heart a-glow with three little burning fires, sometimes one outshines the others but only for a moment and then only because it is another's turn to shine. That's just how it works out, just like music.

Ten years ago I couldn't imagine that I could split this kind of total, unconditional love three ways but now I can't comprehend how I could have been so miserly with my love. Before I became a father, friends of mine talked about how parenthood "transforms" a person. I thought, yeah, you have tons more to do and zilch for social life. There was no possible way I could have known what they really meant, just how profound that change would be. Learning to love without limits is just one of the many gifts brought to me by my kids.

Although Marni resembles me in temperament, personality, love of music, so many things, she is not my "favorite", she is just the most like me. She is also very willful and brave (two qualities I do NOT possess) and that can be frightening. Today she ran out into the street and I flipped out, running out to grab her (and proving a poor example for the other two by not looking both ways) and then scolding her with no undue frustration. She cried, not because she had been yelled at, but because she was not getting to do what she wanted to do.

I fear she's going to be the kid who runs into traffic, blindly. Just like I was. I hope she also has my blind luck.

She has my creativity, for certain. She has a talent for making something from nothing and letting that entertain her for hours. In The Dulcimer Shop, she is immediately drawn to the strings, plucking, strumming, making music - she has a natural rhythm. I've wanted to get her into Dance Camp. She is tiny, nimble, a sprite. But Lilly's not getting Acting Camp and Zeke's not getting... well, Zeke's too young for camp and prefers sticking close to daddy... no Dance Camp for Marni but swimming for everybody in the fall. The creativity of compromise.

Interestingly enough, Marni was born on the day I was due to turn 40 (I was a preemie by almost a month). I'm an Aquarian, she's a Pisces. I don't know what that means but plenty of other people say they do and I'll leave those people their assessments. There's coincidence and there's spooky coincidence but I'm a skeptic and call it all Just Coincidence. Spooky thing on the genes, though.

Anyway, since she was about to turn three she's said, "I'm Blue." "Blue" the cartoon dog, she loves that show. Has a "Blue" stuffed animal, "Blue" pajamas. "Blue" is a girl puppy and she sets up puzzles for her friends to solve, so I don't mind that she's "Blue". She can have her Blue Period, like Picasso or Miles Davis, I don't object.

I took the kids for a short stroll through downtown tonight, all 700 Yards of it. A hot summer night, tourists looking for a way to stay cool, bikers filling the frosted mug of The Royal. A friend of mine, Joe, about to be a dad himself, saw me on the street, came over to shake my hand, meet the kids.

"I'm Marni," Marni said.

A small part of my heart broke at that moment. A precipitant sigh of loss, her Blue Period over. As I am cursed and blessed with an almost photographic memory, I can recall all of these moments, in all of my kids, the snaps of development where I see their lives pass before my eyes, arriving back in that point of their becoming, emerging, Marni, not "Blue".

If she's anything like Lilly, she'll be "Blue" for a couple more months and then the fascination will fade. Only to be replaced by another obsession and more of it, but a fascination of more complexity, more depth, more things in it. Marni already tells stories, plots, themes, intents; listening to her integrate more of her world into those stories is astounding to hear. I know she's already gotten a lot of mileage from being Blue and she figures out Blue's puzzles pretty easily.

Then again, Marni is a fighter, persistent, maybe she'll be Blue into Middle School. It wouldn't surprise me; like me, she's also eccentric. However, I'm betting she'll soon find something else to become, more Marni, less whatever it is she fancies herself to be.
Tonight just saw her blaze a little brighter on the street, her flame high in my heart.

OK, your first clue is, she was a baby. Got your handy-dandy notebooks? Your second clue is, she was "Blue". Now, we just need one more clue and we'll have figured out "Blue's Clues".

So, here's the third clue: Daddy is elated.

Answer: Bittersweet.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

24 Off, 144 On

Getting along with your X is helpful; I wouldn't have the energy to deal with the manipulation, greed, the petty games played out in court and out of school, everywhere unwinnable games matter. Too much work for me, my friend. Agreeing to not be disagreeable while trying not to disagree, accepting compromise at times... it keeps things serene.

"I'm compassionate if nothing else," I told a friend at TAM (The Ancient Mariner) last night, explaining why I let X (The X) have the kids a night.

"Yes you are," my friend replied, giving me a hug. I'd played barroom therapist for her one night, helped her resolve an issue with her father, she's always been gracious. But yes, I'd been compassionate with X.

X knows she has problems and needs to work those issues out. She also knows that the kids can't be around while she's getting it together. When she called the other day, I could hear the heartbreak. She missed her kids. She said she'd been staying sober, felt OK, she wasn't feeling manic. Her voice said it was all true.

Her last episode she'd been doing scrips, Xanax, Vicodin, the former she got from a doctor, the latter on trade for a few of the former. Third mental health/substance abuse hospitalization in a year. It was too much; hell, the first time was too much. I had to take the kids on by myself, indefinitely.

Fortunately, among all the things X and I agree on, that the kids come first is foremost. So when I said I would keep the kids indefinitely, she didn't fight me.

When I dropped the kids off, her place was pretty clean; when I picked them up, it was trashed, stuff everywhere. My kids have a gift for wrecking a place in a few short hours, if left unchecked. Not entirely compassionate, she gets no sympathy from me.

It's 3 A.M. and my youngest will be up in 4 hours - if I'm lucky. A diaper to change, a bowl of cereal to pour, an intermitent cup of Orange Juice to be monitored. More Apple Jacks on the floor, stickiness on the kitchen floor to be cleaned. The girls will be up soon after and although no diapers, plenty to clean. Their ceaseless chatter at the table will tell me that my day has irreversibly started.

I wouldn't have it any other way. At least for today.

X will start her own day in her own way, I suppose, but there's no way for me to know what she does. That's fine, too. I just hope it's another day of her getting her life together, I want what's best for her. However, what's best for the kids takes precedent over X's welfare, in my eyes. When she's ready to be a mom again... there's no telling. Until then, here I am.