“I keep thinking of Cole and Avery as babies. But they aren’t, are they?” I said to Lynnette on a drive home earlier this week. “No – they aren’t – but I feel that way, too,” she said. “They’ll be a year old in less than a month.”
I have spent my entire life making things up as I go along. I am a procrastinator by nature and trade. The inherent problem with this self-chosen lifestyle, however, is that it constantly forces me into survival mode. Survival mode is the human setting which expands human capability in part by aggressively narrowing perspective. In other words, while a human may encounter multiple obstacles in a small window of time, those numerous goals are oversimplified into a single objective: making it through the day. When I am in survival mode, I am only concerned with finding the next pocket of unpressurized time, however brief it may be. Everything and everyone else falls away into the background. I was in survival mode from November of last year until June of this year. I went back there in July when Avery got sick. I’m just coming out of it now. I’ve gained 10 pounds since Avery went into the hospital. My pants and shorts fit differently. My jaw is being replaced by a second chin. I often don’t know what day it is. Sometimes when I drive and arrive at a location, it dawns on me that I have no recollection of the actual commute and I wonder what the hell I was thinking about the entire time. Did I even check before switching lanes? But worst of all, I’ve been distant as my kids have grown over the past year. It took this Fall Break for me to see that.
I spent more time with all of them together this week than at any time since June. We made all the requisite trips to Costco, Target, and Walmart this week, but spending time with them in that fenced in quarantine area revealed to me that I’ve missed out on so much despite the fact that I live in the same house.
Avery has the two ugliest laughs a cute baby can possibly possess. The first is the hard push of air through her nose which as earned her the name “Komodo Dragon” because when she laughs this way and crawls, she resembles the famed reptile. Also, she’s got a bunch of saliva around her mouth – luckily for us, it is of the non-poisonous variety. The second laugh is a weird inhaling of air into her throat. It is the stuff of Revenge of the Nerds lore and she breaks it out randomly for no reason.
This morning was the first time Cole ever obeyed a direct order from me. He moved to steal Avery’s fake pizza slice. Before he got his paws on it, I said “No, Cole Boy.” He froze and looked up at me. I shook my head. He motioned toward it again. “Ah-ah-ah” I uttered. He stopped and fell into a seated position. “Good boy,” I said. Then he clapped for himself. I clapped, too. “Thank you,” I said. He popped up and walked over to me and buried his face in my chest. “I love you, boy,” I said as I kissed the top of his head.
I took Madison to the zoo and a new playground on Friday. I learned that she’s a chatterbox (Lynnette’s word) in the front seat of the car. I started a wrestling podcast as we left the house, but missed roughly 70% of it behind my conversations with Madison. She talks to me about her teacher, her classmates, her disdain for the small portion sizes for lunch, especially the “four chicken nuggets that are even smaller than the ones at McDonald’s” because “you know I can eat 6 of the McDonald’s ones so four is so little bit and I’m starving by the end of the day.” She’s a bundle of facts and useless trivia just like I was until the internet obviated my use for a memory. Her speaking style is more sophisticated – even though she often replaces the “er” at the end of words with “ah”. The only kind of humor she understands and can replicate is puns and she makes the worstworstworst puns and absolutely as to throw in a “GET IT?” at the end of every joke.
I don’t know exactly when any of this stuff started happening. I wonder. What else have I missed? What else don’t I know about my own kids? I quit smoking. I think I’m going to try to do something even more difficult. I want to stop procrastinating. I stop forcing myself into survival mode. I will start tonight.