Editor’s Note: Shorebilly’s Swill is intended to be humorous, which is often obtained from Syd’s brutally honest anecdotes about his own life. This week is no exception. Be forewarned the ending may be a bit vivid for some.
Trust me when I say that my children provide me with more than enough material to write this column every week for the next several years. But I believe that the “proud parent blog” is a completely saturated market so I try to mix it up a bit with my topics. If every week I forced you to read about things my kids did or how much I love being a father, eventually it would be like looking at someone else’s vacation pictures, or thumbing through a photo album for a wedding you weren’t invited to. In an effort to both keep and broaden readership, I wouldn’t do that to you. Some weeks though, my kids inadvertently write the story for me.
Occasionally, there’s a story that I probably shouldn’t share, but I simply have to. This is one of those weeks. I had to first run it through committee, though. Like many folks, and cartoon characters, I have those two little conscience guys who stand post on either shoulder. On my one shoulder stands a miniature version of me, impeccably groomed, and wearing a crisp white tuxedo. There’s a glow above his head that may be a halo or a light bulb for good ideas. He is responsible for morality, sensibility, and sound decision making. He, only in recent years, finally started posting a winning record where it pertains to my thought process.
On my other shoulder stands another mini-me. He’s got about three days growth of facial hair, he’s wearing only flip-flops, a pair of Pink Floyd boxer shorts, and a sombrero. He holds in his hands a Budweiser, and a paddle ball game. It used to be a pitchfork but he kept stumbling around drunk and poking me in the ear. So I had to replace it with a wooden paddle with a red rubber ball tethered to it. His mantras are “Dude, why not?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?” He was singlehandedly responsible for almost all of my decision making for the first 37 years of my life. I discussed with them whether or not I should share the story you are about to read. Needless to say, the one who swapped his dignity for a sense of humor won, so enjoy. As usual, I wish I could say I was making this up, but it really happened exactly as you are about to read.
As a parent, you are constantly documenting your children’s various milestones and achievements. We do this through videos, journals, photographs, and even Facebook posts. It’s just what we do. If you don’t, then you probably suck as a parent. Our kids are constantly reaching new milestones, particularly in the first few years of life. Baby’s first solid poop, baby’s first smile, the first time baby slept through the night, the first time baby rolled over, ate solid food, first words, first steps, the first time baby laughed at a fart (well, that one might be just in my house), and so on. It’s a never-ending stream of new stages of life. Earlier this week, my one-year-old daughter reached yet another new stage in her young life. She reached the milestone of no longer being allowed to shower with Daddy.
Let me first set the stage for you by giving you a little insight into my home life. It’s commonly known that I work nights, and generally don’t get home until somewhere between 3:00, and 4:00 am. My wife is a full time nursing student and many days, particularly the days she has clinicals at the hospital, she is out of the house shortly after 6:00 am leaving me alone to care for our three young daughters. Monday through Friday, my alarm goes off at 6:45 am. At this time, I have to get up and wake a one-year-old, a seven-year-old, and a three-month-old to get them all ready so the eldest can be on the school bus by 8:00. This entails changing diapers on two of them, getting all three cleaned, dressed, and fed, lunch made and packed, schoolwork checked and backpack loaded and hopefully out the door in time. Needless to say, they have three very different dietary requirements, so I can’t just make one breakfast and throw it on the table.
Anyone who’s ever met my seven-year-old sings the praises of what a sweet little girl she is. Those people have never been in my house at 7:15 in the morning. To say that she is not a morning person would be as gross an understatement as to call the sinking of the Titanic a minor nautical mishap. We had a special hairbrush made to comb down the horns that protrude from her head each morning. (I just read this paragraph, and realized I’m making it sound as if my wife doesn’t do anything to help before she leaves. This is NOT at all the case. In fact she’s already done most of these things for me before I wake up, but I embellished a bit because martyring myself makes for a better story, so just play along.) Anyway, once the oldest is safely on the bus, it’s just myself and the two babies for the day. I’m Mr. Mom during the week. It’s not the easiest job I’ve ever had, but it is certainly the most rewarding. Some days are relatively painless, while others would make Michael Keaton’s character from the 80’s movie laugh hysterically at me.
It’s a very rare day that I can manage to get both babies to take a nap at the same time. On these days, I get some laundry done, clean the house, check e-mails, shower and dress for work, and if I’m really lucky, I can even squeeze in some writing. Most days though, are laden with perpetual, parental improvisation. Shift change is a bit hectic at my house. It usually entails my wife and I high fiving in the driveway as she gets home from class, and I leave for work. I often have to multi task to get the necessary things done before I leave. One of the regular practices I’ve employed is taking the one-year-old in the shower with me. This serves multiple purposes. First, both she and I get bathed. Second, I know where she is and that she is safe. And third, I know that she is not terrorizing the infant who does not yet possess the motor skills to defend herself against an onslaught of projectile toys, stuffed animals, and other items being hurled into her playpen.
My daughter and I sharing the chamber of hygiene is not at all an uncommon practice, and we’ve done it many, many times. I know it’s a practice that has a definitive end that up until now, I’d based on certain criteria. I decided she could continue to bathe with me until one of the following events took place. First, once she was old enough and astute enough to acknowledge that we had a different anatomical make up and that I possessed an appendage that she did not. Second, once she could identify the appendage and perhaps even apply a name or title to it. Or third, once she was old enough to point and giggle. Any one of these occurrences would put the immediate kybosh on the practice of tandem cleansing. It didn’t come to any of these. As it turns out, there was one possibility I hadn’t considered.
After a lengthy build up, I’ll now tell you what happened to me just the other day. I had come to grips with the fact that my little Angel was not going to nap and that if I were to be hygienically sound for work we’d be bathing together. The ritual commenced as always. I turned on the water and checked the temperature making sure it wasn’t too hot for her, or too cold for me. I tossed a couple of handfuls of bath toys into the tub for her to play with. I removed her diaper at the last possible moment and placed her in the tub—your kid only has to crap on the floor one time for you to learn that lesson. I then joined her in the shower.
As always, she was perfectly content playing as I proceeded to shave, shampoo, and shower. (Thankfully, the fourth “SH” requires a different piece of plumbing apparatus.) At about the point in the process that my eyes were closed to avoid shampoo suds cascading over my rapidly aging face, my little girl decided to perform a bold and brazen maneuver. She’s normally perfectly content to remain seated, but today she wanted to stand up on the wet, soap-covered surface on legs that have only been walking for about six months. I being temporarily blinded did not realize what she was doing. As you might expect, she slipped. When faced with the possibility of falling, certain human instincts kick in, even for a toddler. It’s our natural reaction to do one of two things. We either extend our hands to break our fall, or we reach for something to grab on to and prevent the fall. Are you starting to see where this is going?
Her natural instincts took over, and she reached for a lifeline. Unfortunately for me, that lifeline happened to be the same vessel by which she took the first leg of her journey into this world. My closed soap-covered eyes instantly opened wider than they ever had before, not caring about the imminent burning sensation that would follow. The only thing that opened wider than my eyes was my mouth which spewed forth a sound that could best be described as that which a hearing impaired grizzly bear would make if trying to fend off a foe. THAT, is pretty much the sound I made. This safety rope by which she was now tethered to her loving father was the only thing preventing her from losing her bout with gravity and plummeting to the sudsy basin below. For a brief moment or two, which seemed like an eternity to me, my little girl had morphed into Quasimodo and was now vigorously ringing the bells at Notre Dame. Thankfully for her, but not so much for me, the man bungee from which she clung was able to safely support all of her 22 pounds.
I’m happy to report that she never actually fell, and we both emerged from the shower relatively unscathed. I’m confident years from now she won’t remember the ordeal and that I will have healed psychologically. I just keep repeating in my head that I unwittingly did what I had to do to protect my sweet child. I haven’t even told my wife this story yet. I told her she had to wait until Tuesday like everyone else, so the next several days could go one of two ways for me. Now you know why I prefaced this story by saying it probably shouldn’t be told, but it simply had to. Thanks for playing along.
Until next week,