Ironman is obsessed with numbers. Let me elaborate so you may get the full gravity of the situation. It won’t be surprising that from all of the tech gadgets he excercises with, he loads a slew of performance data onto his computer. How many miles ridden, distances swam and times for each mile run all compete for hard drive space. This is somewhat excusable since he has Triathletes Disease. (If you or someone you love suffers from this illness, find out more about it here.) But once a year, Ironman goes to the doctor like a good Ironman should. He obtains his bloodwork results and puts them in a -wait for it- spreadsheet. He also notates the “normal” range (though I think we’ve already stepped out of normal range here) for the specific finding and then color codes cells that exceed the range and need attention. I can already feel that some men reading this are not alarmed. Hi dad. So. This was all par for the course until I recently came home from the doctor with a copy of my bloodwork results. When I arrived, hemoglobin packet in hand, his eyes lit up. I reluctantly handed them over because for the first time in my life, I was close to needing a highlighted cholesterol cell. Ironman dutifully entered my tainted stats while I recounted my appointment and my dissapointment. I cringed at this blip on my historically spotless health record. I went about my normal day, you know, checking every nutritional label that stuck to jars, bags and boxes for its cholesterol content. I scoured google to confirm “normal range” and all of the horrible diseases and outcomes possible if I hovered above it. I planned an exercise regimen that extended past crawling around on the floor with the Littles. But just as I had forgotten about it, Ironman rounded the corner at dinner and said (you may want to sit down for this) “I’m kinda glad you need to work on your cholesterol. This means there is finally a slight chance I may outlive you.” Ironman, I sure hope you back up all of your data. You never know when your computer might crash.
Ironman thinks I’m ridiculous. For lots of reasons, really, but a chart topper might be my obsession with expiration dates.
He considers them “best by” and I consider them more “I’ll drop dead by if I eat this” dates. I’m not sure what the secret formula is, actually. Maybe it’s just two kids sitting with a calendar and a blindfold. They could tell me anything and I’d throw it out before I let it touch these lips. Ironman’s solution is to inform me that restaurants feed me all sorts of old food I don’t know about. This just detours me from eating out, which I secretly believe is Ironman’s ploy to get me to stop putting such a large dent in the pocket book from dining out. It seems like everything has a best by date now. Even me. When people ask me how far apart the Littles are, I tell them 18 months. Then I find myself defending my Irish twins by divulging that Ironman and I are 40, so we didn’t have the luxury of “proper spacing”. So, I guess you could say 40 was our best by date. I understand that in this instance, the laws of nature guided us away from deciding to be new parents at 90, but I’d like to get away from all of this limitation. The limitation of dates, ages and numbers. When I started this blog on my 40th birthday, Ironman gave me a new laptop and wrapped it in paper with names of women who only became successful writers after the age of 40. His gift was much more than a laptop, though I think we can all agree a MacBook Air is God’s work. It was a reminder that I don’t want to be too old to start something new, too out of shape to try a triathlon (don’t tell Ironman that), too long out of the workforce to be a CEO someday after the Littles go to school. More importantly, I don’t want the Littles to adopt limitation, and I know one way to avoid that is for me to live without it. I’m going on a limitation cleanse. Just don’t make me eat that expired yogurt in the fridge. I’m too young to die.
I have news. We live in a hipster neighborhood, but the Littles will never be hipsters. To be a hipster tot, you must be cool. And you need to have cool parents, which I think we can all agree, the Littles do not have. Hipster tots wouldn’t be caught dead in disposable diapers because they aren’t “organic”, and let’s face it, they promote mainstream kiddie characters. I know, so passé. The Littles sadly don’t eat homemade vegan baby food or drink green sippy cup smoothies. And they don’t snack on kale, though Ironman swears we have some in the backyard (shh, don’t tell him, they are just weeds). The Littles clothing? Osh Kosh, which I totally did not pick up from the vintage rack at Hipsters R Us. So you’ll see every third kid wearing their digs if you visit the playground, which you wouldn’t if you were a hipster tot, because you’d be at the local coffee shop with your cool mom and skinny jean dad drooling on the latest indie cd. Sigh. I feel just terrible that the Littles will never experience confusion when someone calls their name and they are really just referring to nature or a piece of fruit. And I hope us taking them to school in a car instead of on a skateboard doesn’t damage their psyche too much. You see, we aren’t effortlessly cool or edgy parents. Ironman doesn’t own a single speed or an underground band t-shirt. I wear glasses with real lenses and I have no idea what’s up and coming. I’m not even sure I know what’s right now. That leaves the Littles out of the Hipster circle. Their cool factor hangs in a delicate balance. But think of all of the money they’ll save growing up, not buying bow ties, scarves, slouchy beanies and flannel. And think of all of the time they’ll save, not sipping soy laden coffee, complaining about how hard their life is in an air-conditioned coffee house. Really, Ironman and I are doing the Littles a favor. Worrying about being cool, but not too cool, is a burden we don’t want them to have to carry. So, we’ll continue to wear regular jeans and season appropriate garb. We’ll continue listening to music even after the band becomes popular. Gasp. And we’ll continue to openly enjoy things. Someday when the Littles ask why we couldn’t be more like so-and-so’s hipster parents, we’ll just tell them the truth, “We don’t like to conform.”
5. The Bathroom. I’m pretty sure I speak for all women in asking what is it you dads do in the bathroom for all of that time? Gone are the days of newspapers and print magazines, but now there’s Facebook, Internet surfing, maybe Zillow…and then what? I’m smart enough to realize this room is your sanctuary. Safe from the yapping, the fussing and oh yeah, then there are the kids.
4. Consumer reviews. Kids need a stroller. Or five. Five strollers. I once thought a stroller was a stroller. But we have walking strollers, running strollers and errand strollers. And dads love to purchase modes of transport. Our fab five is a direct result of an internet dad shopper who might buy a kidney on Amazon if the consumer reviews warranted it. Only of course, if the black market wouldn’t price match it.
3. Grass obsession. Not that kind of grass. Real grass. Grass that is mostly green, but has mystery brown patches, which will actually keep Ironman up at night. If I added up all of the time spent simply staring at the emerald rectangle, it might equal bathroom time. I said might.
2. Getting there. We’ll get there. It may take twice as long and be twice as loud, but we will get there. We will stop at all rest stops and everyone will need to stop again moments after departure. Deal with it.
1. Going for broke. Iroman could be rich. I’m not talking Wolf of Wall Street wealthy, but he could have a far bigger house, a fancy pants car and more bikes if it weren’t for us. I saw a Baby on Board sign in the back window of a mini van the other day. Show me that sign in a BMW and I’ll be impressed. Along with the added expense of the Littles, Ironman took on the role of sole provider to give us the greatest gift. Time. Thank you for always putting our family first, Ironman. It’s what makes you a real dad.
Ironman’s job has some perks. And I don’t mean free company pens or jump drives (though we have plenty of both, smothered in corporate logos). I mean perks. And for the first time, I got a sky box seat to experience what he does all of the time. I had the honor of being his plus one at a work event this week. This particular red-carpet like event (there was a real red carpet at the entrance), was a private party at Universal Studios. And when I say private, I mean they closed down the entire park for us.
Well, not just Ironman and I, don’t be ridiculous. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome receiving dirty looks from all of the day patrons, exiting the park early. As we walked by, their eyes narrowed on our company badges, dangling in the evening breeze, alerting them to our VIP entry. Ironman’s techie colleagues roamed the empty New York streets along side us, stopping by multiple food stations, drink stands and movie sound stages. Then we carefully selected our
first dessert from an array of Food Network worthy cheesecakes, cannolis and cookies.
After tucking away plentiful amounts of sugar, we decided to see what rides were at our disposal. We decided against the roller coaster as, well, did I mention the copious amounts of food consumed? Ironman’s eyes lit up like a school boy when we rounded the corner to a little ride you may have heard of, about aliens who change into everyday machinery. The almighty Transformers. Outside of the ride, one of these metal engine revers was greeting fans. An ominous voice boomed over the onlookers as he struck his fiercest pose. Next up, a bright yellow bot donned the stage, clinking his metal shoes about, when I leaned over to Ironman’s ear and whispered “why isn’t he talking like the others did?”
Ironman looked at me and instantaneously transformed into his teenage self as he spoke (complete with rolling of the eyes) and responded “Bumblebee doesn’t talk, baby”. This was said by a 40-year-old man. At his corporate event. He laughed about it only seconds later, after he realized the serious tone he used in his Transformers for Dummies response. I will always remember this event. I got schooled on the speaking practices (or non-speaking in this case) of a chunk of imaginary metal. But I had a great time. I will never experience a theme park in this celebrity status way again. And I can assure you, if I ever encounter a yellow man-car, I will never question why he doesn’t talk.
I grew up on the Street. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there are exactly 44 episodes of it on my DVR. It holds the monopoly of space on this house’s little black box. But this is somewhat ironic, because when Little J was born, I swore I’d be a “good mom” and I wouldn’t let him watch tv until he was older. After all, the research warned me that children under two couldn’t understand the images and in case you hadn’t heard, oh yeah, it leads to obesity. I mistakenly thought overeating lead to obesity. But no, it turns out, NCIS can make you fat. But don’t worry, just the New Orleans one. The LA one would SO never do that. Then along came Little A. Since she demanded roughly 99.9% of my waking and non-waking hours in her first few months, poor Little J was sentenced to his playpen. And like most Americans, he wanted more. In despair, I turned to my long lost friends on PBS. I missed some of my old cohorts. Clifford and George, it’s been a while. I reminisced as I heard that curious little monkey get himself into trouble and engineer himself out like MacGyver. I secretly enjoyed pal-ing around with Elizabeth and her oversized crimson pup. And then I heard it. That unmistakable song – Sunny days keepin’ the clouds away…you know the rest. I was transported through time, through multiple decades, back to my playpen. I watched Little J’s face as he followed the furry gang across the screen. He swayed his head back and forth as they sang and he giggled as Grover (now Super Grover 2.0) tried to save the day with items from his gym sock. Admittedly, I got sucked back in, this time by the celebrity guest appearances and the eye-catching, artistic shorts. As Little A grew, so did Little J’s love of the Street. When Curious George took the stage, Little J hummed the sunny days tune in protest. He cheered when the theme song magically appeared. At first, I thought he just liked the vibrant colors, the music and the humorous, yet familiar characters (I think I’m married to Grover sans the blue fur). But one day while strolling the aisles of, you guessed it, Costco, Little J blurted out the word “octagon”. I stopped the cart. My brow raised. Being a former elementary school teacher, I’d like to brag that he learned that from me. But alas, in our efforts to get him admitted to an Ivy League school someday, we had only worked on the basic shapes. He was referring to a pendant on my necklace and I knew exactly how he recognized it. From a segment on Sesame Street. I later witnessed him make a t-ball stand out of a cut pool noodle, a yardstick and a ball. I laughed as I made the connection between his invention and an episode where Baby Bear plays t-ball with his dad. The kid was paying attention. And he was learning something. It turns out I’m grateful I didn’t heed the warnings of research this time. And along with learning complex shapes and some creative construction, I’m glad he is also absorbing some of the less overt lessons, like how to treat others and how to deal with some of the challenges he’ll likely encounter in his wonderful life ahead. I’m glad the gang is still around. And if you want to know, I can definitely tell you how to get to Sesame Street.
I haven’t been at this mom thing long. At least, not long enough to realize when someone says “Happy Mother’s Day!” they could be talking to me. I still have a lot to learn. You could say I’m the Beta version. I mean, I’m still working on the sleeping with one eye open thing. And it will be years before my guilt trips are fully perfected. I’m pretty good at counting to three. Oh, and I can even do it in Spanish. I know how to soothe a good head bump cry and even a middle if the night scared of the dark cry. But I know my toughest years lay ahead. If I were in a Catholic Church right now, I’d confess that I still call my mom when I’m sick. And I’m 40. This job is just beginning for me. Luckily, my mom is Mom 2.0. She’s been through it all – the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the shapeless scribbles hung on the fridge, the lost Barbie shoes, the first day of school, fights with best friends, crushes, driver’s license tests, more sleepless nights, weekends home from college, the first day of a real job, weddings and grandchildren. She was at every chorus concert (no one should have to endure that), every parent night and everything in between. But I now know the hardest part of it all wasn’t the being a supportive mom part. It was the letting go part. Mom 2.0 once told me about the time she dropped me off at preschool and as I happily exited the car and skipped into the building, she sat in the car and cried. I get it now. And I’m only in Beta. Little J just celebrated his second birthday, and if you asked me, I just brought him home yesterday. I’m sure if you asked Mom 2.0, she would say the same about me. Thank you, Mom 2.0, for all of it. For showing me what it really means to be mom, for always holding on and letting go. Happy Mother’s Day.