Thursday, August 20, 2009

19 Months (the second)

I am exhausted. Okay, I know that I hardly ever complain here and that's because I make it a point to try and regurgitate positive energy as much as possible. There is so much hatred out there in the media that it can feel like the world is doomed. Well, I have two wonderful children who deserve a beautiful future to live and share with others. So it's damn important for me to counteract all that negative bullshit out there as much as possible, which is why you often find me repeating some of my most favorite themes.

But...goddamnit! Right now, I am tired. I am having an extremely hard time putting down my thoughts on the page on a consistent basis, much less work on anything more intense.

A couple of weeks ago, we took some time off of our daily lives to get away. We call this a vacation here in Amerika but I don't think that it's truly possible to get away when you're dragging two young kids along with you for the ride. We set off for San Francisco (our home away from home) for a few days and decided to attempt eight to ten hours in the car with said children. Long ago, when Lucas was just a wee one, we tried the trip and even though he made a great attempt to go along with the program, eventually he had a melt-down and two hours of screaming later we pulled into our driveway vowing to never again make such a foolish decision as parents. Yet, here we were taking, not one, but two children on the same damn excursion.

Miraculously, they both were wonderful during most of the ride up there and back (which also included a detour through Yosemite into Mammoth but we'll get to that later) and San Francisco was nice; great weather, long walks, hidden amusement parks, accommodating hosts. Simply lovely. Every day was full of adventure.

After a few days of that, we took on the next part of our vacation; Mammoth. We met two of my oldest friends and their families in beautiful place right near the village. It was a delight to spend some time with these amazing people and watch the kids all mingle and play and chase and laugh. But...I couldn't sleep while I was there. I don't know if it was the thin dry air or the lumpy bed, but I was dying. One of the days included a wine and jazz festival where I ended up pretty soused. The next morning I could barely pull my head out of the sand but I still felt obligated to push myself to share these small days with my friends, so I spent the entire next day awake. Then I couldn't even sleep that night! By the time we returned home I was nursing a three day hangover, a bad back and complete and total exhaustion. I came away from my vacation more exhausted than when I left and when I left to go on my vacation I was dying to get away. It's been a crazy and utterly maddening few weeks.

For a long time we've really cherished so much of Quinn's beautiful demeanor. Sure, she has her moments (just like everyone) but her presence was always a delight when she bounded into the room with a massive smile on her face or shouted across the parking lot with zeal at the sight of you. And I still feel all of those things but she's reaching that stage where she has very few limits. She can get into everything. Before you can turn around she's slipped past your defenses and is finding a way to drive you mad. She has more energy than both her parents and bigger lungs than the lot of us. She is a bundle of energy and Quinn is not the type to let that energy go to waste when she can bungie-jump off the roof! I know that's a pretty extreme metaphor but it just goes to show that our little girl is quite a daredevil.

With each child there comes little things that you find endearing and then there are other things that are practically nightmarish. There were so many things about Quinn that I loved simply because she wasn't like Lucas but now some of those very opposite traits are gentle nuances that, at times, I have come to truly appreciate how much they are lacking within him. In the end, I think that we have reached an era of parenting where we have very little time for ourselves. I know that people have told me all about that aspect of child-rearing before but as we all know, it's impossible to understand what those people are talking about until we actually go through the situation ourselves.

But damn! No time whatsoever to accommodate our own healthy interests? Those things that we need in life in order to keep us out of the loony bin? How can we neglect the very essence of who we are? How am I supposed to get by without writing?

I don't know how I can do it and I don't know how I'm going to be the greatest dad on top of all of it. But just thinking about it is beginning to exhaust me.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

58 Months

Summer Camp!

In anticipation for the upcoming school year, we sent Lucas to a half-day gymnastics camp at the YMCA. This was the very first time that we dropped him off with complete strangers and let them take care of him while we went through our regular day. We were a bit concerned that Lucas might have some separation issues when September rolled around so we thought that this might help him overcome some preconceived anxiety that we had built up in our minds.

The anxiety, if you hadn't noticed yet, was all completely manufactured by overprotective parents of course. Every time we spoke to Lucas about the upcoming school year, not once did he respond with a wish that he won't have to go. HE IS READY. We just simply need to keep repeating that to ourselves and Xtimu and I will make it through the next few weeks.

Lucas was very excited about Gym Camp. Remember, he was ready. So we took him to the YMCA went through the mad chaos of camp activities that swarmed around us with childish vigor. Fifty random booths, designed for every interest imaginable, set up around the lawn like a pre-adolescent woodstock. Shifting and dodging the screaming meemies, we somehow managed to find the proper tent for Lucas and signed him in.

Lucas has this strange aura that surrounds him when he's somewhat unsure of himself. He becomes very reticent. He sits back and watches, becomes hesitant, doesn't express his wishes with the accustomed fervor that we've come to know so well. Then I have this tiny little version of myself when I was a kid that bursts forth at times like these. It's a protective force of some kind that wants to save the day, all hero-like. You see, I was just like him but even more shy, much much more shy. When I see him like that my heart yearns to grab him and hug him and make sure that he understands that it will all be okay.

So, Invariably this is what I will do. First, I settle myself (no need to panic) and get down on his level (one of the greatest ways to connect to your child is to kneel down so that you are looking them in the eye), then I calmly ask him (whatever you do don't transfer the anxiety that's rushing through your blood) if he's going to be okay with all of it. This is what I do every time I've ever seen him shrink away and Lucas, every time, has responded with a profound yes. No thinking about it, no waffling, just a simple yes does wonders. He always let's me know that he's already okay with all of it and he's just waiting to see how things progress. Then I give him a big strong hug to carry around with him while he accomplishes whatever amazing feat he's about to attempt and finally I step away.

But there's always that longing that comes back as you walk away. I have to look back and make sure that he's okay about five or six times and whenever I look at him he has that same heart-wrenching look on his face (you can see it in the picture above, he's the one with the old-fashioned baseball shirt with van occupanther on the front and his hands twisting tightly around the drawstring of his shorts). It just seems like he's not having much fun at all and when I see that look on his face I want to rush back and save him from all of the torture that I imagine is going through his incredible little brain. It's agonizing and once I really think about it, I start to see where all the torture is coming from; stuck right inside my own psyche!

We went to an orientation for parents at the new school where Lucas will be attending kindergarten in the fall. They explained that on the first day of classes they have a specific drop off plan that allows parents to separate from their children. They emphasized, more than once, that it's always the parents who have a problem with breaking away from their child during this primal morning ritual. When we took him to Gym Camp I came to understand exactly what they were talking about and now I truly see that what we were really trying to learn by signing him up at the YMCA for a week of jumping and tumbling. We were trying to anticipate how WE were going to deal with his eventual first step away from us.

And in the end, when we came to pick him up after that first day, Lucas was jumping and laughing and hugging his fellow inmates. He had a blast and couldn't wait to go back the next day.

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