Having twins as your first children gives you a sense that you are part of an exclusive club of people who reportedly “Know it all.” After all, you didn’t just have A kid, you had two kids. At once. Oh, yeah, it’s all about you.
Whatever helps you sleep at night.
Believe me, I know how it feels. The joys of one child setting off the other during midnight feedings, or having to haul out both kids during church services because one is hungry and the other is bored. Not to mention the co-conspiring against the parents where a one-on-one defense becomes a daily strategy to remain the conquering heroes. Once you’ve survived a few years of this, you think you can handle anything. And, once confidence seeps into your sleep-deprived soul, you get the impression that now is the time that you not only can do this, you can take on another. As mentioned, you were sleep deprived. Nobody expects you to think straight at this point.
So you have another. There’s nothing wrong with this idea. After all, it’s all about you. You can make this happen. You handled two completely different children, with different needs and different comforts, simultaneously without losing more than three month’s worth of sleep, and one child must be twice as easy as two. Believe it or not, this kind of blatant pig-ignorance still prevails all the way to bringing home that third child from the hospital. It isn’t until much later that night when the husband, trying to console a pair of screaming toddlers, looks tenderly at his bedraggled wife desperately trying to breast-feed the newborn, that a silent message crosses from one set of blood shot eyes to the other:
Oh, yeah. We forgot that we don’t know what we’re doing.
Fast forward three years or so, and install plenty of false security on the father’s part. Once again, the veteran spirit is prevalent and there’s hardly a curve ball that can’t be read. Then the youngest begins crying in the middle of the night. The mother tries to get up, but the husband is hoping to make a good impression here, so he gestures “I’ve got this.” and wanders into the other room tall, confident, very much the man in charge. He picks up the youngest child and sits on the couch in the front room to console him.
But he isn’t consoled. In fact, the pitch has picked up several octaves, and the neighbors are starting to complain. The confidence begins to shake. This isn’t in the handbook. Every other nightmare episode has been easily handled, and dad was back to bed within ten minutes!
“What’s the matter, buddy?” Dad asks.
The child’s eyes have grown to the size of small bowling balls as he shrieked out the phantoms of his worst night mares: “Fish Sticks!”
Yes. Fish Sticks. The fears of this three-year-old had surpassed the sharks, scary men at the circus and possibly Santa Clause to encompass the almighty fish stick.
The parents even tried feeding him fish sticks the next day so he could say he owned those fish sticks and put them in their place. No dice. Fish sticks became the reoccurring nightmares for the next fortnight.
It’s no big secret that the parent(s) in this story are my wife and me. I was going to make it a big reveal, but you’re smart enough to figure it out. Since this episode, I’ve discovered a lot about child rearing and none of it is what you would call boasting material. Lesson number one: never assume you know what you are doing. There are a million people who think they know what they are talking about, but those people are like diet experts. Have you noticed only the diet experts seem to have the ideal diet? So-called parenting “experts” are usually the same way. In both cases, the experts only seem expert in making you feel like less of a parent (or dieter) because what works for them never seems to work for you. It seems that no one way ever seems one-size-fits-all and as soon as you think you have all the answers, you’re going to experience a “fish sticks” moment of your own.
Years pass and I still remember sitting with that little boy in the middle of the night, trying to convince him that Van de Camps hasn’t got a conspiracy towards him or any other three-year-old out there. It’s crazy, but those long nights hold a special place in my heart. It’s those moments that makes me really feel like a father. Rolling with the odd requests, nursing the sad times and generally being there when someone cries out in the night reminds me why I have had these guys in the first place.
And you know, the time will fly by. Some day, that little boy clinging to me in the night will be a young man, grown in stature and intelligence. He’ll make his own decisions and I’ll choose to be proud regardless of direction. And one day, I dream of him bringing home someone special. Some girl that catches his eye and changes his world. A girl that he wants to build his life around, a girl he wants to impress more than anyone else, and I will sit this young lady down and say:
“What’s your opinion of fish sticks?”