We have been home from China for 17 days, meaning for the past two weeks and change, we have been the parents of two kids, under the age of 3 (Gunner is 2.5 half years old and Gray is 1.5). And the big lesson I have learned in this time is that This Is The End. You can put that on my tombstone. I have been given the clairvoyance of knowing the exact moment of my demise, it was the gargantuan leap from 1 child to 2. It's like the moment time went from BC to AD, when the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, when NSync became just Justin Timberlake who then became JT. Life will never be the same.
I myself, like I am assuming most others, often wonder how people become "parents". I mean the tragic stereotypical Clark Griswald version of parents, where minivans and superstores and casseroles and cooking and cleaning and running household errands all dance around our heads like the visions of sugar-plums for kids at Christmas. And now I know. It's in the fine print when you bring home child #2.
The biggest lesson a new parent of their first child will learn is the definition of exhaustion. Those early months of a newborn baby are physically grueling on new parents. But eventually the dust settles, and with it, so does the child into some nice routines. The child learns the parents and the world in lock sync as the parents learn their child. And to a certain degree, life kind of goes back to normal. It is easy for one parent to watch the child while other has personal time. The 1 on 1 play time with your child also allows you to focus on a wide variety of games and learning and your enthusiasm is gobbled up by your child. I would say you feel like you're grooming the next President of the United States but Trump recently proved that position doesn't require any intelligence or moral compass to obtain so I'll say, grooming the Curer of Cancer or a Grand Humanitarian or the Head of NASA. Each day is full of hope and the endless optimism of growth and development.
But now enters child #2. And everything in that last paragraph vanishes. It's like opening your eyes after being unplugged from the Matrix and you see pink goo and robot spiders and really pale skin bald people with holes and wires all over their bodies in a land of no sun, dark clouds, fields of robot metal towers with pink goo balls as far as the weakened eyes can see. And you don't have a Louie Armstrong moment and think to yourself "what a wonderful world." You wonder what the F just happened. You have entered a post-apocalyptic wasteland and it's all about survival from now on.
And for those who think this description a tad dramatic, you will learn these sad truths.
1) Why do couples on TV always have to run to the store to buy just milk or bread or eggs or just 1 or 2 items? BECAUSE SOMEHOW IT IS NOW ALWAYS GONE. Yes, I have had to stop at the grocery for a staple food item or cleaning product almost every other day.
2) How can the fridge and freezer always be full? Yes, despite the endless consumption and depletion of foods and drinks, whenever I go to replenish the fridge or freezer, IT IS ALWAYS FULL OF CRAP. This phenomenon is remarkable. Kids are picky eaters, we only buy what we will eat, we always eat it and need it, yet somehow there is an overstock in the storage areas. Simply mind blowing.
3) There is no way to stop the never ending flow of chores. The sink and dishes will never be clean again. The trash cans will always be full and need to be taken out. Laundry baskets remain full of dirty clothes. And every room of the house is left in shambles. It's like we are having a New Years Eve party at our house every single day and night. Except the party ended at 730pm and there was no champagne. There is no cheerful ringing in the old year with gleeful anticipation of the new year and what the future may hold. Instead there is dread, of how this day will run on repeat like yesterday before it and tomorrow after it, but without the plucky comedic styling of Bill Murray to make the groundhog's day feeling uplifting.
4) Your kids are not besties. They aren't Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, or Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. No matter how much you encourage it, you ain't forcing it. It's a natural bond that grows over time and is too strong to be meddled with by outside influence. So what does that mean? Exactly how it sounds. It sucks because it's more like a full day of bumper cars except when these cars bump, one over-dramatically cries bloody murder. They battle for toys, seats, time with Mom and Dad, everything. Sharing is a learned skill that for kids might as well be trigonometry or astrophysics. Patience is not learned, it's part of our temperament and while we work to consciously control it, for kids, control is not part of their repertoire. The clashes are legit intense every time, like Dakota Access Pipeline Protest intense. Literally, my son woke up in the middle of the night screaming crying.
Me: (hurrying to his room) G? You okay?
G: (whimpering) No.
Me: (laying down next to him in his bed) Oh no. What's wrong? Did you have a nightmare?
G: (still whimpering) Yes.
Me: (sympathetically) I'm sorry, What about?
G: (whimpering continues) Sharing.
Me: (taken back a little) Sharing? Like with Gray?
Me: (no longer sympathetic) Jesus Gunner. You'll be okay. Back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning.
THAT CONVERSATION ACTUALLY HAPPENED. My son had nightmares about sharing! Sharing! With his sister! And it's not like we have a ton of super awesome nice stuff. It's just that's where these kids are, before they realize they can co-exist harmoniously they must first exhaust all attempts to avoid compromise. One friend asked me why we took so many fewer photos now with child #2 in the family, and it's because there are far fewer Kodak moments in the war zone of 2 kids than the sun filled meadows of 1 child.
5) Get ready for a whole new level of exhaustion. With your first newborn, you learn the exhaustion of not being able to sleep more than 2 hours at a time. With child #2, exhaustion now mutates into a whole new Stranger Things type of beast. As previously stated in 1-4 above, there's a lot working against you. You can wake up, make that coffee, gear up to go guns blazing and gung-ho ready for the day, ready for anything! Then the kids gets up and you get going, ripping and running, parent of the year type enthusiasm, laughs and giggles flow like the chocolate rivers of the Willy Wonka factory....and with all this work you put in, you start to wind down full of pride beaming, then you look over at the clock and it's only 10am! Bubble burst. Enter the grind for the rest of the day. Like a constant drip on the rock, you feel the soft steady beating on your soul. If it's not 1 kid, it's the other, or the dishes, or the laundry, or trash, or toys everywhere, or clothes everywhere, or you need to go to the store....again! And there are times where you know you have to pull it together and not let the drip create the crack.
6) Everywhere always smells like something, and not in a good way. And that statement is exactly how it sounds. Every room you walk into or every time you get in the car, you feel like you smell urine, pooh, or rotting food. It's enough to drive you mad. Because you can never find the source so you assume it's just in your head. But it won't go away. It's the Inception crisis, Leo DiCaprio stormed your subconscious to plant the idea that your son has a secret passion of hiding apple slices in the slits in his car seat cushion. While that seems a low probability, the more you think about it, the more credibility it gains. Maddening!
My wife made a wonderful comment to me the other day. "Gunner didn't start sleeping through the night until he was 19 weeks old. That's when he got into all his routines and things weren't so crazy anymore. We should expect the same with Gray." And she is totally right. While the first 2 weeks have been crazy and draining, we are working hard on getting Gray settled into some good healthy fun routines and theoretically we should withhold judgement until she has settled in. But what if, even after that, the chaos ensues? Pray for me. God help us all.
This how I feel ALL THE TIME NOW....