One beautifully annoying trait about children is that they magnify what you give them. When people ask me what it’s like having kids, I tell them truthfully that you get what you put in multiplied by a factor x. Where this multiplier is exponentially proportional to the number of children you have. In layman’s terms, if you put in 5 units of fun and you have 3 kids, you get 5x5x5 (5 to the 3rd power) units back. Yes, this is me geeking out and finally using my 20 years of engineering experience in one of my blogs.
I ponder this today because at the end of the past few days, I’ve found myself tired and cranky at the kids. My schedule has shifted towards the early morning as I go to bed with the kids at 9:00pm and wake up anywhere between 3:30 to 5:00am because my body has gotten its 6 hour sleep quota. I drop the kids off at daycare at about 8:45am, go to work and get off at about 6:30pm. By the time I pick the kids up from daycare, my emotions are exhausted and I get really sensitive. So I’ve been taking field data about kids in general, after all, I’m the one who changed his schedule, so the kids are the control variable.
Naturally, getting off of work so late in the day, the first priority in my mind is schedule. I map out how long it will take us to get home, make dinner, bathe the kids, read books and then put them to bed. One day it was more difficult for me to be patient with Trystan as I tried to get him in the car and he just wanted to goof around. He ran around the car as I chase him to get him in his carseat and buckled up. I get impatient and he gets frazzled, so I get frustrated and he gets upset, I get angry and he starts crying. One morning, he got sad because his paper airplane, which was visibly worn from mileage, wasn’t flying as well as he wanted it to. I took it as my chance to see what happens if I just use the him to help me unwind, instead of giving him the opportunity to wind me up.
After work, I took a crisp piece of paper and made a paper airplane that even Howard Hughes would marvel at. I drove to the daycare and picked him up before Zoey. He gave me a big hug and thank you as I gave him the new paper plane. We spent about 5 minutes on the grassy lawn in between his building and Zoey’s building just flying the plane. “Look Daddy! It flies even if you throw it backwards!” He was happy when we picked up Zoey. So he made Zoey happy. The car ride home was spent talking about his day, talking about the new paper airplane, singing kids songs and making animal noises, or fart noises with our mouths.
As a performer, I’ve learned the art of having an “emotional curtain” where there are things you keep backstage and things that you perform for your audience. In this case my audience is Zoey. I smell a very ripe odor coming from her general direction so I ask, “Zoey, did you poop?”
“Noooo.” She replies shaking her head.
“Do you need a diaper change?”
She points to between her legs and nods. So I grab the changing mat, wipes and diaper. Gauging by the flavor and potency of the atmosphere around Zoey, I knew it was going to be a stinky one. So I open the stage curtains as I peel back her diaper.
BACKSTAGE: Oh my gosh, I want to gag. My eyes sting.
ONSTAGE: “Zoey, are you joking with me? I thought you didn’t have a poopoo?”
I try to play it off by taking short breaths through my mouth.
Zoey: Happy Birthday To You!!!
Yes, she started singing the happy birthday song. I guess she interpreted my breathing as blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
Oh yes, there are many times when I have to bring the curtains up and create a magical play for Trystan and Zoey, but it sure makes life more fun. Instead of bringing them into the backstage madness of missed lines, quick changes and conflict between cast members, I feed them the energy that I want to get back as I stand onstage with the spotlight on me.