Birthday celebrations? Give me a break. Everybody was born on one day or another. Happy birthday, everybody. I'm glad you were born. Do we really have to do this every stinkin' year? Sheesh.
From now on, I declare the Sunday closest to June 25th "Birthfatherversary Day" in our house. Adults shall feast on hamburgers, beer, and cake. Children may smash a pinata, but it will be inside an industrial strength trash bag and they will be allowed exactly three minutes to pick their steamed vegetables out of the bag before Dad throws it in the dumpster.
Friends and family have been saying, "I can't believe it's been a year since they were born! It seems like just the other day." Although I usually nod and say, "I know, right? It's crazy," I really believe that this is a load of crap. It seems exactly like a year to me. In fact, this might be the single most accurately calibrated year on record. Remember the character in Catch 22 who always tried to make everything as tedious as possible to increase his perceived tenure on earth? That's kind of like me this year. But I'm not trying to manipulate time. It's just that there's been a lot of stuff to do. Real stuff, like grownups do. Building a house. Raising kids. It's like in the olden days, when time didn't whiz by in a blur of cocktail parties and exotic vacations. It's not tedious, really. Just old-fashioned. The year we went to Croatia, Argentina, and Lake Tahoe? That took like a month and a half.
So here's the part where I poignantly reminisce about my babies' first year on Spaceship Earth. Get your hankies out.
Labor: So boring. 48 hours. My most vivid recollection is seeing a lot of the 1959 movie "Anatomy of a Murder" for the first time, in which Jimmy Stewart speaks frankly about panties. Dr. Mom was bored too. And more uncomfortable than me. Of course she was a trouper/trooper and didn't complain at all. What did you expect?
Delivery: Wow! So exciting I could hardly process it. It was like the time when we saw KA in Vegas after drinking a couple martinis, except it all happened in ten minutes. They had to do a C-section, and it was over almost as soon as it started. A close friend of ours who is an OB doc happened to be on call at the hospital, and our regular OB was like, "Do you want to do the C-section?" Our friend didn't really want to cut Dr. Mom open, but she agreed to assist. So that's my memory of the operation. Dr. Mom was there too, of course; but she was all enshrouded and a little out of it. I was focused on the action. Our friend, with whom we had enjoyed many delicious dinners, pleasant excursions to the beach, and mellow evenings watching movies, was all of the sudden, "RETRACT, RETRACT...GIVE ME THAT CLAMP...MOP MY BROW...METZENBAUM SCISSORS...GET THAT CAT OUT OF HERE!" They sliced my wife right open! And then Cobra came out! And then Butterbean came out!
There was something about their first cries that was...ah...so pure, I guess...primal, obviously. I can still feel it in my chest like I was breathing air for the first time too. And hear it. In fact, I still hear it quite a bit.
Home: We settled into a routine of chaos. I was about halfway through building the addition that would double the size of our house. We were down to 800 square feet of livable space, with a back door that opened onto a full-blown construction site, where I worked about twelve hours a day. My mother-in-law stayed with us for the first month, cooking nonstop on the industrial gas burners we had set up in the wood frame of what would become the family room, and shooing me away when I tried to calm a screaming baby or two in the middle of the night. Thank Little Baby Jesus for her. Dr. Mom became a baby-feeding automaton who could only eat, sleep, hold babies, and produce milk.
Growing on each other: Genetics isn't everything. But it's powerful stuff. When your kid looks kind of like you, or your spouse, or your grandfather, or your sister-in-law, that's when it starts getting real. At least it did for me. Most people say that Cobra looks like me, and Butterbean looks like her mom. I can see that. But I didn't realize it by staring at the girls and analyzing their features. I noticed it when I was looking in the mirror and yawning, or squinting, or brushing my teeth. I look just like that kid! And Butterbean looks just like her cousin when she sneezes! And Cobra looks like my sister's baby pictures! Have we got a family here, or what?
Dr. Mom stayed home during the first four months, while I more or less finished the addition. So although I was technically in the same house as the babies, I might as well have been on a jobsite in another town. Except I got to pop in and play with them every couple of hours. During this time, especially after they started getting cute and developing personalities, I had some ambivalence about their progress. Each tooth that came in felt like a month that went by too fast and would never come back.
But since I have become the boss of childcare, I no longer jealously guard their babyhood. Each new development seems to happen just as I am becoming prepared for it. Their mobility and ability to express themselves is commensurate with my growing ability to identify potential hazards and...um...not always express myself as candidly as I would among grownups. We seem suited to one another.
I feel a little guilty, I guess, that I've got it so good. Dr. Mom had to do the heavy lifting (with help from grandmas, grandpas, and aunties) for the first four months, which was brutal. And most families are lucky if one parent even gets to stay with the kid(s) during that trying "fourth trimester." I'm allowed to do all the fun stuff that is often reserved for outside daycare providers.
But I'm sure the comeuppance is nigh. Keeping that in mind tempers my annoying optimism. For instance, instead of rhapsodizing about my wonderful, nap-loving, happy babies right now, I'm supposed to be preparing the house for their birthday party tomorrow.
Birthday party? For one-year-olds? Are you kidding me? The best we can hope for is that they won't have long-lasting psychological damage from the overwhelming stranger anxiety they're sure to experience. Or the profane muttering of their old man as he cleans the house and arranges the frilly pink party favors.