February 22, 2011

Double-Stroller Dads

I remember when my wife announced we were pregnant with our second child a couple of years ago, I couldn’t escape this overwhelming fear. No, I wasn’t afraid of raising another kid—I’d mastered all the dad-ly things with our first daughter, like changing diapers, playing peek-a-boo, ending arguments with a stern “Because I said so!” But no matter how much I tried to focus on all the positives, one great, big realization haunted me:

I was about to become a Double-Stroller Dad.

Maybe this would never concern you, but it certainly concerned me. The difference between Single-Stroller Dads and Double-Stroller Dads was monumental.

When you’re a Single-Stroller Dad, life is good. You’re cute. You’re hip. You’re fun. Women look at you like you’re Brad Pitt. Why? You’re the adorable guy pushing the adorable daughter up and down the center aisle of the mall, which causes an uncontrolled chemical reaction in every woman within a five-mile radius to put one hand on her chest, tilt her head, smile and say, “Awwwww…HOW PRECIOUS!” It’s one of only two reasons dads are willing to go to the mall. (The other is Chick-fil-A at the food court).

When you’re a Double-Stroller Dad, women look at you like you’re Steve Buscemi. They no longer dote on you. They run for the hills. They cry out to others: “Watch out for this clown!” and “Move out of his way!” and “I bet he’s covered in Play Doh and snot!” And, if you’re lucky, snot is the only bodily fluid you’re covered in.

When you’re a Single-Stroller Dad, you can zoom around corners like a racecar driver, impressing friends with an agility and maneuverability that rivals former NASCAR champions.

When you’re a Double-Stroller Dad, you’re just hoping to get through the doorway without having to use a crowbar.

When you’re a Single-Stroller Dad, you can lift it in and out of your car without breaking a sweat.

When you’re a Double-Stroller Dad, you have to build an intricate pulley system with ropes and levers, and then pray you can find at least seven available friends to help you hoist the behemoth into your trunk.

When you’re a Single-Stroller Dad, you have plenty of room in your garage for your bobblehead collection.

When you’re a Double-Stroller Dad, the only head bobbing in your garage is yours, wondering whatever happened to your bobblehead collection.

When you’re a Single-Stroller Dad, you can cruise the neighborhood as your baby sits quietly, enjoying the ride.

When you’re a Double-Stroller Dad, you can cruise the neighborhood as your baby sits quietly, enjoying the ride—while your independent toddler wants in the stroller, then out of the stroller, then in, then out, then in, then out, then in, then wants the baby out, then wants the baby back in, then wants back out and wants dad to squeeze his large frame in so the toddler can push. Worse yet, in all this time you’ve only traveled 11 feet from your house. I’ve tripped farther than that.

But you know what I learned once my second daughter arrived? Double-stroller dads have perks that Single-Stroller Dads don’t. Double-stroller dads get twice as many hugs, twice as many kisses, twice as many smiles. They enjoy twice the snuggle time. They get to read twice as many bedtime stories and hear twice as many sweet little voices say, “I love you daddy.”

Double-Stroller Dads may not be Brad Pitt at the mall, but at home they are Super-men.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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February 14, 2011

Roommates: Moving Kids into the Same Room

This past Valentine's Day weekend we moved my two daughters into a room together. We'd been planning it ever since my wife announced that, through some miracle of god, she'd found matching bedspreads—ones with purple stripes, white polka dots and just the right amount of "on-sale" to satisfy every member of this family.

For months I had been preparing both girls for the move. I'd done all the planning and legwork. Packed boxes overflowed with books and toys. Anna's new bed frame and mattress (purchased weeks in advance) sat quietly in our basement waiting to be united in matrimony by the fine services of my brothers-in-law. I even spent three days carefully hand-selecting a playlist of inspiring songs to rock out to during the move (like "Move This" and "Bust a Move" and "The Best of Hootie and the Blowfish").

I'd planned on five hours of heavy lifting, vacuuming, cleaning, unpacking and vacuuming again because someone "didn't do a good enough job the first time." I'd planned to lose my suit closet to the newly named "Girls' Closet" and let my homeless suits find temporary shelter in the basement. I'd planned to stay out of the way as my wife and her sister dressed the beds in their new polka-dotted attire. I'd even planned a 5-minute break so I could check #ClooneyWatch on Twitter. In fact, I'd planned so well we finished in half the time.

When the final pillowcase was added, the girls bounced off the walls with excitement. My wife, a proud Mom, looked on as her two kids who were about to embark on a journey of a lifetime—one my wife once shared with her sister and one I once shared with mine. And I, a proud Dad, stood in the corner … compulsively crying.

For months I had been preparing both girls for the move. Apparently what I didn't realize was that I hadn't prepared myself.

The night before I teared up when I swayed with Anna in our rocking chair for the last time, patting her back, softly singing "Tomorrow" in her ear, setting her in her crib and watching as she turned on her mobile with her butt (our ritual). I teared up when I walked into Ella's room to kiss her goodnight for the last time and stepped on a piece of painfully rigged play food (our ritual).

After we'd moved all the furniture I teared up as I took inventory of the room. I couldn't help but think back over the past four years. I remember when my parents bought us the crib that not only hugged our kids to sleep every night, but also became the room's centerpiece. Now, instead, two identical twin beds rest against the wall like misplaced Tetris pieces. I looked at the pictures my in-laws helped us hang. Now they sit on the floor, replaced by tall bookshelves and dressers with mirrors. I can recall the first night we let Ella sleep in the room (I panicked every second) and the first night we let Anna sleep in the room (I panicked every other second).

I'd like to tell you that my tears were big, manly tears, the kind that generally only appear on men's faces after our favorite sports teams win championships or we eat extremely hot wings or we get head-butted in the crotch. But they weren't. They were soft, gentle tears of memories that I'll hold dear forever.

As the clock struck 10 (well past their bedtime), I teared up again as I tucked my girls into their big twin beds, saying goodnight to them for the thousandth time—but for the first time all over again. I shut their door and slowly walked downstairs with  my heavy heart dragging behind. My wife gave me a giant hug and said, "It'll be OK," which is her polite way of calling me a wuss. And maybe I am. Who knows. For the past two years these every-night traditions enriched my life. And yet, in the blink of one Valentine's Day weekend, they were gone.

Just as I was about to tear up one last time, I could hear two little voices peeking through the monitor. They weren't crying. They weren't talking. They were singing. They were singing "Tomorrow" all on their own. They sang for nearly 15 minutes. For some reason this put me at ease and really did let me know that it'll all be OK. It'll all be OK.

And if it isn't, at least I can drown my sorrows in a little #ClooneyWatch.

Would love to hear any stories you might have about moving your kids in together or what worked for you when you were a kid and roomed with a sibling. Feel free to leave it in the comments section.

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February 7, 2011

Getting Ready for Work

Kids have three undeniably impressive skills: to get out every toy they own in just under 4.7 seconds, to use an entire bottle of syrup on one single pancake and to make everyone in the family late for work. I can live with the first two, but it's the last one that drives me crazy. Doesn't matter how early we get up. Doesn't even matter if I work from home. Somehow, we are always on the road 15 minutes later than we need to be (we should be out at 7:45). In the three-plus years I've been a Dad, we've left on time once—Once! It's so rare, even Snopes.com is starting to question it's validity.

To give you a better sense of what happens, here is a minute-by-minute recap of a typical morning in Klems Manor. If you see somewhere we can save time, by all means, let me know. But it'll be tough: You'll find the routine below is super efficient.

Our Timeline
6:55am Alarm goes off. Keep smacking it with hand, but it won't turn off. In fact, it keeps getting louder. Finally wife says, "Get up and stop smacking me!"
7:00am Head to bathroom and start peeing.
7:11am Finish peeing. Go into youngest daughter's bedroom to wake her. Find her balled up in one corner of the crib, but find her blanket balled up in the opposite corner. Think to self, Wonder what they were fighting about?
7:15am Toss unwilling-to-wake-up toddler over shoulder and carry her to my bed. Start zerberting until child is somewhat aware that it's time to play with Mom's makeup. 
7:16am Switch off wife's nonsensical television selection of "The Today Show." Replace with "Saved by the Bell" on TBS.
7:17am Go into eldest daughter's room. Feel sorry for the baby doll who is hanging onto the side of the bed for dear life. Feel sorrier for daughter who is, for some reason, sleeping face down on her own dirty socks. Begin round two of zerberting.
7:20am Get both kids in shower.
7:29am Get both kids out of shower.
7:30am Get yelled out by wife for wrapping them in hand towels.
7:31am Hand kids off to wife.
7:32am Spend next 28 seconds showering.
7:33am Kids are back—fully awake, fully dressed and fully uncooperative. Attempt to brush their teeth. Get toothbrush and toothpaste to touch at least 40% of each kid's smile. Consider it a victory.
7:35am Simultaneously brush my teeth, put on deodorant, shave and act as a human jungle gym.
7:37am Get dressed. Look in mirror. Contemplate: Is this what I wore yesterday? Sniff under arm. Smells OK. Decide to "just go with it."
7:38am Take kids downstairs for breakfast (which wife has started).
7:39am Listen to kids argue over who gets to use the princess placemat. Can't figure out what the difference is between this particular princess placemat and the five other princess placemats we own, but, measured by the volume of the argument, it must be epic. Suddenly find myself also wanting to use that particular princess placemat.
7:40am Eat bowl of Cheerios while daughters eat their bowls of Cheerios.
7:41am Clean up bowl of Cheerios older daughter has spilled because she had to "mix them up" before she ate them.
7:42am Clean up bowl of Cheerios the other daughter has spilled on the floor because, after seeing her older sister do it, felt she also needed to "mix them up" before she ate them.
7:44am Give my not-spilled bowl of Cheerios to daughters to split. Eat Pop Tart.
7:45am Realize the last time you bought Pop Tarts you didn't have any children.
7:46am Rush to bathroom. Curse Pop Tart.
7:50am Wash hands. Start getting daughters in coats.
7:51am Wife comes downstairs, wonders why girls are wearing each other coats and not the right ones. Blame daughter closest to you.
7:52am Promise to deposit an extra $5 her college fund to alleviate guilt.
7:54am Load kids in car. Crank the Aaron Neville CD. Pull out of driveway.
7:55am Pull back into driveway. Let wife in car and apologize for forgetting her the first time. Swear this is the last time it'll happen. Blame other daughter.
7:56am Promise to deposit an extra $5 in other daughter's college fund.
7:57am Pull out of driveway again. Replace Aaron Neville with Dora CD. Start singing, "Come on, vamanos … "
7:58am Wave goodbye to the house and head to sitter's house. For several minutes, complain to wife that we're running late. Also complain to kids that we are running late. Then quietly acknowledge to self that, one day, I am really, really going to miss this.
8:00am Get stuck in (expletive) traffic.

What slows you down in the morning? What tricks have you learned to get the morning moving faster? What's your favorite Aaron Neville song? If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them.

Also, I am legally bound by my wife to point out that she gets up at 6:30 and she is not a slacker, as this post may unintentionally indicate. She thinks I should buy her something nice. Should I?

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