eggshells and mug shards

December 17, 2014

tell me that you love me.
i just want to stop moving for a little while
have a lie down
sleep to escape me,
but these days i snore
so even in the night
i bother us all.
dammit this stuff was supposed to help me
not make me crazier.
i don’t know what to expect
or what is even a valid expectation.
your love
is the constant.
so exhausted that it
turned to crying this morning
for me for you for us for them.
i don’t know where my heart has got to
and the mug leapt out of my hand
as i was trying to put it away
crashed down on that important plastic thing
rendering it useless
i yelled as it bounced and fell to the floor
broken, ruined
my heart
pulverized
what kind of fragile things
are our children growing up with
as i toss eggshells all over the floor
on the couch, on the carpet, in the kitchen
where ever i went this morning, wherever i go.
i know that our first-born
would cover the shells with candy hearts
and sweet little slogans
sincere visions in colored paper hung on the fridge.
she squeezes into the hug
so tall now
but still finding room…
there is room for them all.
but i lack the strength
to sweep up.
be careful where you step, kids
dad’s heart is missing again.

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paradox and palindrome

July 30, 2014

my firstborn’s initials are HRB
and because we call the middle kid by her initials –
EZB (Easy Bee)
i thought i would use fair practice for initials (FPFI)
and so i started calling her Herb
and then Herbert – she hates this.

HeRB has a strange artistic integrity,
an intensity that commands/inspires respect
though she can have trouble granting it.
she is older than she needs to be
and yet liable to break her self down
to near emotional infancy in a moment.
she can be generous to a point that makes me nervous;
and i want to tell her that she can’t give so much
but she doesn’t hesitate or regret,
she anticipates. (positive and negative)
she does not make it easy to romanticize parenting.
she does desire to please
but is not so eager to do so
that she will allow it to interfere
with whatever story her mind has her living in.
she loves with all her heart
she is passionate, earnest and fragile
she is her own and
has a hundred worlds spinning all around her at once
awaiting her pleasure and continued creation.
she dances in my deepest heart
captures, captivates, fascinates, infuriates
she is definitely not just a little kid anymore;
i delight in her friendship.
i think we will always be friends,
i have joy in that.

she is so much more than I could ever say
so far beyond my powers of articulation or reason
she is exasperating
she is beautiful
she is 7
she is my daughter
i am glad.

its almost confusing.
on the way home
on the same drive
at the same time
the thought comes
with an exhausting sadness
a slightly different refrain but well known
and of the same stuff:
“help me.”
perhaps thats a bit different
a bit better somehow
a cry
still silly and dramatic
but maybe with a bit more desire for connection
to whom? – i don’t know
i thought i did once
but not anymore
maybe to my friends and family and Unfair Advantage
to those who so politely (so kindly) read my bullshit
maybe just out of me
because there is nothing left inside of me
to manage
nothing that i want
but out to the other, out to the ether, to the eternal
i don’t know.

and then i’m home.
with only dark anger knitting me together – loosely
not at anything or coming towards anyone
but not fun for anyone either
and the Unfair Advantage is abandoned to absorb
and does (grace)… and i do the dishes.
cause thats what i can do
and wipe the counter and listen
as love swirls all around me
prodding the knotted knitting
saying pay attention
cause this is so much more than you deserve
so much more than anyone deserves
but you could know to expect it if you were clever
because drops of wonderful are always falling all around you
and my first born says “i love you”
and holds onto my arm
and shows me her inventions
and dances for me with her “new moves”
and the boy…
he is so beautiful
it cant possibly be fair to the rest of the world
and EZB says: “I love you as high as the sky
as big as big
as small as small is small
and as medium is medium”
can this be true?????
that i am loved so much?
it is and it is and it is
and the hurt is there from nowhere
but the love is all around me
from everywhere.

“stop biting the walls.”
“don’t eat the paint.”
“there is no nutritional benefit to consuming dry mortar.”
(or wet mortar or the kinds that explode – any kind of mortar!)
do all parents really have to say these things?
i know theres the typical: don’t eat dirt,
or: don’t drink from the dog’s dish, toilet, etc.
and even “don’t eat paint” is probably pretty normal
but “why are you gnawing on the corner of the house?”?
i know that they are not going hungry,
and these were 3 separate occasions.
there are teeth marks in places that i don’t understand.

you know…
everybody is always so concerned, so sensitive, so insecure
about parenting. (i understand – its horrible)
and we’re all just desperately trying to figure it out
as we stumble around in the dark (often quite literally)
from one child to the next – hoping no one gets hurt.
thus we participate in parenting polemics
and partake of popular parenting publications.
and now a fad in some parenting advice literature is to say
that the current popular advice in parenting advice literature
is just a fad.
apparently the paradox of parenting produces
the perpetually rotating plethora of popular parenting advice.
its a pain to process.
so the truth is, the answer to all of these hard questions
is quite simple:
… i don’t know.
i mean it. i have no idea.
i am not qualified to be a parent
i have absolutely no answers
i have no clue how to do this
I DON’T KNOW!!!

i never knew
even during the very brief time
that i thought i might know something
i didnt.
that was before we had children
(clichés that are true = most.)
so if i took a quiz about parenting?
i would get 100% right. A+
because “I don’t know” is the true answer.
does this mean that i am a good student of parenting?
no.
but i would be graded well
on the quiz i just made up for myself.
i would test well in test taking:
absolutely a valuable skill for getting into grad school,
and therefore very practical for all of life and for parenting.
well, as helpful as anything else – anyway.

to further illustrate my incredible expertise…
here is another quiz question:

when my children repeat things that I say
it sounds either:

A) horrible
B) obnoxious

its a humbling thing.
to realize (again) that you are an idiot
because a child who can barely speak
repeats something that you said
and it sounds dumber than the words they make up on their own
that don’t even mean anything.
for example:
i might say to my children,
“you’re a silly goose”
or
“you crazy nut!”,
thats not so bad – right?
if said with affection and fun and happiness – Hooray!
but my brain shortened and combined these two phrases
and it came out as: “goose nut”.
now, that might not be o.k.
i didnt notice it at first,
(yes i did and i thought it was funny)
coming from my own mouth: “you’re a goose nut.”
is kinda odd and maybe a little uncomfortable
(why would i ever say this you ask?
answer: C) i don’t know = parenting)

but when repeated?
…its gotta stop.
but it probably won’t
cause, though i am embarrassed to admit it,
i still think its funny.
even if vaguely offensive.

you know, now that i’ve written all that out?
it really is quite embarrassing.
in part because though i did realize it was odd
i didnt think about it sounding bad
until somone else pointed it out… “should they say that?”
i have tried to shorten the phrase further
to just use the word “goose”
you know, like saying, “you goose”, see how that works?
it’s pretty complicated.
cause i really need a harmless name to call my ludicrous children
but they insist on adding the nut
there is no way to make this sound or look better.
yep. i am a parent, i have no idea what i’m doing.

i had a quasi-celebrity i met once
tell me that he thought
humiliation was good for humility.
i think he is wrong.
but… i don’t know.

soothsaying cake

April 10, 2014

its not cold anymore
its hard to believe that there could be
this much color in the world.

Easy Bee says: smell the flowers
then the original Little (she is almost not little anymore)
comes through the front back door and
says: but smell the aroma in the kitchen – its even better.
and it is.

i once got a fortune cookie that read:
there will be cake in your future
the kitchen fragrance proves this prophecy
once again.

it really is one of the best fortunes one can receive:
cake… and the love with which it is made.
and children who want nothing more than to see you enjoy it,
enjoy it with you –
watch it set ablaze and then blown out.
believe that they’ve got what you wished for
wrapped in a box in the other room;
it was their idea, they picked it out, made the wrapping paper
wrapped it, could not stop themselves talking about it.
what i wish is that life was really that simple.
mmmmmmmmmm cake,
in this moment it is.

I was invited to contribute a guest post 
for a father’s day collaboration that a Dad blog in the U.K. was doing;
specifically, concerning childbirth from a Dad’s perspective.
I enjoyed writing the piece and thank the blog author and his readers
for their generosity in allowing me to share their space.
The following is what I wrote as first published on The_Secret_Father:

as i was tucking in the Easy Bee (3yrs old – our 2nd of 3);
making absolutely certain that no rough part of the blanket
was touching her face in any way, at all, she says:
Dad, your hands are cold… and they’re warm.
my First Born (6yrs) feeling it necessary to contend this paradox
interjects with a voice muffled by her deep nest of covers:
…that doesn’t make any sense.
weellll… EZB continues in a single breath:
they’re middle… they’re medi… uhhh… meti…
meady… ummmmmmmm…  meaty…

meat. we eat meat. we eat fish. mosquitoes itch us. right Dad?

what?.

my strange and beautiful children.
where did you come from?

oh right, i remember …
(eyes glaze dreamily, hand strokes scruffy chin):

… the muscles of my wife’s lower back rippled
(i didn’t even know we had muscles like that there)
she was turning a deep red with the effort
and still the midwife was demanding: push!
i thought: NO! she’ll burst! no one can do this. STOP!
but then… i was called around to the front
and there was the top of our little one’s head
i teared up and i repeated: push.
in a moment the child rushed out into my hands
and i picked her up and put her on her mother’s chest
our daughter –
born under the water of an inflatable kiddie pool in my kitchen
……………….…where you would sit, in fact, if you came for dinner.

i was no stoic hero (in this case or the subsequent two births)
i was trying to maintain focus on my wife
trying to take care of the little logistical problems
of having a swimming pool in the kitchen
(in which a baby is about to be born)
trying to be as helpful as a man can be
(when he’s long ago completed his required contribution
to this somatic/biological process)

trying to get the back rubs and breathing and moral support just right
trying to be completely present in this horribly beautiful adventure
but also, i was trying to keep how terrified i was from showing
and adding drama where extra drama was definitely not needed –
hoping i wouldn’t freak out and run screaming from the room
with my arms flailing above my head.
inside i felt like one of those tiny excitable dogs
dancing around pointlessly with their little nails
clicking on the linoleum floor;
all nerves – no steel.
my wife? well, she was amazing, powerful…
at one point amidst the pain
she looked up at me clear-eyed and said quietly:
“this hurts more than I thought it would.”
i knew she was strong, but i was in awe.

the first birth was swaddled in novelty:
attending the birthing classes with all of their predictable hilarity
acquiring all the specialized terminology; the jargon of birth
learning that an umbilical cord is gigantic!
(worth going to class for that information alone – i was pretty ignorant).
entering into the culture and convictions attendant to home birth
(i felt like a spy from normal-land infiltrating a strange realm where
people very seriously consider consuming parts of their own body)

the whole time i’m thinking: well, sure, but this is just one day –
then what do we do?!
well, no one can really answer that question.
and this one day?
nothing could have prepared me for this reality of flesh and bone…
our lives are normally so sheltered, avoiding pain wherever possible
but this was raw – visceral – utterly exposed
and no matter how hard i tried or what i did
i couldn’t save her from that
– nor would she want me to –
and i was afraid.
the most dramatic culmination of our being one
and we would be so dramatically separate.
together, intimate but deep within ourselves;
our experiences so different.
i was there for support, a hand holding hers, a body to lean against
but ultimately all i could do was stand by and watch her bear it,
which she did with determination and grace
and it was hard and it was raw and it was miraculous.

and then i fell in love.
i was overjoyed with all my tiny new babies,
they were unspeakably beautiful to me
and i swear i didn’t mean to think this:
but, wow, they were also funny looking.
being born is hard work and it showed…
the first debuted like a cross between Yoda and Gollum
i just kept thinking: which of those parts came from me?
EZB (our 2nd) was a little garden gnome;
bright red and fuzzy – a little girl version of the biblical Esau.
and the boy (8 months now), poor kid,
he looked like Roger Ebert after his jaw was removed
(i thought of even worse stuff but my wife said not to write it here.)
but then their tough elastic little bodies
recover from the pressures and trauma of the birth
and they slowly unfold into all of their exquisite oddness;
the wondrous strange combination of things which they inherit from us
and are stuck with for the duration of their lives
(whether they like it or not)
and the things that are their own:
the unique otherness which they begin to foster and protect
whether we like it or not.
from the beginning until now and on till then
they are all so very beautiful.

…as i knelt beside my wife and this other brand new person
my heart was still dancing its irregular jig
and i choked out: is she breathing?
that child picked her head up off her Mama’s chest
opened her eyes wide and looked directly at me –
calm down, Dad.

laughter with a D

June 8, 2013

eyes sparkling
with a dangerous smile
you can see exactly where the inspiration
for Alice and Peter came from
but they don’t need pixie dust to fly
they don’t need a rabbit hole to fall into adventure

like forces of nature
sunlight and storm
halo and horn
simultaneously
interchangeably ever-changing
unpredictable rearranging
perfect

i name you Captivating Grace
you infuriate
i name you Gift of Light
you exasperate
my daughters
my laughter
i call you recalcitrant
i call you beautiful.
why?
because i’m the dad
and i say so.

fairy houses

May 27, 2013

my first born has been convincing herself for a few months
that she is slowly transforming into a fairy (the winged magical variety)
she has me feel the bumps of her spinal column
and says that they are wing buds starting to grow
then she flaps her arms and slowly rises on her tip toes
saying: see i am staying up just a little bit
i am floating – i feel lighter!
then she talks about the different abilities she may develop
and what her responsibilities as a fairy might be
we have also had a lengthy discussion
about whether or not she is shrinking
and the benefits of being able to ride around in my pocket
verses the cons of how hard it would be to hug something so small

all of this has led to some great imaginings
secret spaces in neighborhood bushes
hung with tiny treasures and shiny things
ladybug searches and the climbing maple
strung with breezy pieces of colored strings
tip-toe walking and spinning dances
inspired by dreams of fairy wings

but what i really want to share is this:

i was drained and depressed
just felt like i had nothing to give – a zombie dad
when my daughter came, handed me a bucket and said:
Dad, we’re going to build a fairy house.
i was horrified – this sounded so involved, so daunting;
the kind of thing that if you go online
you find pictures of whimsical detailed creations
made by crafty over achieving über-parents
an intimidating (impossible) feat of engineering on the best day.
but it wasnt! and thats why i’m writing this
because this was a completely child-led sweet little project
for even us normal (exhausted, overwhelmed) parents.
all i had to do was be present
and all i had to give was some time
(in fact my few design ideas went unused)
my biggest contribution was as a beast of burden.
i just shuffled along as
we walked around the neighborhood with our buckets
collecting whatever struck our fairy fancy…
i was just thinking tiny flowers
but my daughter was collecting all kinds of stuff
from wild strawberries growing in the mown grass
(for a special fairy salad she was making to entice them)
to construction material from a pile of trash
(we did not disturb anyone’s landscaping)
she would come back and take my hand and lean her head against me
i just watched her imagination swirl,
let her lead and received her love (all gifts to me).
—–so you need something to do with a kid?
—–let me recommend Fairy Houses.

faerie shrine with salad

now she builds completely on her own
and constantly has her eye out for
discarded fairy stuff to use during construction
she sets out fairy food (berries, etc)
and checks to see if any go missing
(i am always hoping the birds eat it and add to this good game)
she would deeply love for faeries to be real
for one to take up abode in her creations
to become one herself…
but she knows that they are not
that that is not what this is all about;
for now it is just a great pretend…
and really fun to choose to believe that soon
we might learn to fly.

i want to thank my daughter
for sharing a little of that fairy magic
and for changing my day.

merman or manmaid

March 12, 2013

hot new indie band?
or…
the most difficult existential question
i have been asked in some time,

parenting can be so hard.

finished with 5.
and all of a sudden your teeth are loose
and you’re starting to read
and it has all happened rather fast,
people always say it goes quick
but then when it does
the speed seems ridiculous.

sometimes you still want me to pick you up
and cradle you and rock you to sleep
like i did when you were a baby
(though you don’t find it at all comfortable – lasts about 2 seconds)
sometimes you sit with me and we talk
about nothing too serious
like old, comfortable friends
(and i smile so big inside)
sometimes your emotions wash over you
in a way that is too big for you to understand
and we don’t always understand either
(and our hearts cry with you)
sometimes you decide to do something,
you articulate your intentions and then… you do it.
as though it were a simple, easy thing
to be kind to your sister and helpful all day
or whatever it is you have determined to do
(and i think, well, why can’t she do that everyday
and i take the accomplishment for granted
and thats not very fair – many adults can’t even do that)

sometimes i miss who you were
while enjoying who you are
and looking forward to who you will be
simultaneously
seeing flashes of all these things as you whirl about
>but, silly daddy {you are turning 6 (not 16, not 26)}
i have no idea who you will be.
and who you were? what does that even mean at 6?
i just mean when you were an itty bitty thing
when it was just you, your mom and me
and i thought of you two as “The Little and The Lady”.

sometimes i get really sentimental:
 
 
this delicate balance of a little girl

delicate and untamed
you gain the balance
of the dancer you want to be,
you will never have a problem with too little
passion or strength or will or imagination
no, you will not have the problem of too little.
your unruly spirit, your emotional intelligence…
you are strong and delicate
(though others may not see it that way).
you will slowly gain poise
and then learn that you are not unbreakable
i hope you will also know that you don’t need to be.

and when balance fails and you fall (even break)
i hope that i will always be
one of those you allow to help pick up the pieces
and that you will also allow others to help you, to see you,
the beautiful puzzle you are becoming
that you will trust where you are vulnerable
that you will lean to others when you feel like falling
and so you will not fall out of pride
because you know that you are not alone.

i trust you my daughter.
thats good as you have my whole heart
(whether i wanted to give it or not).
i hope that holding each others hearts,
delicate and untamed…
we will both be stronger.
 
 
I Love You,
your goofy, overdramatic dad