Sunday, June 19, 2016

REMINISCING: On Father's Day

If any of you were paying any attention to last week’s column, you would have noticed that today’s subject was supposed to be about graduation. Well, two things happened. First, I looked at the calendar and realized that graduation is next week. Secondly, it’s Father’s Day, and that opened up a whole different state of mind when I was trying to write the graduation article. So, without further ado, here’s this week’s “Reminiscing.”
Since the spring of 2004, I’ve been a Dad. (For those of you questioning the capitalization of “Dad,” I would argue that it is a title and honorarium. Therefore, it deserves the capital.) Wendy missed out on Mother’s Day 2004 by two days, though we did celebrate it with her. She was eight months pregnant with twins.

I can very clearly remember the day the twins were born. Wendy had a doctor’s appointment, and it was my first day at a new job. I had been laid off for all of her pregnancy and it was time to go back to work. By a quirk of scheduling, this was the one appointment that I could not attend with her. However, shortly after she got to the doctor’s office, she called me to say that I needed to meet her at the hospital. The babies were coming. So much for my first day. (That really didn’t break my heart. That quite possibly was the worst job I ever had.)

I had been somewhat nervous throughout the pregnancy. When Wendy told me she was pregnant, I was super happy. We had been trying for so long, I was getting dejected over ever having any kids. Immediately, I started thinking about what needed to be done at the house to prepare for a baby. Considering that I had just been laid-off from a very well-paying job the week before, I was extremely nervous about being able to provide for the family.

Let’s fast-forward a week or so to our first ultrasound:

Wendy: So, I had what’s called a transvaginal ultrasound.  I won’t go into too many details, but it’s called that for a reason.  I had no idea at the time that they could do such a thing.  I was laying on the table, with a screen to my right.  Craig was sitting in a chair off to my left, nose in a book as usual. So the ultrasound technician was doing her thing and making small talk when suddenly she says: “Oh, that’s why your numbers are so high!  There’s two in here!”  I glanced at the screen then at Craig who had looked up from his book, eyes wide.  He got up to walk over closer to me.   The technician with a big smile followed that up with “let’s just make sure there aren’t any more hiding in there”.  Looking at the screen, a bit awed, I was startled by the thud of Craig’s book as it fell to the floor.  Over my shoulder,  Craig was in distress: eyes wide, mouth hanging open, the color had already drained from his pale face.  The technician stopped what she was doing to tend to him, asking earnestly if she needed to call for someone to help.  We laugh about it now, but at the time, he was truly terrified! For a brief moment,  I thought he was actually going down.  The technician said that’s why they keep smelling salts behind the door.  

Well, you want to talk about nervous? Oh my. We had been hoping to be able to have kids someday. Two? I thought for sure we had escaped that fate when Wendy’s sister had twin boys several years before. We went from being DINKS (dual income, no kids) to being a single income family with TWO babies on the way. Honestly, that moment was probably the first moment I ever prayed. Please let them be safe, and please, please, please don’t be any more “hiding in there.”

As nervous as I was at the ultrasound, it put nothing on the bundle of nerves that I was on the actual day of their birth. They were a month early, and the reality of actually having children was a huge slap in the face. This was really happening. Looking back at some of the pictures, there is definitely a look of almost terror in my eyes.

My twins were born two minutes apart via c-section. First came IdaLena, followed by Patience. IdaLena was raring to get out, although she was sitting cross-legged. For a couple weeks, no matter how often we tried to straighten her legs when she was sleeping, back they went to her own Little Indian style. Patience, meanwhile, was not quite ready to be born. I saw her only for a quick minute before they whisked her off to another part of the hospital and put her in an oxygen tent.

Suddenly, nerves were ratcheted up again. What was wrong with my baby? Immediately, those parental instincts kicked in. For most of that first day, all I could see was this tiny baby inside a plastic bubble. All I could touch was her left foot. She tried to pull that foot into the bubble whenever I tried to stroke it. Even today, she has issues with her feet being touched. I only learned later that everything needed to transport her to Children’s Hospital was all put into place. That was scary.

While all this was going on, Wendy was having serious issues of her own. She had lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion. I ended up running from one end of the hall to the other for most of the day, until at least Wendy was stabilized. By that time, she was upset that she hadn’t seen Patience yet. For most of the rest of the day, she was given excuse after excuse of why our baby couldn’t come down to her.

My Dad came to the rescue. After seeing the exasperation on both our faces, especially Wendy’s, he left the room to confront a nurse about getting Patience to our room. Neither Wendy nor I knew of this until after we were home. All we knew was that suddenly our second baby was in the room with us. And that was just the first day of being a parent. I have never been so exhausted. Poor Wendy was far more tired than I was. She was just worn out.

A mere 22 months later, we welcomed our third daughter, Corliss. Going from taking care of two infants to taking care of one was like night and day. Sure, we still had two 2-year-olds to take care of, but they were testing their independence. When the twins went to preschool, it was just Corliss and Daddy for half the day. It was a special bonding time. When they went to kindergarten for a full day, it was even more time for Corliss and I. We went everywhere - grocery shopping, paying bills, and window shopping at Best Buy. I did that with the twins, too, but that involved far more planning.

We rounded out our family with the birth of Josephine at the end of 2009. We just snuck in under the wire for the tax write-off with a December 30th birthday. JoJo was kind of a surprise. While Wendy wanted more children, I was almost certain that I was done with babies. She was born when I was the same age my mother was when I graduated from high school. Here I was just starting out again.

People asked me when Wendy was pregnant with Josephine if I was hoping for that boy finally. I always said, “I’m good with a girl. I think I have this girl thing figured out.” And really, we had all the girl stuff already. I wouldn’t need to go out and buy much new stuff with another girl. I was really good with either a boy or a girl. Most people didn’t believe me. Trust me. I am perfectly fine with four daughters. It works for hand-me-downs (which we love), and for toys. Throwing a single boy into the mix of three girls who are very close (22 months, remember) probably would be an adventure that would be difficult to get a handle on.

What have I learned in the twelve years since I became a parent? I’ve learned that all the stuff I thought I was getting away with as a child, well, my parents knew. We’ve all done it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Sometimes you really just want to laugh even though you know you shouldn’t. There is a time to be fun, and there is a time to be strict. I haven’t always figured that out, but parenting is a work in progress. We also do a lot of “When I was a kid…” explaining.

I have a whole new view on what my parents went through. I know it may surprise most of you, but I was a fairly easy kid. My sister and brother? That’s a whole other story. Don’t get me wrong. I did my fair share of stupid things. It’s kind of a kid’s thing to test the boundaries and see how far they’ll bend before they break. My kids do that all the time. I think with twins, there are two minds that think as one. It’s double the brainpower, thus double the trouble.

As the girls grow up and become more and more independent, I am simultaneously proud and sad. I’m happy that they have learned enough to venture even a little bit out on their own. I want them to be strong, independant women. At the same time, I don’t want them to grow up too fast. We already push our children to be adults much faster than they should be. From the music they listen to, to the clothes they wear, we collectively,expect them to be more grown up at an earlier age all the time. I eschew this trend a bit. I don’t want them to miss out on the joys of being a kid just so I can have a built in babysitter for when Wendy and I want a night out.

While we’re trying to keep them from growing up too fast, we’re also trying to make sure they aren’t immature and stunted in this growth. It’s a very fine line to tread. It’s probably the biggest part of parenting -- ensuring that they grow into respectful adults at their own pace while exploring the world around them. Too much freedom and you’ve got arrogant snots who can do no wrong. Too little freedom and you’ve got kids who are afraid to venture out on their own without someone holding their hands.

Each day is a balancing act. Sometimes you fall. Sometimes you soar. The days you soar far outweigh the days you fall. There is nothing quite as awesome when you see your children look at you with a huge smile on their faces. Teaching them a life lesson at the same time is even better. That’s what I’ve learned about parenting, and a whole lot more. There isn’t enough space here to give even just a list of what being a Dad has meant to me.

So, to all the Dads out there on Father’s Day, I wish you all the best day today. And to all the mothers who take on the double roles of Mother and Father, Happy Father’s Day. It’s a job that never ends. It’s also the job with the greatest rewards.

Craig Bacon wishes his Dad a Happy Father’s Day.