Archive for October, 2015|Monthly archive page

Salty Tears and Somersaults

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Personal space has been in short supply in our house for quite some time. We have had kids doubled up in rooms for years, and we actually have quite a few rooms. However, things changed a bit over this last summer. The oldest, who has been attending South Plains College in Levelland TX, found an apartment in Lubbock TX, and branched out on her own. We are proud of her, but The Middles were ecstatic. (The Middles are my two freshmen girls for those of you not having read This World of Hurt before).

There is a term, Dead Man’s Shoes; it’s rarely used anymore. Nobody really knows where it came from. Maybe an ancient nautical term dating back to when shoes were hard to come by on a sailing ship, or perhaps it references battlefield promotions during war, or it just be a position with no designated retirement age, but they all tell the same message: You’re not getting this until somebody dies. Thus Dead Man’s Shoes, and that’s what The Middles were so happy about. Somebody dies, and somebody else gets promoted. Somebody moves out, and a room becomes vacant. Somebody else moves in.

In fare Verona and all that,(look it up), I tell you this to set the stage.

My father was in town over the weekend, and we were spending a little time as a family. The moving process was smooth. The Middles talked it over, decisions were reached, one packed, and the other helped her pack. But as it tends to happen to all of us who have more than one place to keep our stuff, moving all of the belongings from one place to another continues to drag on. And this was the catalysis to the explosion.

My wife was scolding the Middles over the condition of their room, to which one blamed the other for the untidiness. To paraphrase, one said, “I’ve been keeping my room clean. The only thing on my floor, are the clothes that she left in there when she moved into the other room.”

As you can imagine, the comment elicited a response from the other, which in turn, created a snowball effect. Tensions became tight, voices became elevated, and they were displaying the same mannerisms they used to when they were 9, and I had to hold them apart while their angry fists swung at the empty air between them. My wife had instinctively assumed her feet apart, knees bent, hands flat, fingers extended ninja defense pose, her eyes darting from one child to the next, ready for action.

I was slowly backing out of the room, my head swiveling about looking for safe harbor, which I found, as my wise old father had already dropped anchor on the living room couch. Pirates stick together.

I looked at my father, and he looked at me, eyes wide. If we had popcorn, we would have popped it, because there was about to be a boxing match. Let’s get ready to rumble.

The arguing gave way to yelling, hands turned to fists, teeth clinched, and jaws set. And then. … something entirely unexpected happened. The lips on one of the set jaws quivered. A domino effect, a chain reaction moving from crinkled cheeks, to closed eyes, to slack shoulders, and then. … crying. This emotion created a desire to be hugged, and she reached for her sister. Despite the preparation to defend herself in bloody combat just seconds before, the sister returned the gesture, locking into an embrace.

Some kind of electrical current was exchanged, perhaps some kind of unknown female emotion sharing program that men are ignorant of, but whatever the science, the other one began to cry as well. There were exchanges of I love yous and laughter. It was like falling down an elevator shaft. First you’re here, and then you’re Ahhhhhh.

I looked at my father, and he looked at me, eyes wide. If we had Olympic score cards, we would have held them up, displaying straight 10s across the board for the feat of emotional gymnastics that we just witnessed; even the Canadian judge would have given them a 9.5 for the ninja pose alone.

I will admit, like much of my life living with my girls, I can understand part only of it. At least in principle. After all, men have a similar way of working out issues. We just don’t typically cry or hug. If some fella wrongs us, it’s not uncommon to go exchange a few words, throw a few punches, buy him a beer afterwards, and become best friends for 40 years. But like I said earlier, pirates stick together.

So, plot a sound course for safe harbor, and keep a weather eye on the horizon, because the winds of change move quickly when you’re in the middle of This World of Hurt.


Conversations on a One-way Street

In children, Codes, Communication, Dads, daughters, husbands, life, Men, Moms on October 14, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Let me give you a quick explanation of the structural breakdown regarding my children, how they are grouped, and the corresponding nicknames that accompany those groups. Together there are 7 of them, and their groups are as: “The Oldest”—because she’s the oldest, “The Boy”—because he’s the only boy, “The Middles”—because they are in the middle, “The Littles”—you guessed it, because they’re younger than the Middles, and “The Baby”—this should be evident.

The other night I was part of a conversation, which took place between my wife, the Middles, and myself. The conversation was a fairly typical one that takes place between teenage girls and their parents all across the nation at the end of a long hard day: part personally informative, part gossip and conjecture, and part motivational and inspirational.

Admittedly, I was doing a bit of writing during this conversation, but I was keeping up with the exchanged dialogue, and I even chimed in when I had something worthwhile to contribute. In fact, I had just raised a question, posing it to my wife while she opened the door to the refrigerator. Then, all the sudden, something happened: a long pause occurred, and then it got weird.

Have you ever been following directions to some destination in an unfamiliar city? And let’s say the final part of these instructions was to make a right turn onto a one-way street—how about we use Washington Ave? Cities love to name streets for presidents. So, you make a right turn onto Washington Ave, and you don’t stray from this one-way street. You think you’re getting pretty close to your destination, and you look up at the street sign to discover that you are now traveling down Kennedy PKWY. It is a terribly disturbing recollection, correct? This is what had just taken place in our conversation.

I had asked a question, yet we were no longer engaged in the same conversation we were just microseconds before. My wife’s response had absolutely nothing to do with the question I had asked. To make me even more confused, the Middles seemed to move right along without missing a beat.

I immediately brought this to the attention of the group, because I am a man after all. I’m not afraid of anything. … apart from arithmetic that is. “Wait a minute,” I said. “That didn’t have anything to do with what I asked.”

“Yes it did,” my wife said. “Don’t you remember the conversation we were having in the car on Saturday?”

A conversation from the car on Saturday had just completed itself in the kitchen on Monday. Fortunately, I did in fact remember the conversation from Saturday; however, I have no idea how the current night’s preceding discussion tied into it whatsoever. So, naturally, I said so. Because I am a man, and we just don’t give a lot of thought about things like this before we say them. “That conversation doesn’t have anything to do with the question I asked,” I said.

“Yes it does,” my wife said, and then proceeded to explain to me why.

Then it got bad for me. My manly memory could indeed recall there was a conversation on Saturday, and I could recall what it was about—mostly. My wife on the other hand, was able to remember each detail of the conversation. She pointed out that in subsection 9, paragraph 14, 3rd bullet point down in the conversation, such and such did this thing, and that led to so and so needing to do this other thing, and what happened next tied my question into the night’s conversation perfectly.

As she explained, I watched the Middles nodding their heads in sequential affirmation, and I knew I had no dog in this hunt.

You would think after all these years surrounded by my little ladies, I would have a better operational understanding. I do not.

All I can say is I will do my best to take better notes on the conversations I am allowed to be a part of. And next time I will hopefully have a better conversational map. For now, I will just have to try to do my best at navigating through This World of Hurt.

The Human Walkie Talkie

In Babies, baby, children, Codes, Communication, Dads, daughters, Humor, husbands, life, love, Moms, Parents on October 5, 2015 at 2:51 pm

A bit more than a year ago my wife and I celebrated the birth of our 6th daughter. Surrounded by so many women, one can imagine that I am pulled in a number of different directions. Or another—and probably more accurate—way to say it is: I get bossed around a lot. However, after a few months with the new baby, I realized something: My wife was no longer giving me any directions at all. Or at least not when the baby was around.

Nowadays my wife provides me with suggestions of what I need to do in soft, gentle tones, imbedded within conversations between herself and the baby. The baby’s’ name is Everleigh by the way. We call her “E”. She is going to grow up thinking her name is Missy, since she seems to hear, “What are you doing Miss E?” so often, especially since she is now walking. But I digress.

The point is: Now I have to listen closely to what my wife is saying to E in order to discern what instructions my wife is laying out for me. For instance, before the baby was born, and the family was preparing to head out to some destination, my wife might say to me, “why don’t you start loading the car so we can get out of here and hit the road?”. However, now those instructions are beautifully woven into the peaceful inflections my wife uses to speak, not to me, but to the child. She will look at the baby and softly speak, “We will be able to go, just as soon as daddy gets the car ready.”

And there you go. I am expected to “overhear” this conversation, and immediately jump into action, loading the car with no further instruction. And this is not limited to vehicular preparations; virtually any job duty imaginable may be delegated to me in this fashion. “Would you like daddy to feed you dinner so mommy can do a little work?” “Daddy is going to give you a bath in just a little bit.” This one is tricky because she uses the phrase “a little bit”. She says, “a little bit”, but she means, “Right now”. “Why don’t you see if daddy will change your diaper?” This last one also conveys a sense of urgency. This sentence could be boiled down to just two nouns: Daddy & Diaper.

My child has become a human walkie talkie. A covert message delivery system designed to trip up the male of the species in order to prove the much debated saying that men do not listen? Well of course we men understand that it’s simply rude to eavesdrop on other peoples conversations, yet once the babies come along we must learn this skill. We must become more than husbands, more than fathers, we must become international super spies, able to decode the encrypted messages exchanged from spouse to offspring so that we may maintain a state of readiness.

And to answer the question that is on the mind of so many first time fathers out there: No, this does not work in the opposite direction. This will be a one-way form of communication. If you soothingly tell your child, “I bet mommy is going to dress you in the cutest outfit,” she will move about her day as if you had said nothing at all. It is quite impossible to speak in a soft voice and be heard over the commotion of thoughts taking place in the mind of your wife. The female brain multitasks, every second of every day, while men have a difficult enough time feeding ourselves while watching the game.

Learn to listen my friends, to whomever your wife may be saying it to, especially the human walkie talkie. Breaker Breaker 1-9, listen up good buddy. James Bond only succeeded with the ladies, because he was wearing his secrete decoder ring. At least that’s how I see it, living in This World of Hurt.

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