I get that “look” a lot.
The “Oh my God, you have four kids!” look.
Yes. I have four children. Yes. I know how that happened and I know that the average is, what, 2.5 kids in a household?
Let me describe, first, how my parenting life started. First, I was married. (No longer, lost my wife, go to the archive to get that story.) About a year in, still trying to come to terms with living with my now wife Andrea was pregnant. She freaked out, I stayed calm. We had Abbi – at age 24.
Five years later . . . Hannah. Andrea was ecstatic. I wasn’t, I was stressed. She was in school, I wasn’t making a lot of money and life was hard. But Hannah came and I loved her – differently, but just as much as her sister.
Hannah’s birth was difficult – and that adjective falls far short of the mark. Andrea started to hyper-contract. She had to have a c-section and then started hemorrhaging on the operating table. As a result of the poor job they did in the hospital we were told there was little or no chance Andrea would have other kids. It was hard to hear, but we had 2. That was enough.
Move forward 4 years . . . in Texas . . . and Andrea’s sick. Cramping. Things not going well and through the scars, fibrous material and such inside her body they couldn’t make out what was causing her so much trouble. At one point they determined, they thought, that she had a kind of cancer that, though curable, was a long process and she’d have to go through ultrasounds and tests for years. About a month into this process they said “good news, you’re not sick . . .” which had me elated . . . “you’re pregnant.” That hit me like a Mack truck. “And it’s twins!” That was like getting crushed by a Mack Truck hitting a wall. Andrea was angry – for years – with me for not being up and down ecstatic over that.
So here’s the thing. I have four kids now. I don’t have a wife, that ship has sailed to join the choir invisible. I never, ever, thought about having those four kids as a burden. Not when each of them was born . . . not now.
Yes, I had a hard adjustment trying to come to terms with each of them entering our lives. Once in our lives they were just that – life.
Nothing drives me crazier than the people who come up and say “how do you do it? Just one is so much work!” Work?! Why is it work? Yes, all four kids frustrate me sometimes. Yes, all four confound me when they want to talk about video games while I’m trying to talk on the phone. Yes, they’re dirty, goofy, crazy, noisy and insane. It’s a swirl of chaos that pulls you in. So why would you fight it? I don’t. I have never, ever looked at caring for these kids as work. Changing diapers was a thing you did. The soft little head up against your neck or the tiny hands touching your face after you lift them up . . . that’s so worth it.
When I got married I never even considered or thought about what it would take to be a Dad. I really didn’t. But once they came . . . I was never thinking anything else. Sure, I make it up as I go. No, I don’t go to parenting classes or anything else. But tonight, when my daughter was filling out college essays about a piece of literature that touches you she picked my favorite Dickens novel – Great Expectations. She wrote that the character’s uncle, Joe, represented family and the ties that keep you grounded and know you’re loved . . . so you know where you came from. She wrote that these are the very things that her Dad told her every day of her life and it gave her great comfort.
So to all those men, women, parents and single people out there who look at me with wonder . . . stop calling it work. My kids are not work. I labor, sure. I toil, absolutely. I stress, pace, scream, holler, and worry. I also love, play, jump in leaf piles and hug and kiss them all . . . a lot.
Understand, everyone, that the moment you call it work . . . that’s what it becomes. We all hate work . . . and I certainly don’t hate being their Dad.