So far, I haven’t said anything about myself or what sort of life I lead, not wanting to focus undue attention on the trivialities of my oh-so-exciting existence (I guess I mentioned I was an associate editor yesterday) (and there’s enough of that stuff on my bio page).
But today I want to share some things about writing as a parent. My daughter, Ellie, is 19 months, and has a somewhat limited speech repertoire, but this stuff just always makes me smile. There was this special word we couldn’t figure out–“Nackeys”–that was her favorite for a while. We had no clue what she was saying. My wife, Sheri, finally figured out it was necklace; I never would have. I figured it held some mysterious corelation with the “obadonoes” video and at least a familial resemblance to “tapee-suff.”
Being a parent of this age child, most of your work is guesswork. You do the routine feeding and clean-up, but there’s so much that goes on in a given day you have no idea how to respond to, it’s like trying to give someone from another country a tour of a city you can’t adequately explain, and the whole time you can’t understand what he wants, thinks, feels, or needs. Until you learn his language, you’re out of luck trying to please him. I find myself saying “What. What is it!” multiple times throughout the day, and I’m not asking it as a question, I’m demanding an answer. “Just tell me what you want. For the love of St. Obedono!”
This weekend, Sheri’s off with the girls in Santa Fe, leaving me to play Mr. “Mommy-Daddy” and figure it out. It was time. She hasn’t had more than a 6-hour stretch away from her since she was born. So she’s due. But that didn’t keep me from threatening to let the old couple downstairs babysit–the ones from Florida who favor using the fireplace in the middle of summer and coming up with new definitions for the term “partially clothed.” Hey, she doesn’t need to get the idea she can stay away too long when she’s obviously the better mommy of the two of us. Just to prove it, while Ellie calls her Mommy, I am Mommy-Daddy, unmistakably the second-tier parent in that lexicon. She knows I’m the stand-in who doesn’t know the score and lets her eat cookies for dinner and go to bed with arm-loads of toys. If you saw me right now, surrounded by toys, blocks, books, puzzles, juice bottles, a talking telephone, and wearing a rainbow-colored, plastic necklace that I apparently have to wear while I’m typing, you’d know I wasn’t kidding.
Seeing her language develop is incredible and something I have trouble not taking advantage of. Before I had kids, I told myself I’d resist the urge to call elephants “buggie-magos” and underwear “giggle-britches” and stuff like that. But now that I have the chance, it’s too much fun not to.
It’s bathtime now, so I’ll have to cut it short tonight. No words of wisdom tonight. Well, okay, maybe just this: keep your kupah on the baw and your eaw to the gwoun because it’s a hup, thkip, and a jimp to ganmuh’s house the oduh side of the wivuh.
Just remember that.