The Story About the Toddler, Volume 30.
Our daughter Cordelia is three years and ten months old, and these journals are rapidly winding to a close. Cordelia has pretty much transformed herself from a baby into a person. And you know how boring people are.
She’s a kid. She can play on her own. Make things from Legos (the real kind, not the sissy-pants oversized ones). Scratch me with her fingernails when I try to force her to wear pants. Play with friends. Sing songs. Intentionally lie to get what she wants. Play one parent off against the other. Produce art for us to recycle. Carry on a conversation.
So, basically, she’s pretty much a finished piece of work. Her peer group will mold her from here on in. We just need to provide a landing platform where she can bathe and eat before she launches herself back into the world.
And that is good. Because, in a stunning and unexpected rejection of everything I thought I had learned so far, I decided to impregnate my wife again.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
When you have your first child, you are making a bold gamble, taking a leap into the unknown in the hope that somehow, someday, all of the work and exhaustion and fear will pay for itself by enriching your life in unexpected and intangible ways.
When you have your second child, you are just being a jackass.
Most people who have one child have another. This might be taken as evidence that parenting is, on the whole, a worthwhile and fulfilling experience. After all, if it sucks so bad, why have another?
But it turns out that, when your brain is softened by several years of parenting, rational thought just doesn’t really happen anymore. “Another kid? Yeah. Sure. Why not? I can’t possibly become more of a shut-in!”
But helpful testimonial from our friends has let us know, too late, that the second child is what really knocks the cart off the rails. What little humanity you were able to maintain while herding one sprog is annihilated when you have two.
So why do it?
Well, first, there is simple math. I’m going to need one new kidney. Mariann is going to need one new kidney. Taking both of Cordelia’s kidneys seems, well, mildly ethically questionable. Thus, two kids.
Second, kids are suicidal. Honestly, our daughter’s will to play in traffic is going to overwhelm us sooner or later. One moment of inattention, and WHAMMO! Thus, the second child provides a valuable backup system which will eventually provide us with grandchildren.
Third, I suppose, if you kind of squint, parenting does provide certain emotional rewards. I suppose. As much as it pains me to admit it, now that Cordelia is showing actual human properties, raising her is starting to occasionally be fun. After all, if I’ve learned anything from parenting thus far, it’s this: raising an infant is the dues you have to pay to get to raise a child.
So here we go again.
One Thing I Know For Sure About the Next Child
I’m not going to write about it.
You know how people take tons of pictures of their first kid but hardly record anything about the second? This will be like that, writ large. The first child gets a whole book about her, published and everything. The second child gets, well, a copy of the book but with Cordelia’s name crossed out and hers written in with ballpoint pen.
And someday, when the next child comes to me and says, “Father, why didn’t you write a book about me too?” I will simply lift her on my knee, smile in my wise old way, sigh, and say, “Well, if you wanted me to write about you, you just should have been more interesting.”
Living With the Pregnant
Of course, this means that I also have to spend another nine months living with a pregnant woman. It’s hard to come up with something that hasn’t always been written about these rosy, glowing, unpredictable, roly-poly, sharp-toothed Killing Machines of the Deep. But I wanted to bring it up so that you could feel sorry for me.
Right now, Mariann is in the exact middle of her pregnancy. It’s that magical time when, every week, another sexual position becomes unavailable to us. At the going rate, if we want to have any sort of marital relations two months from now, all I’m going to be able to do is stand at the opposite end of the bedroom and fling handfuls of sperm at her.
On the bright side, every night, I get to put my hand against her belly and feel the baby move. A pointer for you guys ... this is also a great way to warm cold hands.
Conversation About Developing Life, One
Me, to my wife: “I hope you don’t die in childbirth. That would suck.”
Wife: “For YOU. It’d be a free pass for me.”
Conversation About Developing Life, Two
We have been trying to get our three-year old to comprehend the idea that she will soon be sharing the house with a younger sibling. Though a lot of the particulars are still vague to her, she does understand that the baby is currently living in mommy’s tummy. I taught her that, if she wants to say Hi to the baby, she should poke mommy in the stomach. That was great.
However, Cordelia is still sharp enough to be concerned that we will love her less when the baby arrives. So I tried to calm her as best I could in terms she might understand:
“Honey, I’m sure you’ve been worried that when we have another child, we’ll love you less. Well, OF COURSE we will. You see, each human being has only a finite, fixed amount of love to give to those around him. Each new person to love takes some love away from the others. This is why mommies and daddies always love each other less after the first child arrives.
But don’t worry. Though your brothers and sisters will steal some of the love that is rightfully yours, mommy and daddy will still be very nice to you and feed and clothe and shelter you. After all, the law requires it.
Now go watch Elmo.”
Planning For the Future, Like Making Sure We Have One
Now that we almost have the second of two intended children, the discussions about which of us gets fixed, me or the wife, are starting to get much more serious. Vasectomies and tubal ligation both have their ups and downs. So, in the end, we’ll probably just flip for it.
That is, if we get that far. Every time I think about another year with an infant in the house, it’s all I can to do keep from tearing into my balls with my fingernails and keep digging until something breaks.
Though I don’t worry about it too much. If we get stuck with an inconvenient additional fetus, as I understand it, we can just get it vacuumed out. I think I read something about that on the Internet. Though if the Republicans get their way, it won’t be an option for much longer. So if Mariann and I are going to have any crazy, irresponsible, drunk sex, we better get that done soon.
Like computer games? A great fantasy adventure awaits you here.