I am on the floor in a stupor from lack of sleep. I smell. I’ve been in the same clothes for the last 20 some hours. I’m unshaven; I’m unshowered. In a word: unkempt. Disheveled is another. You see, my wife– and more importantly right now, the mother of my children!!– is in Denver on a girls’ weekend. I get to see wonderful evidence of this via Facebook and Chase’s on-line banking.
And here I lay broken on the living room floor. My daughter, at 20 months, is now going through the phase where she jumps out of her crib screaming when you leave her room. Moments before, I was able to army crawl out of her room into position in the living room. I won that battle– that battle of attrition: who will fall asleep first. She, however, has won the war.
She and her four and a half year old brother have put me in this position: the one where I resemble myself during that one week, roughly 20 years ago, in a certain fraternity house in Champaign. I haven’t slept. I’m unshaven. I’m unshowered and unchanged. I’m cleaning up after people who mess up the house faster than I can clean it. They yell at me. They order me around. Not only do I resemble that fraternity pledge, but my house looks like that fraternity house after a party. Socks, underwear, diapers and clothes all over the floor; toys strewn over the place; the kitchen floor is sticky in places– what the heck is that?!!?– unidentifiable stains on the carpet; food wrappers on the floor. There is even an empty pizza box on the floor near the door. My home looks like Jake Ryan’s house after the party– sans the Old Style. Man.... could I use an Old Style.
It’s not like we didn’t get out of the house. I got my children over to my mother’s home. We played with Nona. However, my wily mother knows her son too well. Somehow she got my car keys and only gave them back to me when it was time for me to leave– with my kids.
I lost the war. The “are you smarter than a two year old” war. I was able to get through law school– but sadly am unable to outwit my 20 month daughter. Saturday night roughly 100 minutes after bed time, I texted my wife: “I give up! Eventually, she’ll just fall over and go to sleep.” During my daughter’s bedtime one night, I gave my son the I-Pad to entertain himself only to army crawl out of my daughter’s room to find him watching something involving cheerleaders. “Daddy.....you don’t want to watch this,” he told me.
All of this is what led me on the living room floor 1:30am Sunday morning, in the fetal position, watching a Lifetime movie with an empty ice cream container next to me. I should probably shower. But if I do, someone will wake up. I am careful not to move because if I do SOMEONE. WILL. WAKE. UP. I am defeated. Broken by two children under five. Thrown into the gutter, walked on and over, mumbling to myself: go to bed.... no really, go to bed.
Then the sun rose Sunday morning. Amy would again be able to care for these children in roughly nine hours. In nine hours, I would be able to sit back and relax with my old friend, Johnny Walker. So, as I fantasized about a bronzed and sweaty Johnny Walker, the Rocky theme song played in my head: I was getting stronger. I stopped watching that cheerleader movie my son warned me about. I picked up that empty Ben & Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream container, filled up four bags full of trash and neatly placed it all by the door. I gave my daughter a bath. I gave my son’s room an old-school cleaning by neatly placing everything under his bed. I threw a bunch of stuff into a closet and clothes into the wash. I took out the vacuum as visions of Michael Keaton raced through my head.
The kiddie fraternity house turned presentable. I just had to get my daughter down for her nap and I would be able to shower, shave and be able to go out in public. I smiled as I again army crawled out of my daughter’s room, into my bathroom and shower. That old Calgon tag line played in my head as I cleaned myself up. Yes, I was Rocky Balboa, bloodied but climbing up the ropes in a desperate attempt to beat the bell. After my shower, the image presented was similar to the image I saw Friday morning, ready to attack the day. I confidently stepped out of my room to find my son in the living room to get him ready to greet my wife and his mother at the airport. And there he was, in all his glory, with Star Wars playing cards, plastic animals, and Goldfish animal crackers perfectly strewn over every square inch of the living room, complete with the trail of food from the pantry to the position where he laid on the floor, in his underwear, with one arm behind his head and the other on the remote.
Having admitted defeat long ago, I smiled, shook my head, and thought: “like father, like son.”
When I see a woman walking down the street with flowers, I shake my head thinking about some poor old sap who must have screwed up royally. This week, if you see my wife walking down the street with flowers, it’s because I appreciate her. I appreciate her superhuman ability to have a full time job while being primarily responsible for these two beautiful, albeit messy, children.