It’s not earwax, your kids just don’t want to hear it.
Please, stop!!!!! I shouted at the back of my daughter as I saw her turn the corner, run into the jungle, and out of my sight.
Okay, fine, it wasn’t a jungle, it was a garden. But it didn’t matter because she was still out of reach.
I am one of the only fathers I know or have seen who does something totally crazy. I take both of my kids out by myself. It might not seem crazy to you, but all that tells me is that you don’t know my kid’s age: four and almost two. It is crazy because that’s not a father’s territory. Typically, only mothers are that courageous.
It always starts the same way. I decide I want to give my wife some time for herself. I roundtable with my daughters in their play space. I squat to their level as if I was discussing a play-by-play Hail Mary.
“Okay, guys, we are going to find something fun to do. But I need your participation. I’m looking at you,” I tell my oldest. “You need to stay by my side while your sister waddles next to us. If I tell you an instruction, my voice should be enough to have you do it. You got it?”” Yes, daddy, I got it.” She responds with loving eyes.
And this is where you find me in the story. She didn’t get it.
My scream comes out as anger, and maybe I am, but I am mostly afraid. My daughter has run like that out of sight, in malls, in parks, and sometimes into roads. And as I see her disappear this time, I have a flashback to when it was only her and I going on these “adventures.”
Jovie was born nine months before the pandemic.
We locked down with the rest of the world, but the moment we were told it was okay to breathe the air again and that the wind was not going to kill us, I started taking her out on walks and errands.
At her age, she didn’t have to follow the mask mandate. So it made it easier that I didn’t need to wrap her in Saran wrap before putting her in a tiny hazmat suit before heading out the door.
I would be one of the only one who would take my toddler out at the beginning of the pandemic. I’d go to coffee shops and grocery stores, and I’d be the only person there with a kid. You’d think most people like to see kids around, but the reception was mixed. Some people would approach me to literally thank me for having my kid out and lament how they never see kids anymore. Others would look at me like I had started the pandemic myself as if I had raised the bat or financed the lab.
I was at Whole Foods ordering some food from the deli, and the woman behind the counter looked at my daughter, shook her head, then looked at me and told me, “Don’t take your kid out.”
“Hmmm, okay. Can I get a pound of sliced Honey ham with that bit of parenting advice?”
One day I’ll explain to my daughters that opinions are like assholes. Some of them are distended as a side effect of the medication people take, and they just drop out of people’s pants. But unless yours is the one that it’s chafing your stride, then you shouldn’t concern yourselves with other people’s opinions and definitely never with their assholes.
So I took my pound of ham, ignored the woman’s advice, and continued to get my daughter out of the house so she wouldn’t think that the extent of our world was the four walls of our duet.
We explored our city in a way that we will never get to explore again, and I was able to appreciate things I might not have appreciated before, especially all the street art.
Now, exploring the city looks a lot different.
In part because the pandemic is over, and we learned nothing. When the pandemic happened, we promised ourselves we would learn; if we got the chance to come out of it alive, we would do things differently.
But once we were out of it, we just released a collective: “Psych!!!”
And went back to commuting, fighting overparking spaces, waiting in long lines, and overpaying for every single thing, all while wondering where the hell were all these people coming from and when this population collapse people are talking about is finally going to happen.
And in part because, it is challenging to get out with kids at this stage. You have a plan, and each one of them has a completely different plan, and they never seem to align. You might think that walking from the playground to your car is a simple task, but your youngest wants to see what it feels like to be dragged on the concrete, and your oldest decides that’s the best time to run and hide somewhere you can’t see her.
I know that it feels this way because they depend so much on me, but even that is changing.
Recently, they both woke up at the same time. Jovie went with me to change Amelie’s diaper. I changed Amelie’s diaper while Jovie sat and read books.
Typically, once I’m done changing her diaper, I let her down, and she runs to her mom to breastfeed. But her sister was in the room, and once I was done with the diaper, she ran out of the room and towards the kitchen. Amelie ran out of the room, but instead of running towards our room, she took a sharp left (almost waddling into the wall) and towards her sister.
I was curious to see what they were going to do, so I walked up to the kitchen but stayed just outside the frame of the door. There, Jovie told Amélie to sit down and that she was going to make them breakfast.
I peeked a little to see how Amélie would respond. And she responded by climbing onto her booster seat. Jovie smacks open the fridge door. She reaches into the fridge towards the coconut yogurts I have there for her, which are plain so she doesn’t start the day with a lot of sugar. She moves them out of the way where I hid the vanilla-flavored ones I was saving for my wife and me.
She pulls two of those out; she puts one in front of her sister and one in front of her seat. Then she goes back and pulls out two applesauce cups and puts one in front of her sister and one in front of her seat. She slams the fridge door shut.
She opens a drawer and gets two giant spoons — the spoons are normal size, but they look giant next to their tiny faces. Then she opens the applesauce but struggles to open the yogurt. I am called to open the yogurt, and as I walk into the room, I can see them growing up so fast.
I can see them on my dining table years down the road, applying to college while simultaneously addressing me by my first name and calling me out on something because I’m not progressive enough. “Listen, here, Carlos, that might’ve been okay in your time when you still used cards to pay for groceries instead of the barcode in our foreheads, but not anymore you old millennial!”
As I opened their yogurts, the ones I was saving for myself, I knew that I would miss these times. The times when I think I’m going to lose my mind when I see her running out of sight and I have to scream like a madman at the top of my lungs, “Please, stop!!!!”