Now that the younger child is about to turn five and the sibling, nine, I can very clearly hear the echoes in the caverns of my brain of the contentious “conversations” in which my sister – four years my senior – and I engaged with absolute civility at that age. Yoda-in-my-head voice “Difficult that was to type with face straight.”
Those were the days
I have no doubt it began before that, but five seems to be the age at which I first recall the preliminary rounds of what evolved into our prolific, decade-long war of tripping, hitting, falling, pushing, shrieking, authoritative arm crossing, stomping, slamming of doors, the pure joy or terrifying fear of tattling, and ever creative name calling. Their words resonate. Butthead, poopiepants, stoopid, jerkface – interesting how their insults largely incorporate one or both ends of the digestive tract.
Add to that the following chorus. Sing along. You know the words.
- “I did not!”
- “It wasn’t me!”
- “He/she started it!”
- “I was sitting there first!”
- “Am too!”
- “Am not!”
Band Aids, ice packs, bruises, knots on the head, and skinned knees inevitably followed.
Later came the truce, then the real friendship. But always along the way, fierce loyalty and mutual defense bound us.
As the stepdad, I missed out on their births, late-night feedings, “new baby smell,” first steps, first words, forming skulls, and ridiculously tiny fingers and toes – clearly not in that order. They did, however, save for me plenty of poopie diapers and underwear.
It’s not them, it’s me
I was a witness to my three nieces through all the phases mentioned above, but I didn’t live it day and night. From the point at which I entered the current situation until now, I’ve been sort of finding my way with guidance from self-study, from my largely patient and wonderful wife, and ... the mother in law. I very often apply logic to situations where none should rightfully exist. Small people with no grasp of inductive or deductive reasoning, well, they frustrate me more often than I care to admit.
The epic-ness of this moment, of this birthday season, can’t be overstated. At this moment I would state that I finally have a handle on things. I know that from this point forward, I’ll “get it.” I’m finally able to understand both sides of a situation. I can now draw on my very specific memory of how the – ahem – contentious conversations begin, evolve, and are resolved. Time has allowed me at last to catch up, to finally match my experience with what will surely play out before me. And I will become a better dad for it.
Things are about to become much more interesting within these four walls, and I’m looking forward to the ride.