I have two beautiful daughters. Most fathers would call their children beautiful out of a proclivity to dote, but mine really are. They’re objectively beautiful. It isn’t a subjective statement of fickle opinion to say that one day, not too long from now, both will be wreaking havoc in the hearts of doomed teenage boys. My oldest is a demure little thing with green eyes colored like precious jade while the other is a wild little strawberry blonde with iridescent blue eyes and fangs. She turned heads at two.
What should I do when that day comes? When the calls start coming in, “Sir, may I please speak to Catelynn?” should I hang up the phone? Should I ignore my own religious beliefs and call one of those old school girls-only establishments that’ve been pumping out fetishes for hundreds of years? Or rather, should I lock my daughters in their closets bound in duct tape and feed them fried chicken until they have common sense to balance their hormones? The fact is, I don’t know. I think I know what not to do though, and I’m pretty sure I’ve made some mistakes getting to where we’re at now from which I can learn.
Maybe we can all get through this. Maybe my children won’t end up in an A&E documentary and maybe I have something to offer other fathers, or maybe even mothers with their freakish natural instincts. My wife has been pushing me to write this and take a break from fiction, so I’ll humor her. I’m not the best father in the world, even though the card I get in June disagrees, but I’d like to think I’m doing a better job than mine did. I’d like to think that I’m moving in the right direction as opposed to devolving into the father of the 1950’s. I don’t have a degree in parenting, but I am a writer, and I am a parent. I guess it only makes sense that I write something about parenting.
Have you ever begged a chemical reaction to reverse its self? I mean have you ever looked at a pregnancy test that your wife just pissed on and verbally asked that little positive sign to morph into a negative? Me neither. We realized we’d be parents at the same time because I was leaning against the sink in my dad’s house while my wife stared down at our EP test with a crooked smile. What can you do in a situation like that? You can say “fuck it” and move on with life. Get a real job, or at least one better than that of an intermittent painter. Get a car, ass loads of debt, a home, and all sorts of unwanted advice: baptize the baby, get married so it isn’t a bastard, move closer to civilization and the comforts associated with it. Does any of that help to ensure a better life for your child? Do the devoutly religious mired in corporate America really have children that end up better adjusted than those born to modern day hippies living from one Saturday market to the next?
I don’t know. My wife and I are right in the middle of the spectrum and our daughters get all sorts of compliments. We didn’t do anything rash after our failed/passed pregnancy test, but what we did do was suck it up. I was barely old enough to get drunk at my own wedding but I did. Terra was a tad too pregnant to fit into a wedding dress but she did. We had a tawdry little ceremony in an Elk’s lodge complete with water-stained acoustic tile in the ceiling, but it’s outlasted quite a few extravagant church-held weddings that we’ve attended over the years (the only similarity is that everyone keeps their wedding presents). Maybe it’s better when you’re young and dumb. Things are easier when you’re too stupid to worry. Either way, time is an unmerciful oarsman on the slave ship of parenthood.
I got a job in the oil field and Terra started reading books on how not to kill your children. Now there’s some scary shit. Did you know that honey, most probably one of nature’s most seemingly innocuous substances, can kill children under one year old? What the hell is that? Honey is like ambrosia but it gives babies botchulism. The more and more she read, the more scared we both got. Really though, I didn’t have much time for fear. I was a zombie slave working seventy hour weeks in coveralls that became part of my skin. I stole a pair when I finally quit six years later to remind myself where we started and I’m glad I did. We didn’t really plan back then. We just bounced from one obstacle to the next and did our best to laugh it off.
I always envied the couples that planned for their future. My eldest brother-in-law and his wife are one such couple. They waited to have children until they were finished with their respective degrees while Terra and I changed diapers in a 30 year old condo with a flat roof in Alaska. Maybe the architects copy and pasted some plan designed for southern California, but here’s some advice: avoid flat roofs in a region with butt loads of snow. I was on a first name basis with the restoration people and our pots were literally used for flood control more often than cooking.
Long story short, my first daughter began to walk and talk and my paychecks got bigger. Terra found work and the time to juggle all the shit that came our way. Life takes its course. It’s a fact. Things were hard but I had a trick. I thought about the fact that slaves would often birth their children in the field. If a woman that lives by the whip can give birth with a cornfield as a midwife, if the poorest and most downtrodden mother in history can pick up her child and wipe off the dirt and afterbirth with her canvas clothing and smile with love, then I can make it. I can look up at a leaking ceiling and laugh.
I’d like to say that I have two apple trees in my front yard to make this analogous situation more apt, but I don’t; there are three. All three were planted at the same time by the same people in the same soil but they couldn’t be more different. The one on the far left is tall, beautiful, and full of leaves. It doesn’t bear much fruit, but the apples it does produce are large and crisp. Quality over quantity, that’s how tree number one lives. The middle tree is slightly less verdant. She’s a tad stunted with pale leaves but over compensates with her fruit. Her apples are two thirds the size of her sister’s, but she bears three times as many. The third tree farthest to the right probably won’t make it another year. Totally the bastard stepchild, she’s got a bark problem and the few apples she offered this year shriveled before they could be considered fruit. I’m sure you see what I’m getting at here.
The only commonality my daughters share is their physical beauty. Catelynn, my oldest now at ten years old, is an absolute Jedi. She has all the abilities of a Savant with none of the hindrances associated with autism. She’ll be sixteen when she graduates high school because she skipped a grade, she’s never come close to anything but a 4.0, and she’s mastering the piano as only a genius could. She stands out and apart thanks to her gifts, and we’re helping her to deal with it. My second daughter, Kinley at four years old, is a feral little beast with fangs that still played with poo at an age when her sister was completely potty trained. You know those little rubber things that stop you cupboard doors from slamming? Kinley used to chew those off. We really didn’t think too much of it at first, you know “that’s just Kinley being Kinley; at least she’s stopped biting the cat”. But then one day Catelynn looked under the couch and found a pile of those little rubber things. Yup, my youngest was hoarding them. That’s the natural instinct of a dog. What the shit do you do with that? Should I buy one of those retractable child leashed you see horrible parents using in the malls? Do they make little girl sized muzzles? Sometimes I swear Terra hooked up with a gargoyle, but then I look at myself in a mirror and wonder if I have a long forgotten pile of rubber things stashed somewhere.
The questions are bound to sprout up if you have more than one monster in your home. Did I do something right with the first one that I’m forgetting with number two? Or vice versa, whatever. I guess you just keep watering your lawn and hope the sun shines evenly. I’ll end this little blog by answering the question I started with. When that first suitor calls and asks to speak with my green eyed angel, there’s no way I’m going to bind her in duct tape and lock her in the closet just to feed her fried chicken until she’s old enough to know better. I’m a much better parent than that; fried chicken doesn’t have the fiber content necessary for a growing child.