Three kids and me, it’s so damn much sometimes. A lot of times.
My love is boundless, endless, immeasurable and I swear it to you from the gates of Hell waiting to devour a liar, but I’m scared I’m going to have a heart attack. Or maybe just a total nervous breakdown sometimes when all three kids are sirens at once, hammering volume into my head like bullets or nails.
Look, the truth is the truth and like so many divorced parents, I’m hanging on by a thread.
But then; I’m not. I’m fine. I’m up and down. I’m in, I’m out.
See, when you share custody, the kids are either with you, or they’re not. Seems pretty straight forward. But it’s not straight forward. Because it’s either just me and the kids, and I can’t get my writing done or the laundry done because they’re young and someone is melting down or hungry or hurt or sick or stuck behind the bunk beds or whatever, or they’re not here: and the time swishes by me so fast that just as soon as I say goodbye to them and kiss them one last time on their scalps that smell like fake maple syrup, I walk back into the empty house and … there they are again! All three of them, standing on the kitchen island, wanting orange juice and smiling their magic through my skull and it’s all like a scene out of a dream. Even if it doesn’t go quite that fast, believe me, it usually seems like it does.
So then I beat myself up over this whole single dad thing. I get to thinking that me feeling the way I feel so often, feeling that I can’t even breathe for their constant presence, it’s a crime against humanity. How can a daddy talk like that, right? It’s feast or famine, all three at once or none at all, and so it seems that I can’t love them enough either way, that’s what I get afraid of. And when I can’t love them enough, I can’t love me enough.
It’s a quagmire.
Yet, the love; it’s planetary.
It’s as heavy as a bag of moons.
I’m staring down at Charlie Nine Months and he is giving me the look.
He doesn’t want to be in this stupid detachable swing chair anymore. It used to palm his little body pretty good, like a King Kong hand, but I guess we’ve been feeding him right, me and his mom, because he looks semi-ridiculous sitting in the damn thing now. He’s getting too tall for it, too strong maybe, too.
I’ll be damned. He groans and tries to Hulk his body through the straps holding him in, but he can’t and it pisses him off. His brother and sister are older, so they’re free to roam, free to toss stuffed animals around and make the epic mess that I know is coming even if I scream at them? or even if I follow them around and point out certain books that they didn’t have to pull off the shelf just because they were walking by it.
My son. My boy.
My Charlie Hustle.
My Charlie Nine Months: the youngest of three, born into a hurricane: a baby born into the sun-baked Roman ruins of his mommy and daddy’s love affair. Once we were an Empire. Now, we’re two small colonies, and over here in mine, I’m holding on with scraping nails. I want to pretend that it’s different and that I’ve got this.
Trust me, I want to fake the funk and just present myself as completely okay all the time, but I can’t.
I almost have this insatiable desire, no need, to pretend that I’m some romantic comedy lovable broken-hearted ultra-sympathetic daddy character who runs across the kitchen holding the baby and packing the kindergartener’s backpack while he talks to the bawling senseless toddler at his leg who is biting through my jeans in his fit of exhausted Hollywood bullsh*t, but I’m not. And I know it.
And that sucks, I think. It just freakin’ sucks sometimes.
I’m like any good dad is. Except I’m alone. I love them so much. But I have them a lot. It’s the way things have to be, I guess. But man, I wish I had time to exercise. Or read Moby Dick.
Is that selfish? I feel like it is.
Ugh. I get so confused. It’s natural, I guess. This is single parenting. This is my American Dream, yo. But yeah. The frustration, what do you do with it? I feel like an assh*le for even questioning myself.
And I feel like a moby d*ck for feeling the things I feel.
Yet, I look a little deeper, beyond my superficial desires for time and space, for some room to breathe, and the fact is: I’m fine.
We’re all fine. Me and the kids, we’re fine.
So there’s that, too, you know?
Am I just complaining then? Or is some of this stuff I’m feeling perfectly legit? It’s so hard to figure it out. There seems to be no one who can answer that one for me.
“Watch the cartoons. You can’t crawl around right now.”
That’s what I say to Charlie. And that’s the deal this morning. He stays in the seat while I try and get some clothes on. And you might want to tell me that that isn’t cool. That if he’s too big for the seat he could hurt his back. Or if too much time in a chair like that takes away from the affection and warmth that a child needs and craves when he wants to be held.
And hell, you may be right. You may. Be right. But, I’m right too, you bastards. I have to be. It’s the only way I can survive, you see. And listen, you ready?
The truth is in the surviving.
Image: Serge Bielanko Private