Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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The New Baby Is Making Everyone Act Crazy… Including Dad (Part I)



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Three days after we took our new baby home from the hospital, Norah, our four year old, pooped her pants. It wasn’t a full on duke, just, as she described it, “a little poopy.”

But it was unusual.

I stood over Norah, holding Aspen in my left arm. She was sitting down on the potty, pants at her ankles, feet a foot and a half from the floor, a small sliver of poo in her underwear.

“Seriously, Norah?” I said. “Why are you pooping your pants? You are too old for this.”

Norah looked up at me, her face a little red, and grunted.

She didn’t try to explain herself. She didn’t say anything. She only grunted. Like an animal. This scene reminded of two years earlier, when we were first trying to potty train her, and it seemed like all she did was sit on the toilet and cry.

“Listen, Norah,” I said. “You got this potty thing down. You’re almost five. What’s the deal?”

She grunted again. Then she pointed at the door.

“I don’t answer to grunts,” I said. “You want me to leave, than ask me to leave. In English.”

She grunted again, and pointed.

I folded my arms, letting her know that I was standing firm. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I was a rock.

She started screaming. A top of her lungs, crazy scream, her hair flapping around.  

“Fine,” I said. “You can clean up your own poo. Ok. I’m not going to help you.”

I left, and as I did, I wondered if she was reverting to some former state, and I wondered if this had something to do with the new baby. I can’t remember Tristan acting strange when Norah was born, but honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot from Norah’s first year of life because it was also my first year of graduate school.

I’d seen a lot of sitcoms about children struggling with having a new sibling. Comical scenes where one kid cuts another’s hair, or packs the baby in a box and tries to mail it to Mexico. But I honestly assumed that it wouldn’t happen to us. Both my kids had been so excited to invite Aspen into the family, that I assumed this whole new baby thing would be a smooth process. Before we had Aspen, I often imagined our life with a new baby. It mostly consisted of Rockwell type scenes, where the children simply gazed at the new baby while sporting large rosy gap-toothed smiles.

But I was wrong. Thus far, it had consisted of fits, grunting, and poopy underwear.

I stepped into Tristan’s room to check on him. His door was shut, so I poked my head in. He was sitting on the floor near the door, playing with Legos.

“What are you doing, dude?” I asked.

Tristan didn’t respond. Instead, he stretched out his foot and tried to shut the door on my head.

I stepped back into the hallway so he wouldn’t hurt the baby in my arms, and he shut the door.

He’d just turned seven, and was at that middle age where he still wanted to snuggle with me on the sofa and kiss his hurts better, but he got embarrassed when I hugged him around his friends. Normally, he’s the one trying to get me into his room to check out something he’s built or drawn. I was so used to him welcoming me into his little world that this gesture really shocked me. He’d never tried to kick me out of his room before. In fact, I couldn’t recall him ever being in his room with the door shut. It’s not like the kid has much modesty. He’s seven. Without parental intervention, I don’t think he’d ever wear pants again. He was too young to be messing around with himself, or at least I hoped he was. I didn’t start taking extended showers until I was 11 or 12. And he usually doesn’t try to hide when he does something wrong. He’s more of a, “I have something to tell you, Dad,” kind of kid.

This was very unusual.

I started to wonder if he was entering that “I hate my parents” phase early.

“Go away,” he said.

I tried to open the door again, but his foot was blocking it. I easily could’ve forced my way in, but I didn’t want to hurt him.

“Tristan,” I said through the door, “I’ve got the baby. You almost smashed her head. And why would you shut the door on my face?”

Like Norah, he didn’t try to explain himself, he just grunted.

“What are you?” I asked, “A monkey? No. You’re not. You are a boy who can speak his mind. So answer me, why did you slam the door?”

He grunted again.

I tried the door once more, and Tristan screamed at the top of his lungs, “GO AWAY!!”

It was loud enough that my heart started pounding.

I didn’t know what to do, so I left.

Norah was still in the bathroom, changing her underwear. I told her to put her dirty underwear in the garage, and she grunted at me again.

Mel walked past me around the same time.

I asked her how she was feeling, and she grunted. Then she went into the bedroom.
“What the hell,” I thought. We have a new baby, and suddenly my whole family steps back a few millenia and starts responding in grunts.

“Ugh, to you too,” I said. But she had already closed the door.

I went into the living room. My-mother-in-law was staying with us. She was sitting at the kitchen table with her iPad, one hand on the tablet, the other on her forehead. Joan was in her late fifties, and wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans, her hair a curly brown.

“What’s up with Mel?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But she just bit my head off.”

Honestly, I kind of expected this from Mel. With our last two kids, she went through an angry phase. I describe it as postpartum rage. I think it is a mix of hormones, sleepless nights, and the pain that comes along with having a 7lb baby ripped from your stomach.

When Tristan was one month old, we were at the grocery store together. She told me to grab some cereal, but I grabbed the wrong sized box, and she called me an idiot.  With Norah, she must have yelled at me every day for a month.

All of this is very out of character for my wife. She’s a blunt woman when she needs to be, but for the most part she is sweet and soft spoken. The kind of woman that is always smiling.

I sat down on the sofa, and wondered how long all this craziness would last. How long would it take to get Norah back on track with her potty training? Was Tristan never going to let me back into his little world? And how long would I have to work around Mel’s postpartum rage?

I looked down at Aspen. She was swaddled in a blanket, sleeping.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself,” I said.


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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley