The Struggle for Freedom

As we inch closer to the Fourth of July, I thought it’d be the perfect time to parallel two epic struggles for freedom — The American Revolution and one which you may not yet know about.

Freedom — it’s a tricky little paradox, no? Though entire wars have been fought to attain it, neither side of those wars has ever defined it the same way. To the British colonists, freedom meant escaping the tyrannical rule of the throne. Yet to England, that same freedom was experienced as nothing more than dangerous insubordination. Fast forward nearly 250 years to the other fight for freedom, the one that’s happening as we “speak” in my very home.

That’s right, Lovie and I have been under attack for quite sometime now, as our wee threesome have teamed up in an attempt to collectively undermine our authority. Though there are many small skirmishes each and every day, of late there has been one flat-out battle, and it’s waged at bedtime. Which brings me back to the paradoxical nature of freedom. To Lovie and me, it’s attained when we finally get our three monsters down for the night. Yet our trio will never go quietly into that good night because, to them, being told when to go to bed violates their freedom. Simply put? They’re not going down without a fight.

The parallels between our ongoing fight and the American Revolution do not end with the paradoxical takes on freedom. They’re only just beginning, though I will admit, they may not be readily apparent to the casual observer. No, there’s not an ocean between us, but there is a flight of stairs. And, no, the reigning authority doesn’t speak with a cockney accent, but we do roll with a mild southern drawl. And no, our insurgents haven’t gone so far as to throw a Boston Tea Party. But the do Often Pee in the Potty.

And though they haven’t come up with a slogan behind which to rally, it’s simply because they’re too young to formally articulate one. While the colonists were galvanized by “No taxation without representation,” our guys seem to circle the wagons with something along the lines of “Bedtime’s bullshit, y’all.”

Betime's bullshit, y'all.

Little cutie-pie C, believe it or not, was the leader of the charge when the attacks first began. The only one to have graduated to a “big bed,” she took it upon herself to repeatedly get out of that bed and scream bloody murder. At first we thought it was just a phase, which to be fair, it was. But it was also a grim harbinger of things to come.

Having roused the rebels into action, C now goes to bed without event. She’s passed the baton to her brothers, A and B, who currently carry the midnight torch while my adorable little peanut gets her beauty sleep. Each night, we can hear the boys plotting in not-so-quiet tones, speaking much like Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid – with little or no regard for grammatical nuances such as tense or subject-verb agreement.

The Bedtime Bandits hours before the battle.

After such strategy sessions, a period of eerie silence ensues which will inevitably be broken by the tell-tale thump-thump – not the beating of a heart, mind you, but rather the landing of little feet. The noise serves as confirmation that one of our junior associates has scaled the thirty-inch crib wall and leapt onto the plush carpet of freedom, from whence he can and will openly defy the monarch by playing with his toys, grabbing a book, or perhaps even rocking a forbidden nighttime deuce on the big potty.

You know what will sometimes put an end to the uprising? A swift smack on the ass. That’s right. The King is a spanker. And while he completely understands and respects parents who don’t spank their children, his counter to their stance is but one sentence. Show the King a parent who doesn’t spank, and the King’ll show you a parent who doesn’t have toddler triplets. Once the King administers his can of whoop-ass, order is often restored.

But not always. You see, it seems as if the freedom fighters have learned to execute the landing of their forbidden jumps with silent agility, thus pushing their nighttime envelope further still. Yet even if they hit the carpet of emancipation without alerting the ruling party, sooner or later, the duo will slip up. Like the other night when the King and Queen heard the sound of muffled screaming through the royal monitor.

The King and Queen quickly scurried upstairs to see what was the matter, more than a little puzzled. Why are their cries muffled? they wondered. Predictably, A and B were out of their cribs. Unpredictably, they had locked themselves in the bathroom which adjoins their sleeping quarters which explained why the cries weren’t as loud as normal.

“Just open the door,” the King urged the rebels, though his words were probably inaudible thanks to their deafening cries. “I don’t get it,” he told the Queen. “They know how to open the door even when it’s locked. All they have to do is twist the handle.” Another thing he didn’t get was why the air was heavy with the scent of lotion. Or was it baby shampoo?
-
The King retreated to Princess Pookie’s quarters to look for something to help him spring the soldiers who by that point were nobly screaming “Mommy!” With the glossy cover of a Hannah Montana notepad, the King jimmied the lock and sprung the little idealists from their ironic and temporary incarceration.
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The regal couple were not prepared for what they next saw. Virtually every single thing in the bathroom was covered with a mixture of lotion and Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. (No more tears, my ass.) The floor was completely coated in a goopy mess. As was the vanity cabinet. Even the boys, themselves were covered with the concoction from head to toe, so much so that B’s ongoing cries were accompanied by bubbles each and every time he opened his mouth to emit one.
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The doorknob was not immune, either. It got slimed, too, which, incidentally, is why A and B were trapped — their hands couldn’t hold a grip as they tried to twist the handle. In their efforts, they must have accidentally pushed the button and locked themselves inside. (Good thing the King used to be a garden-variety hoodlum, or they might still be trapped). Newly freed, A and B scurried to the Queen, slipping and sliding along the way like intoxicated chimpanzees ice-skating across a frozen pond.
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The Queen gave them a bath after which the King gave them a spanking and order was eventually restored. But the ruling authorities weren’t born yesterday. They know another battle will soon be waged. And another one after that. And another one, still.

It is with equal amounts of dread and thankfulness with which they will await said battles. After all, their kingdom is a blessed one. And they know it. That’s why they fight to keep it in tact.

Happy Fourth of July, y’all.

The Karate Trips

In the summer of 1984, I developed a shoe fetish. Check that, it was actually a Shue fetish. As in Elisabeth Shue. You know, the unassuming hottie who played Ralph Macchio’s love interest in that deplorable movie, The Karate Kid?

Yet as memorable as Elisabeth proved to be, it was Mr. Miyagi who made the biggest impression on me. In fact, even after all these years, I still think about him every day. Can you guess why? No? Maybe the following exchange will help.

Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have?
Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?
Daniel: [laughs] No, I meant…
Miyagi: In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants. [laughs; then, seriously] Daniel-san… [taps his head] Karate here. [taps his heart] Karate here. [points toward his belt] Karate never here. Understand?

Give up? I’ll always remember Mr. Miyagi for telling Daniel-san that, no matter how much he practiced, his, um, “johnson” would never be able to administer a karate chop.

Kidding. Sorry about that.

So seriously. You still don’t know why I think of Mr. Miyagi every day? Here. Read this exchange and see if you can figure it out.

Daniel: Hey – you ever get into fights when you were a kid?
Miyagi: Huh – plenty.
Daniel: Yeah, but it wasn’t like the problem I have, right?
Miyagi: Why? Fighting fighting. Same same.
Daniel: Yeah, but you knew karate.
Miyagi: Someone always know more.
Daniel: You mean there were times when you were scared to fight?
Miyagi: Always scared. Miyagi hate fighting.
Daniel: Yeah, but you like karate.
Miyagi: So?
Daniel: So, karate’s fighting. You train to fight.
Miyagi: That what you think?
Daniel: [pondering] No.
Miyagi: Then why train?
Daniel: [thinks] So I won’t have to fight?
Miyagi: [laughs] Miyagi have hope for you.

Give up? I think of Mr. Miyagi every day because my toddlers talk just like him. They’re finally able to express their thoughts, and like the karate master, they do so with surprisingly few words as well as with little or no regard to grammatical nuances such as subject-verb agreement. The nouns in their short sentences may not be preceded by articles, but Sam, Jack, and Kirby are able to make their points nonetheless, even if they choose to make them while referring to themselves in the third person. Just like Mr. Miyagi. (And that annoying, little red bastard, Elmo.)

Whenever I happen upon Jack, he’s quick to tell me what he’s doing. And he’s always doing the same thing.

“Jack play with twuck, Daddy. Jack like twuck.”

“I know you do, buddy. Here. Let Daddy play, too.”

“Daddy play with twuck? Jack turn. Jack play with twuck now.”

It’s the same thing with Kirby, only with a twist. She, too, speaks like Mr. Miyagi, but she does so while treating me like an unwanted suitor.

“I love you, Kirby.”

“Kirby love Mommy.”

“Don’t you love Daddy, too?”

[Like Daniel-san, she ponders before giving her answer.] ”No. Kirby love Mommy.”

While Jack is busy playing with “twucks,” and Kirby is busy worshiping Lovie, at least I can always count on Sam for a little back and forth. The other day, we were walking into his room when I made the mistake of opening the door.

“No, Daddy. Sammy open door. Sammy do it. Sammy do it!”

So I closed the door and let him open it. Once he did, he ran into the room with a grin that begged me to chase him. So I did. And once I caught him, I pulled up his shirt, buried my face on his belly, and gave him a world class zerbert, causing the little guy to laugh uncontrollably.

“Daddy tickle Sammy,” he said as he touched the stubble on my chin that had exacerbated his reaction.

“That’s Daddy’s beard,” I explained.

“Daddy beard,” he repeated.

“That’s right, buddy. Sammy will have a beard one day, too.”

Sam touched his smooth face and looked into my eyes with wonder. ”Sammy beard?” he asked.

“Yep.”

He smiled at the prospect of his eventual manliness, until a look of concern swept over his face.

“Daddy?” he began as he reached up and touched the bare spot on the top of my head. “Sammy bald?” he asked in a serious tone.

And just like that, Sammy took the Mr. Miyagi thing to the next level. After all, Sammy-san not only talk like Miyagi, he think like him, too. Wise Sammy know when some man grow hair in one place, he lose hair in other.

“You’ll probably be okay, buddy.”

A look of relief accompanied his widest smile yet. “Sammy no bald, Daddy. Sammy no bald.”

Control Issues

okay, you guys start with "twuck," and i'll chime in with bus. got it?

We’ve officially reached the echo stage at our house. You know, when at least one phrase from every sentence spoken gets repeated by a toddler? While that might get a touch old fairly quickly, it’s nowhere near as bad as hearing the triplets repeat their own words. Incessantly. Which is what’s been happening in the car lately.

All three of them were going nuts this past Saturday. “Show, Daddy, show. Show, Daddy, show. Show, Daddy, show.”

No. They’re not repeating their favorite Ben Roethlisberger pick-up lines. They’re demanding to watch a video in the car while we run our Saturday errands. (Pongo and Perdita. We’re off Elmo.)

At least that demand could be met, which pleased our little associates and quickly restored the peace.

For a little bit.

“Twuck,” said B.

“What’s that, buddy?” I asked.

“Twuck.”

“I don’t see any trucks.”

“Twuck.” This time it was A.

“Twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck” they began chanting in unison, each iteration louder than the previous one.

They wanted to see trucks, which put Lovie and me at the mercy of the truck Gods. Though they’re money on the interstate, they’re shaky at best on windy neighborhood roads. Which is where we were at the time. Which meant we were in for several minutes of “twuck” talk.

At least C isn’t big on trucks. She’s more of a…

“Bus.”

…bus kinda gal.

“Bus,” she said again. “Bus, bus, bus, bus, bus!”

Allow me to breakdown the situation for you. Three toddlers, wanting to see two different things, doing one annoying thing to drive home their point. Lovie and I were frustrated to say the least. Why? Because we weren’t in control of the situation.

From the very first day we brought our little guys home, one thing was clear. If Lovie and I didn’t establish control quickly, it’d be the tail that wagged the dog around our house for eighteen years. So we set a strict schedule for the triplets from day one. We seldom deviate from it. Nap times, feed times, bath times, and bed times are all set in stone. We got started early on the potty, successfully training all three shortly after their second birthday. We always make them clean up after themselves, we hardly ever pick them up and carry them, and we’re not afraid to put them in time out. Please and thank you are a must, as is sir and ma’am.

Old shool? Maybe. Instill-respectful-order school? You bet.

We’re pretty damn strict. And people can say whatever they want about it, but unless we want our family life to resemble a methodically moving train wreck riddled with endless fussing and distracting drama, we have to put the hammer down. And we like our end result. Because of our philosophy, the trips are down by seven each night, allowing us to spend some quality time with Pookie at the end of our day without the presence of an echo. And Pookie needs that. Come to think of it, her parents need that, too! And we get it, so long as we have control of the situation.

Which is what made our Saturday drive all the more difficult. We had no control of the situation. Not only could we not physically stop A, B, and C from their chanting, we also couldn’t magically make buses and trucks appear while driving down Northshore to Kroger. So their simultaneous, bi-gender, vehicular-related meltdowns were difficult to endure.

Twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck.

Bus bus. Bus bus.

Twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck, twuck.

Bus bus. Bus bus.

After about ten minutes? Let’s just say we were over all of the twuckin’ bussy-ness. If Lovie and I could have produced a gaggle of eighteen-wheelers, each pulling a trailer of buses, we would have done so in a New York minute. Because we needed to get control of the situation, and that was impossible because…well…

Because our triplets were trying to do the same thing. That is, they, too, wanted control of the situation. So it was a battle of wills. We wanted order. They wanted trucks and buses. In this instance, neither side won.

And we’re okay with that. If we keep it up, we’ll win our fair share. And if we win our fair share, I have a feeling that the triplets and Pookie will be winners, too.

Photo Haikus

This post is proud to be a part of Fatherhood Friday. Go check out what the other great dads are blogging about today by visiting dad-blogs.

Quick note to my Ktown peeps — my blog got a shout out on Live at Five at Four on Wednesday. A big thank you to Katie Granju for the love. If you’re visiting because of the reference, take a peek around, as this is not my typical post. But this is. So’s this. Oh, and maybe this, too.

Moving on…

If you stop by my modest blog regularly, you know that I’m usually good for a (reasonably) solid literary effort.

Today? Not as much. All I got for you this time is nine pictures. Three of A, three of B, and three of C.

Well, I suppose I have a little more than that. I’ve also written a haiku for each of our toddlers–one line per picture. So why the haikus? I’ll explain them with yet another:

Just a normal night.
Until I saw something else,
Mundanely magic.

Sammy Monster

He's stoked for bath time!

can be tentative at first,

He likes to fill the cup up.

Our Sammy monster.

Laid Back Jack

Jack is sensitive.

Curious and to himself,

thoughtful, shy, and sweet.

Kirby Girl

Kirby's precocious.

So charming like her mommy,

beautiful like Pook.

Little White Lies

This post is proud to be a part of Fatherhood Friday over at dad-blogs. Check ‘em out by clicking here.

I’ve had a tough run lately. It started on Sunday night when my boy, Peyton Manning, threw a crucial pick that pretty much sealed the deal for the Saints. I should have realized that the Who’s impotent halftime display was a harbinger of things to come.

...and we get on our knees and pray...the Who won't play again.

Monday and Tuesday proceeded to be such horrendous days at work that the only way they could have gotten any worse would have been if the Who had actually shown up at my office, set up shop, and proceeded to play a perpetual loop of their Super Bowl medley. (By the way, did you hear that Austin Powers called Roger Daltrey after the performance? Apparently, he wanted his outfit back. And speaking of outfits, what was up with that little Blues Brothers number that Pete Townsend was sporting? Was he supposed to be Jake or Elwood?)

At least Tuesday night went fairly well, that is until Lovie and I heard the dreaded sound of cries from the monitor on the kitchen counter long after bedtime. It was A. “Did you catch that?” asked my beautiful wife.  ”He’s calling for you.”

I was skeptical to say the least. It’s always Mommy they want, not me. But once my ear was right up to the monitor, I realized that Lovie was right. Our little guy was screaming “Dad-dy!”

So up I went to check on my monster, excited at the sure-to-come, nocturnal, father-son bonding session–almost giddy that A had requested me by name. Upon entering his room, I expected to be hailed as a super-hero, but instead, I wasn’t even acknowledged.

A

“MOMMY! MOMMY!” screamed A at the top of his lungs while pointing to his blanket which lay on the floor. It had fallen from his crib which meant that the earlier screams weren’t made by a kid longing for his “Dad-dy,” but rather by one who was jonesing for his “blank-ie.” I picked it up and handed it to him, thinking that would be that. Until A threw the blanket back down with a disapproving grunt.

“Mommy!” he demanded, none too pleased that I was the one negotiating the blanket debacle.

What I thought would be a bonding moment with my son had suddenly turned into a bad-behavior moment that rendered a punishable offense. I was obviously wrong earlier. My day had gotten worse. And it had nothing to do with the Who.

“You’re in time out for throwing your blankie,” I said sternly as I exited to the hallway. When I re-entered three minutes later, A’s cries had subsided, as had his insistence for his mommy.

“Poo-poo,” he said in a soft voice while grabbing at his bottom as I lifted him from the ground.

“Buddy, we don’t go poo-poo in our pull-up. We go poo poo in the potty like a big boy. Why didn’t you go poo-poo in the potty earlier? Hmmm?”

He answered with a blank stare before putting his tiny arms around my neck and burying his head in my shoulder. My oldest son and I remained frozen in that embrace for five wonderful minutes. When I finally changed him, I was shocked to find that he hadn’t gone to the bathroom at all.

He had told his first lie.

Children normally lie to get away with something bad, but A’s lie amounted to turning himself in for something he hadn’t even done. Why? So I’d talk about going poo-poo in the potty with him? So I’d change him even though he didn’t need changing?

As I kissed him goodnight on the nose, I stared into eyes that looked back at me with equal amounts of sleep and love until it dawned on me. Maybe, just maybe, during his time out, my little monster realized that he wanted a nocturnal, father-son bonding session. But that thanks to his poor behavior, the only thing he would receive was a post-punishment kiss as I laid him down for the night. Unless he acted fast, that is, and figured out a way to extend our time.

Some people tell little white lies, but A had just told me a timid little brown one. All so he could spend a few minutes resting his head on my shoulder. Lying to someone by saying you have a load of shit in your pants in order to draw that person closer would have never occurred to me. But then again, I don’t get stoked beyond belief every time I get to play with a zipper. Nor do I insist that all my bath towels be equipped with a hood. So who am I to judge?

Besides. It worked.

As I turned the corner on my way down the stairs, I looked out the window and was surprised to see heavy snowfall. I hadn’t realized we were expecting any. I love snow.

I smiled and continued down, suspecting that things were starting to turn around for me.

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