Thursday, November 5, 2009

ABC's: Champaign 1993

What the heck was I doing? I was in my mid-thirties, Fru and I had returned to the midwest--to Champaign--and we'd started a family. By spring of 1993 we had two children--two daughters. All of that was fine. But what the heck was I doing being the one to stay home and take care of them?
That's right. I was a stay-at-home father. It mainly came down to who--Fru being in banking and me being an unpublished novelist--who could make more money? And guess what, a controller at a bank makes more money than an unpublished novelist! Who would have thought it . . . So, by the time Second Daughter was born in March of '93, I'd quit my part time job at Agriseed in Savoy (just south of Champaign) and was a full time caregiver of a two little little kids. And I knew so little about it.
Really, that wasn't true. By '93 I knew a lot about raising babies, because First Daughter had taught me. I was the main caregiver for her and now I only had to do some of the same things for the next baby. Man. I did a lot of feeding and cleaning, of playing and laughing, rocking and going crazy.
It's hard for me to recall it all, those baby days in the early to mid-nineties. Some of it because it all blends together, my girls' childhoods and my place within it. Some of it because I was miserable and have no doubt blocked it out. Now, it wasn't a misery because of my girls. No. I loved them dearly, triumphantly. I'd honestly give my life for them--then and now. No, my misery was probably more to do with my not writing (like I thought I'd be able to) and with the fact that I was a man trapped at home with little kids while my wife made the money. Yes. If it wasn't for the love and enjoyment of my two girls, I would have been completely insane . . . of course, as anyone who has ever stayed home to raise kids knows, that time with kids can also drive you insane.
But, let's look at a couple of things. Let's look at the sudden influx of toys and games, some twenty years after you yourself had given these things up. It's quite fascinating to see your own children with toys, how important they are to them, what things they make up with them. I know on Saturday mornings, as Fru slept in, I'd get up with my girls, put on cartoons, feed them, change them, etc etc, then we'd often get out their waffle blocks and their box of plastic animals. then we'd play Captain Rhino. Yes, First Daughter had a big black plastic rhino and I'd build a boat out of the plastic waffle blocks (they were flat "blocks" that interconnected so that you could build boxes or other structures with them, they were bright red and yellow and blue). Then the black rhino was the captain and the other animals--the crew, I guess--traveled with him over the ocean of carpet . . . We also had a game of Roly-Poly Pudding, from a video of theirs. This involved laying out blankets and comforters and they'd lay down in them and I'd wrap them up and they'd roll back and forth while saying, "Roly-poly pudding." Sure, it doesn't sound like much, but they'd laugh and laugh and were--I swear this is true--the cutest little kids in the world.
And, of course, there was the ABC's song. I'd gather them up--two blond-haired little girls--in my arms, one in each, and we'd stand in front of the big wall round wall mirror (which had been Fru's grandmother's) and we'd sing ABC. I'd turn back and forth with them in my arms as we did so, until at the end, we'd go in full circles, then fall into a bed. Ah. They laughed and laughed at this, also.
Man. I don't know if I'll be any good at this: writing about my daughters' childhoods, about my many many days with them, the hours upon hours spent, just the three of us, doing all the inside-the-house childhood games and things--good and bad and wonderful and miserable. All those things that go into raising a child and raising yourself up so that you are good enough for your child. Well, I'll give it a try and hopefully do better than I have right here. Will try to make as simple as ABC.

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