Effective Monday, Daddy Daycare scaled back to a half-time operation. That’s right: The kids won.
To be fair, the decision was two-fold. First, we happened to find a home daycare that’s run by a former school counselor and mother of twins. She lives in our neighborhood, doesn’t charge during the summers, had room for our 11-month-old twins and was willing to take them on a half-time basis to coincide with our 3-year-old going to preschool. It was too good to pass up. Still, we wouldn’t have been looking for help if I hadn’t started to crack under the pressure of taking care of my three youngest children on top of working full-time with only occasional help from a rotation of nursing students.
But I was losing it. I’m not proud to admit that, having come from the kind of family that thinks there’s no such thing as too much responsibility. Plus, these are my kids, not someone else’s; and having lost a child I genuinely attempt to enjoy being with them.
It’s just that the years of sleep deprivation – things have been out of sorts since our first set of twins was born (and then separated by death) in 2010 – and the demands of my job as a beat writer and the medical needs of our 3-year-old and the challenges of keeping up with mobile twins got to be too much. I’d started to mutter obscenities at an unhealthy pace. I’d see my wife for a few minutes at a time, most of which was spent comparing notes on what was ingested and expelled to that point in the day. I’d become more anti-social than usual, leery of having, say, a single beer with a friend for fear that it would make me tired to the point of no return.
To be clear, being able to take care of my kids is excellent from a bonding and financial standpoint. It makes up for some of the nights and weekends that I’m gone for work and for some of the money that I don’t make by being a journalist. I took care of our now 9-year-old daughter one day a week when she was a newborn and felt pushed to the limit by it; I never could have imagined handling three kids in diapers on an every-weekday basis.
In my opinion, the toughest part is enduring the crying. There is a reason that some governments (allegedly) use recordings of bawling babies as a method of torture in interrogations. It really can make you crazy, especially when accompanied by two actual babies clawing at your ankles, tugging on your shorts and pulling out your leg hairs. Sometimes the third tyke is driven to tears by the antics of the twins – that’s complicating because she’s got lung/feeding issues related to extreme prematurity and is a threat to puke whenever she cries.
I’m an anxious person to begin with, and my brain locks up when bombarded by needy little people. I’ve come to learn that babies really are babies; they have no patience and don’t respond well to being told to “chill out” or “keep your pants on.” Likewise, they’re not great at picking up on patterns. No matter how many times I wash their hands after a meal, they object as if I’m doing something foreign and vile. It’s like, hey, man, don’t you know the drill by now? No. No, they don’t. Give me a quiet kid with a dirty diaper any day of the week.
Fittingly on Monday, the start of their new halftime daycare adventure, Taylor knocked over the recycling can in the kitchen and began to rummage through it like a raccoon. I’m not going to lie – that made the first drop off a little easier. Plus, twins means never being alone, right? Except it doesn’t account for being exposed to – and freaked out by – a couple of house cats. All in all, we were told that they did OK on Day 1, fluctuating between scared and not over the four hours they were away.
At pick-up time, Taylor dove into my arms and did the whole relieved-cry thing. It was endearing in a way that it wouldn’t have been if she’d been with me all day, refusing to nap or eat or stop playing with the carbon monoxide detector. Also, the twins were super stoked to get home, scurrying off to slobber on familiar toys. I feel like they learned an important life lesson about appreciation and it’s only Day 1. (Maybe I did, too.)
The hope is that they’ll advance socially, I’ll inch toward being sane – or at least reasonably rested – and our family circus will settle into a more manageable routine. We’ll see. Ideally, I could have my cake and eat it, too, but that might not be the healthiest decision for me or my family.