Readers of this weekly column know my wife and I own two sons. We bought them from the insurance company, and in both cases, we were grateful for their births because they helped us meet our $4 million deductible.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything that didn’t have to do with a storm, so I figure, why change things up now? Let me tell you about a storm, sans water, brewing inside my home.
When reasonable adults like Meghan and I decided we’d like to start a family, we had all sorts of wonderful pictures in our minds. Of course, we never talked about these pictures, but we had seen them in motion pictures and on the covers of magazines. We dreamt of handsome children with wide smiles, long eye lashes and temperaments that mimicked lazy Labradors.
These children would be well-mannered and content – mere replicas of their adult parents. They would be good citizens, respectful of others and obedient to those in authority.
Our oldest son, Hank, just turned four. His temperament is frightening, his manners are atrocious, he is content with nothing, and we’re very concerned about his citizenry.
Our second son, Cal, just turned one. He has no manners, does not understand obedience, and he is only content when he has demolished a bucket of spaghetti, a bowl of yogurt, half an apple and a handful of Oreos. He may have a problem.
What this means is that my wife and I have asked our pediatrician to prescribe us a therapist. No, not one that Meghan and I visit. We literally want a therapist. One that lives in our home. One that sleeps in the hallway, halfway between the doors of our two sons’ rooms.
When Meghan and I go to the pharmacy to pick up this therapist, we have a very detailed punch-list of action items we’d like accomplished in the next couple of months.
First on the list: Why, in Heaven’s name, doesn’t our oldest son like sleep?
As it turns out, Hank cannot stand sleep. I take that back. He loves naps with his mother on the weekend. He loves reading a book at 8 p.m., oftentimes rolling over to tell me he’s had enough.
“I’m tired, Dad,” he’ll say.
But there’s something about the mornings, when his 600-horsepower engine starts to rev, that he can’t stay in bed any longer. Some mornings (Saturdays, in particular), Meghan and I will hear the door swing open at 4:30 a.m. And that’s a good morning. I’m not even sure how the lad finds our room, considering our house is so dark it would spook a bat.
But as sure as the sun hasn’t risen, Master Hank creeps into our room and informs us that he’d like a cup of juice and an airing of Wild Kratts, which happens to be an informative show filmed by two brothers who stand oddly close to wild animals. I also think they hypnotize 4-year-old boys into a narcotic-like frenzy that jerks them out of bed in a quest to imagine if they were living with elephants.
We’ve tried everything except prescription drugs. We bought an “OK to Wake” alarm clock. Hank dismantled its electrical circuit three days after purchase. We’ve threatened to take away every animated TV show ever produced. We’ve put him to bed later. Put him to bed earlier. We even sent him to his grandmother’s, where all wrongs are supposedly cured.
Nothing has worked, which is why we’d like a therapist.
Once that problem is solved, we’d like the overpaid professional to help us understand how we can keep our first born’s ills from morphing into the second born.
Hank, as precious and funny and energetic as he is, suffers from all sorts of personal traumas on an hourly basis. He needs another toy. His socks are on crooked. He doesn’t want to eat his chicken strip. His juice is empty. He wants to show us how he drew a circle on the wall with a Sharpie. He needs another toy.
In the kindest description possible, our oldest son is compulsive. Our second son, Cal? Not so much.
Cal is a typical second-born. He likes sitting on the couch and watching his big brother climb across the ceiling. He likes eating food – lots of it. He reserves a precious glance when Hank gets in trouble, where he seals his lips and looks out the sides of his eyes.
But a few weeks ago, things started to change. It started when Cal didn’t want to eat a blueberry on his plate. He threw it across the room and Hank broke down in hyperventilating laughter. And that led to another blueberry, thrown left-handed. And another and another. Our kitchen floor looked like the landing spot of a flock of white winged doves.
Next came the volume. Cal wanted to be held, and instead of his normal whimper, he released a screech so loud the owls left the back yard.
Then came the hysterics. Cal walked all over the house and picked up anything weighing under a half pound and threw it on the floor.
We’ve got a storm brewing in our home, and when I say a storm, what I mean is that my wife and I recently begged our pediatrician for help. We told our doctor about the lack of sleep, the OCD, the horrible example being set for our youngest.
You know what our doctor said, right?
These are normal children. They just don’t appear on the covers of magazines.