I’m staring at a sink that seems as deep as a well and it’s full of dirty dishes. There are bowls full of mushy cereal and plates with crusty remnants of baked beans, cheesy rice, and “Nood” (noodles). There’s balled-up, disintegrating paper towels, half drank plastic containers of “Danimals,” slimy breast pump parts, and dozens of dirty toddler utensils. Toward the bottom, there’s murky, gray water that could be anywhere from a few inches to nearly a foot deep. Cucumber shavings, egg shells, and soggy bread crusts float lazily around the surface of this polluted kitchen harbor.
All I have to do is empty this sink and load the dishwasher, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m too tired.
Years ago, I watched a local news report about this woman with Fibromyalgia. This Fibromyalgia sufferer referred to the dishwasher as her nemesis. She said the thought of loading the dishwasher made her so exhausted, she’d actually become depressed. When I first watched this report, I laughed as hard as I did the first time I saw “Borat.”
“This lady is (unintentionally) a comedic genius,” I thought at the time. Now I completely understand what Fibromyalgia lady meant about the dishwasher. That’s because I have a seven-week-old and an 18-month-old. I have two under two.
My wife and I didn’t plan it this way. In fact, we never even talked about a second child. Instead, we made the life-changing decision to bring another life into the world the same way generations of my relatives – including my own parents – had: by accident.
From what I hear, having two children is never just double the work. It’s always exponentially more difficult than just having the one kid. Add to that a less than 15-month difference in their ages and the situation is an outright tragedy. I know this not only because of my own low-level depression right now but also because of strangers’ reactions.
“15 months?! Oh, God bless you. Just hang in there. It’ll get better. It’ll be a long, long time, but it will eventually get better. I think.” That was one woman’s immediate response after asking how far apart my son and daughter were.
It wasn’t the most extreme reaction. One woman actually said, “My children were only 13 months apart, and it was a terrible mistake. My life was absolute hell for years, and it’s a big part of the reason we’re divorced now.”
I don’t see this chapter leading to divorce for my wife and me, but it’s definitely taken a toll on our marriage. I’ve been surprised (and a little impressed) at how hurtful we can be to one another with our words during particularly stressful times. It’s understandable. The fundamental dynamic of our relationship has shifted. Most of the time it feels less like we’re partners and more like we’re low-level employees working for the world’s shittiest bosses. It’s one thing to be at the beck and call of an infant, he can’t do a goddamn thing for himself yet, but dealing with the whims of a mercurial one-and-a-half-year-old on top of the baby, well, that’s just madness.
Somebody always needs a diaper change, somebody always needs to eat, and, of course, somebody’s always crying.
It’s not always the kids, either. When I’m trying to change, feed, or console one of the bosses, my Boston Terrier, Judith Weiland, will often lie one of her beloved tennis balls right beside me and make this pathetic whimpering sound. “What about me? You used to always have time to play ball before these assholes showed up,” that whimpering says.
Then there’s my wife. Normally an emotionally-constipated rock, my wife is not immune to the tear-strewn symphony that plays on repeat in the Bilski house these days. Every time my wife laughs a little too hard at something, there’s a good chance it could lead to a full-blown crying session.
And me? The tears tend to flow during contrived moments on bad TV shows, movies, and even commercials. It’s like my psyche hears the swell of emotional music and says, “It’s okay, big guy, the show is literally telling you this is the part where you’re supposed to cry, so just let it out. You need a good cry, don’t you?”
Everything feels overwhelming right now. All those little things my wife and I used to do to maintain the illusion of control and order keep getting pushed further on the back burner, and the to-do list keeps growing longer and longer. In the midst of all this chaos, there’s always some asshole saying, “Try to stay in the moment and really enjoy this time because it’ll be gone before you know it.”
Telling me to enjoy this time is like telling someone on cocaine to relax. No matter how badly you want to, your body just won’t let you. Still, I know it’s sound advice.
Earlier tonight, my daughter veered from her normal goodnight ritual (hug, kiss, drop into the crib) and asked me to sit on the rocking chair with her. I spent hours in the rocking chair with her when she was a baby, cradling her tiny frame and singing Beatles song after Beatles song until she drifted off to sleep. Tonight, she rested her head on my shoulder and her nearly 30-pound frame covered my torso like a blanket.
The moment hit me hard. How the hell did she get so big? What happened to my baby? How is everything moving so fast?
I sat there holding my daughter, thinking about how the cradling, Beatles-singing moments with my baby girl were gone forever. Then I remembered I have a new baby, and I get to have all those same moments with him. For a brief moment, I felt excited about the prospect of everything that was yet to come. Then I thought about the goddamn dishes that were waiting for me downstairs.