The best 10 years, so far

Ten years ago, this happened.

She was young and beautiful. She’s still young and beautiful. I’m still short on hair. I wouldn’t want to go changing on her.

She’s given birth to three boys since then, which makes her youth and beauty even more amazing. The boys alternate between aging me and making me feel young. Somehow she always manages to stay young.

Do we drive each other crazy sometimes? Yup, that’s part of being married. But after 10 years, we have a good understanding of why this happens. We have different perspectives on some things, and these perspectives are bound to clash sometimes. At the heart of it, we have similar core values, which keeps the clash of perspectives from getting out of hand.

Most importantly, we can be confident we are not being driven crazy out of malice. When you know there’s no malice involved, it’s much easier to move past any disagreement. She’s never made me angry enough to forget how much I love her. She’s never come close to that.

Mostly, we drive each other happy. I know that’s not a real saying, but I’m trying to keep up a consistent theme. It’s why I’m not coming home wearing a toupee out of the blue. I’m trying to be consistent. Plus, toupees are kind of creepy. I think I can speak for my wife when I say that’s a core value we agree upon.

Five years ago, I commemorated our anniversary with this post: Five Years of Trading Bacon. I probably said it better back then than I am now. After a while, it gets harder to find new words to express how you feel. Also, we don’t trade as much bacon anymore. Three hungry children don’t leave us much bacon for anything. I’m sure bacon is one of the boys’ shared core values.

So how do I find fresh words to express a love that’s been the bedrock of my life for this long? I guess it’s just a matter of bigger numbers and greater degrees.

Happy anniversary to the love of my life. After 10 years, I am more happily married and more in love with you than ever before.

Keep your jelly beans in perspective and your thumbs where you can find them

When we were potty training our first child we fell into the trap of offering him a toy as a reward to motivate him to use the toilet. This quickly became an untenable strategy; we are made of neither toys nor money. The boy had to learn a hard lesson about terms being subject to change without notice. It’s like when the cable company made you get a separate tuner box for each TV, advising you not to worry because you were not being charged for the extra boxes, and a few years later you find yourself paying $6/month/box. Potty training is good practice for dealing with the cable company.

Now, well into potty training the third child, we have lowered our game. This boy scored a few jelly beans or a tiny Tootsie Roll for doing the right thing. Using the potty is becoming routine for him, which means earning a candy reward for each occurrence has become unsustainable. It’s not that we’re yanking away his reward; we’re helping him realize using the potty is its own reward. If you think this is parental double talk, try pooping your pants at your next social gathering. The privilege of using a toilet beats three jelly beans any day.

Rewards should be reserved for accomplishments that are challenging. Remembering to go to the potty is no longer challenging for Big Man. It is nothing compared to the formidable challenge of keeping his thumb out of his mouth. He sucks his thumb when he’s tired or anxious. It looked like he was kicking the habit, but the stress of potty training must have made him fall off the wagon.

In the olden days, Big Brother adored his pacifier. It was a relatively easy addiction to break. The pacifier magically got lost one day. That was the end of that. I’m not sure I’m ready for Big Man to lose his thumb, so we’re working on other ideas.

Winding down with a good movie and a little snack.

The other day, he was incessantly reminding me he was due some candy for his pottying exploits. I explained that this was an obsolete reward system and then I made him a new offer. He would earn a piece of candy if he went the entire afternoon without putting his thumb in his mouth.

I didn’t think he could do it. We had to drive to pick up his brothers. The car makes him sleepy, and that’s when the thumb goes in.

He didn’t get sleepy that day. He kept himself awake the entire trip by chanting, “I want candy!” at me from his car seat of whininess. Annoying? Yes. That was an added benefit to him. Annoyance is the smallest wage I deserve for my duplicity.

He earned his candy. And then he felt free to suck his thumb. As extra tired as he was, he couldn’t stop himself. He’d missed his car nap after all.

We’re not sure how birds or bees fit into the story

Buster has developed quite a curiosity these days. Formerly, the pinnacle of his curiosity was wanting to know where I had hidden the Tootsie Rolls. Now, he has blossomed into a regular preschool philosopher, wondering things like: “How do clouds get up in the sky?”

Wondering about clouds is, of course, a slippery slope leading ultimately to a quagmire of curiosities about human conception. Being the high thinker he is, Buster would never ask such a crude question as “Where do babies come from?” No, Buster has feelings for the old man, and would not just conk him on the head with that one. He demonstrates a certain finesse in softening it to “How do people get to be real?”

If only we could all handle the topic of sexual reproduction in such a mature manner.

Is it a tree or a shrub? My Sex Ed classes left me with more questions than answers?

For the record, I don’t ever recall Big Brother asking about the origin of babies. I suspect he stumbled upon the notion that it had something to do with getting married, which means liking a certain girl, and worse, having everybody in the world know you like her. You might even have to hold hands. It’s just one big downward spiral. After all that, I think he doesn’t want to know where babies come from. If you tried to tell him, he’d probably cover his ears and hum as loud as he could.

Buster wants to know. And since he is preparing to venture into the big world of kindergarten, I figured I better just hunker down and tell him the truth. That truth, of course, is that babies grow on trees. To be clinically correct about it, it may actually be large, woody-stemmed shrubs they grow on. I’m not completely sure of the proper classification.

Babies get big and stinky if you let them hang on the tree too long.

I realize the miracle of birth is hard for a young child to wrap his head around, so if he has reason to doubt my explanation I will show him my visual evidence. He can see for himself the big, ripe children, ready to be picked from the Baby Tree/Baby Woody-stemmed Shrub. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the fresh babies – only the overripe ones. It’s gotten to be late in the harvest season around our parts.

Maybe you think I should tell him the other story of where babies come from, but that’s even harder to believe and I don’t have any pictures to support that theory. We’re dealing with conception one baby step at a time. We’ll stick with the tree hypothesis, at least until the two of us can figure out how clouds get in the sky.

For Mommy

I asked Buster, “What should we get Mommy for Mother’s Day?”

“Probably something she likes,” was his reasoned reply.

“What do you think she would like?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask her what she likes and then buy it for her.”

When it comes to thoughtful gift giving, Buster is a chip right off the old block.

I am old enough to have learned, without having to ask, one thing Mommy wants. That is to be told, once in a while, how much she is loved and appreciated. She isn’t told this as often as she deserves to be told. Mother’s Day is a great time to begin to make up the deficit.

This being the case, I present some words of love and appreciation for Mommy.

From BIG BROTHER

What is your Mother’s Day message for Mommy?

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy. I love you.”

How much do you love Mommy?

“More than bacon.”

A big heart full of big love for Mommy.

From BUSTER

What is your Mother’s Day message for Mommy?

“I love you so much, Mommy. From me.”

How much do you love Mommy?

“One hundred.”

A medium heart full of big love for Mommy.

From BIG MAN

What is your Mother’s Day message for Mommy?

“Love Mommy.”

How much do you love Mommy?

“Big much.”

A little heart full of big love for Mommy.

Daddy also loves Mommy big much, one hundred, more than bacon, and also to the moon and back. As a group, we don’t tell her we love and appreciate her as much as we should, but we do love and appreciate her always, even when we are a mob of self-absorbed hooligans.

As important as it is to tell Mommy how we feel about her on Mother’s Day, I also recognize the wisdom of youth. I took Buster up on his suggestion and asked Mommy what she would like for a present. She’s getting that too.