Saturday, October 23, 2010
The Tragedy of Becoming a "Manny"
I entered willingly into this 7 day experiment stuck inside a parental incubator\pressure cooker, converting me into a Man-nanny or "manny" for short. I am a nightowl that never wakes up before 9:30 and had to instantly transform myself from a nocturnal to diurnal creature (learned that word from the kids' science homework). The luxury of time deleted from my life, every minute strategized and tightly orchestrated to be able to fit in the obligations of each day to keep this brood of Von Trapp children alive and happy.
Crazed, sleep deprived visions of breeding colonies sprang to my mind where children are raised in segregated golden pastures in the countryside, inside greenhouses like cabbage patch dolls each with their dedicated nurses to dote on them 24-7. This was the most perfect scenario in my mind.
This parental dance requires you to immediately forget your previous identity and transform into someone that solely thinks of the wellbeing of their little ducklings. So much so, that I'd forget to shave, shower or even brush my teeth. Don't even think about blogging, the gym, facials, night creams, long showers or vegging in front of the telly. My life was no longer mine. I felt myself transforming into a shoeless, Yugoslavian mountain woman with a faint smell of sweaty goat and sprigs of hay in my matted hair. I was no longer a footloose and fancy-free bachelor, I was now married to this family. It was a tragic feeling to mourn the loss of my previous life and imagined a lifetime of this. Thank God it was only temporary. I gained a newfound respect for the mothers and fathers of the world. The amount of dedication and responsibility required is dumbfounding to the brain. Thank God the ever-giving-tree of a grandmother was there to take care of the 2 year old and grace us with her scrumptiously-Spanish cooking every night. If it weren't for her, I think I wouldve completely lost my marbles. It was a completely foreign and unusual experience to eat together every night with the 6 of us cracking jokes and sharing stories of the day. My "family meal" back in my Miami condo consisted of eating a sandwich standing over my sink or grabbing a quick bite with a friend on my way home from the gym. The rhythm of this life is as different as hip hop is to Beethoven.
Humans are incredibly adaptable to any changes life brings us and I could probably adapt as well, if I had to, but I would never choose this life. My children are my stories, I am dedicated to them and they fill me completely when they go out into the world and interact with others. Being an uncle is a comfortable niche, the best of both worlds, you get to hang with them part time then return to sender while retaining title of the "cool uncle". The potential for fun is endless.
So many moments collected in my seven days in idyllic and oh-so civilized Dedham, Boston; the delirious, early morning impromptu dances forcing me to laugh when I could barely move my arms enough to sip my coffee, the sharing of senseless dreams from the night before, hand-fart sound competitions, swapping ghost stories and playlist jam sessions on our respective Iphones while frantically rushing them to school, innumerable cranky meltdowns and hugs, grocery trips, picking one of the girls up from school late making her miss another appointment and shortly after buying her a tank top to make up for it, not knowing the drop off or pickup "system" of each school, helping with that blasted homework, watching epidodes of The Event on Hulu before putting them to bed, running to drop the oldest to his way-too-frequent haircut, watching the older siblings coddle and play with their newest 2 year old brother assuring the newest generation of this planet will grow up happy, healthy and free of trauma.
Passing apple farms on my way back from dropping the kids off at school, I realize like farms, families are somewhat invisible sources of life for a society. The "non-farmers" of the world don't realize what it takes to nurture this produce to maturity for the rest of the world to enjoy unless they become a farmer or breeder. The family is the epicenter of humanity from where every thing else comes. If we were all raised surrounded by this much love and support tempered with discipline and a good education, we would probably see a lot less violence or lack as much as we do. We would care for each other as if we were one big human family-the way we should always have but have yet to "get". The love and hate for the rest of the world is born at home. We have seen the effects of that hate recently in this country with the epidemic proportions that gay suicides have risen to. We will eventually get it, and not breed hate at home. As long as we keep refining and perfecting the raising of our children, this healthy produce will be harvested for generations thereafter in the form of a healthier society.
As I dropped the kids off one last time before my sister and brother in law returned from their trip, I stopped the car to notice a street full of fall leaves, trash and recycle bins all perfectly lined up. We don't get this "cold, fall leaves thing" in Miami much. The safety and calm of the moment overwhelmed me. The suburbs were no longer confining or held dread for me. I felt a sudden sweet tide of melancholy rush over and outside the fall was turning into winter. Inside my heated car I too found myself changing. I wondered what the heck I was getting all teary eyed like a chick on the rag, about? I soon realized that I missed "this", a life I had once known. A familial closeness that felt like a bunch of bears nuzzled in a cave ready to hibernate. For this week, this was my clan of the cave bear and the tragedy of becoming a "manny", ironically wasn't a tragedy at all. The warmth of living inside this temporary cocoon allowed me to experience a life full of love and after all the griping and moaning, left me finally really knowing what it meant when all my married and mothered-up girlfriends always chanted, "It's a lot of work but it's so rewarding..." I used to think they were just saying that to psych themselves out from a life they had lost but there is something there, a "fullness" I hadn't felt in a very long time. This may not be my path or destiny but it was a rewarding and enriching experiment. Shapeshifting into a manny was as tough as bootcamp on a summer Miami day yet, if asked again I would gladly oblige. The bonding experience and laughter shared lifted my spirit more than any movie or book I've ever read. This autumnal moment was life in it's purest form, no illusions, no lies and it fed me so much more than it cost me in energy or loss of sleep.