2 on 1

[Note: It was 13 years ago today that two little knuckleheads climbed into a mini-van with their bags of clothes and favorite toys, tried to remember that this guy “Joe” was now “Daddy,” and started the adventure recorded on this blog. Happy anniversary to my two favorite people!]

Imagine that you have one friend in Fiji, and one in Greenland, and you are trying to pack to visit both of them in the same week. With one suitcase.

That’s what dealing with two kids at once can often be like.

It has happened more times than I care to think about over the years that on any given day one of my kids is in his Fiji space—happy, go-lucky, playful—while the other is off in Greenland—cold and remote. This is fine when I’m 1 on 1 with either of them. Being Mr. Sensitive Parent and all, I simply follow their mood. You’re feeling playful and chatty? Let’s chat and play. Channeling your inner Gloria Swanson? I’ll give you all the space you need.

When the three of us were all together, however, dealing with “Fiji vs. Greenland” presented a challenge. Given that there was no other parent around with whom to adopt a “divide and conquer” strategy, I was forced to figure out how to juggle the different atmospheres alone. I’d like to say I came up with a brilliant solution, but I’m trying to keep this book relatively honest. I was able to come up with three options, none of them ideal:

  • Prioritize Fiji: In other words, stay playful and light so that the Fiji kid doesn’t feel let down. This generally has the effect of driving Mr. Greenland crazy, as he feels pulled into a party he’d rather not attend.
  • Honor Greenland: This creates a mood of sulk that works well for the kid in focus, but leave Fiji (no pun intended) out in the cold.
  • Give each place its proper focus: In other words, be playful with Fiji and ignore Greenland. This is probably the logical answer, although there’s something about knowing that kid 1—already in a mood—is sitting there watching kid 2 and me goof around that doesn’t feel right. Or actually, feels dead wrong.

In reality, in these situations I would most often defer to Greenland. There’s something that feels worse about forcing a Debbie Downer to have fun than there is to create a quiet space for all. Fiji is usually in a good enough mood not to let it bring him down, or at least that’s how the thinking goes.

I’m sure sometime in the next 10 years I’ll get to hear all kinds of variations on, “And then there was the time I was in the WORST MOOD and you and [Fiji brother] were telling jokes and LAUGHING!” (and vice versa). Followed by a litany of everything else I did wrong over the past 20 years, probably in excruciating detail. I can’t wait …

I guess this is why people buy homes with wings. Or watch most of their meals in front of the TV.

Next: Us Being Us: Miss Kookamooka

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