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Mon June 28, 2004
As a young father David has a lot to be proud of and he's not yet too squeamish to admit it.
By David Hill
Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear David's commentary.]
I love being a dad more than anything I've ever done, but there are a few things I miss. I miss long, candlelit dinners with my wife. I'm reminded of them whenever the chicken nuggets catch fire. I miss watching "R" rated movies. Or PG?thirteen movies. Or PG. Or really any movie without a talking fish. (I used to watch movies with talking fish, but they were in black and white and spoke Swedish.) I miss cursing, darnit! Most of all, I miss my privacy.
Before you have children, you take certain luxuries for granted. You shower alone, for example, or at least you choose when and with whom to share your loofah. The same goes for your bed. You decide when to potty, and if that activity becomes boring you may read People, or War and Peace.
But with preschoolers in the house you may as well grab the pancake makeup, because it's show-time, and you're the star! When my bathroom door flies open I never know what's on, but it's guaranteed to be interesting. Sometimes it's The People's Court: "Sellers hit me because I wouldn't give him the ball!" Sometimes The Learning Channel: "Daddy, what you doing?" My favorite is Jeopardy, as in, "If you kids come in here one more time..."
Preschoolers have to learn some basic things like how to go potty or what to call stuff or why we brush our teeth when we wake up. This necessarily involves letting your kids see things that would scar others for life. But as my kids get older I get more squeamish. At two, when my son asks, "what's that?" I tell him. But when my four?year?old daughter asks the answer is, "THAT's why we have a door on the shower!"
That said, you can't accuse them of hypocrisy. Neither of them has any qualms about climbing into the bathtub with whoever happens to be visiting. Our photo albums are ripe with pictures of our kids and their friends sharing bubble baths all over the state, bobbing about like little pink vegetables in a bubbly soup. Other times Abby can get a little too helpful with her brother's potty training. Then she gets to learn about the importance of privacy and hand-washing all at once.
Of course it all comes back to the parents. We probably shouldn't have changed Sellers's diapers in the Dillard's parking lot in January. We knew he'd get his revenge. And the time we took four-month-old Abby out to dinner and she urped and and peed and wound up completely naked in a booth smack in the middle of Tandoor Palace screaming her lungs out? We had it coming. And I swear it was her mother who started laughing when the kids pass gas. We didn't do such things in my family, where for years I thought I was the only one blessed with the ability.
But all hope is not lost. While Abby has no concept of others' privacy, she has begun to jealously guard her own. She seems to understand privacy as a physical entity, a cloud roughly ten feet in diameter that surrounds her when she closes the bathroom door. Whenever Sellers stumbles inside the perimeter she calls out, "Sellers is in my privacy!" This usually sends her brother scrambling to our knees in tears, saying, "She being mean to me!" I don't think he has much of a future with the Department of Homeland Security.
Nor is Abby destined for the CIA. As Father's Day approached she told me quite sternly, "Daddy, this is not paint on our hands. We are not making you a picture." If she's this good with secrets at age seventeen we're home free.
I complain, but of course I'll miss these days all too soon. For now I wrap Abby up in a warm towel after her bath. It won't be long before she's mortified at the thought. I'll be sad, I know, but I'm sure I'll find some form of solace. Maybe I'll finally finish War and Peace.
Dr. David Hill is a stand-up pediatrician.