I have eight children, and have survived to tell the tale. How did I do it? Come along on a backward-looking voyage of discovery, mateys, and I’ll tell ye:
- Looking back, I recall the initial euphoria my wife Amy and I experienced when the tests came back positive for our first child. We lived in a student apartment off-campus, and before I left for classes each day I would walk out into the back parking lot to pick a rose blossom from a straggling tea rose bush that came over the fence, to leave on her pillow. One morning I was in a hurry and didn’t bother with the blossom. That night Amy asked plaintively “Where was my rose today?” That’s when I learned never to leave out the little things in a marriage, especially when your wife is experiencing her first pregnancy.
- After college, with more babies coming, I felt a heavy burden to provide for my growing brood. I often worked long hours, depriving myself of the company of my family at dinner time in order to achieve my career goals. I thought my so-called sacrifices were all for my family. One night, as I came in the door dead-tired and suffering from indigestion from yet another evening meal of a hamburger and French fries, I discovered Amy playing with the children on the living room floor while through the kitchen door I could see a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. My first reaction was to gruffly ask why the dishes weren’t done and the kids asleep – it was past their bedtime. Then it struck me – Amy was having all the fun, and the dirty dishes signified nothing, while I threw away my chances to tickle tummies and give horsey rides. I joined in the horseplay, finally helping Amy put the kids to bed at a scandalously late hour, and then she and I did the dishes together. The next morning I slept in late and got to work, not late, but not early either. And that night I left at quitting time and came home to meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, with plenty of soupy green jello for dessert – compliments of my five-year-old daughter, who had worked on the recipe all day under the direction of her pregnant mother. That night the kids got to bed on time and I produced the stretch mark cream I had picked up on the way home to rub on my wife’s stomach. There is nothing as sensuous as rubbing your wife’s extended tummy with stretch mark cream. From that day on I never stinted on my attention to wife and kids, and watched with satisfaction as my career slowed down to a saner pace. Now I was having fun as a father and husband – cuz your career don’t give you hugs, baby, and you sure can’t go to bed with it.
- One final point, mateys. You can’t always predict when stormy weather is coming. The hormonal and physical challenges of pregnancy are enough to turn an angel into a snarling fiend. It happens, and, after the initial surprise and shock, you deal with it. Rose blossoms becoming more expensive, I started leaving Junior Mints on her pillow each morning. If the mint remained uneaten when I got home, I knew the storm flags were up and watched my step. If the mint was gone, it was smooth sailing. That little tip off saved us many a brawl. Our kids will tell you it was not always peace and harmony between us, but the long voyage turned out to be prosperous and successful after all.