Monday, May 28, 2012

An Interview with Matthew: Part One

It's time for another interview today! So far we've heard from my good friends, Dani and Nicola. Today I've called in some favours and asked my husband, Matt, to answer some questions. On account of his going on and on expertise I have divided this interview into two parts. I'll post the second part tomorrow.

So let me introduce you to Matt. Some days I look up and see that I'm married to Matt and we have these two girls, and I marvel at how I am, truly, the most fortunate person on the planet. Alyce and Shira, while they have a lifetime of being slightly irritated by jokes ahead of them, will spend most of their days giggling because of Matt. He brings a lightness into our family upon which we rely greatly. And, he gives me foot rubs every single night.

Matt and Alyce, April 2010
1. Tell us a little about yourself and introduce those glorious little girls of yours. Also feel free to tell us a little about your remarkable wife, too.

Yes my daughter is Canadian-American, but I'm going to treat her just like a human baby.
                                                                   -- Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
(Puts down Fifty Shades of Grey) Oh, hi. I didn't hear you come in. I was just reading this book about how to put up drywall and other manly tasks. Sure, I'd be happy to provide some free blog content.

I have the best little girls, Heaven and Nevaeh (edit later: DO NOT mention secret Arkansas family), Alyce and Shira.

I imagine regular readers of MDIW know Alyce and Shira. They are often the central characters in the narrative of Danielle’s life. I am slightly more peripheral, but I can get things down from the high shelf, supply foot rubs, and do our taxes. So I have some utility.

The girls’ lives--and births, breastfeedings, and birthdays--have been well chronicled here, so I just want to write some brief vignettes about them.

The densest element in the periodic table is osmium. That’s what I think of when I pick up Shira. This has nothing to do with size, weight, or shape, but the child has a low center of gravity, feels heavier than her actual weight. In any case, I don’t think it’s true that girls or women are EVER concerned with images of weight or body shape. There’s probably no books about it anyway.

Shira is finding her voice. Words tumble out of her now. My favorite is when she says “Shira” – she tilts her head slightly forward, lowers her forehead further, raises her eyes, taps her left foot, twists her hips about 25 degrees, positions one hand on each hip, and leans into “Shira,” said with a degree of confidence I can only hope to muster.

Alyce - she’s a wisp, capable of tumbling down the street from a mild breeze. She seems so big to me now, but when she is lined up alongside her classmates, she’s tiny. Some of her more maternal peers lift her at the waist, carrying her around like a bag of salt. She doesn’t seem to mind.

At Shira's birth, May 2010

Alyce has been been my synagogue mate from the beginning. In two different countries. In shuls running the spectrum from Reform to Orthodox. From rabbis playing guitar (no rabbi should EVER play guitar) to full mechitzahs. And she loves it. At our shul in Delaware she was the mascot, bringing the mean age of the wonderful, though geriatric, congregation down by at least a decade. Until Shira was conceived, Alyce was a mama’s girl. She loved me, and we were close, but she was naturally at her mother’s breast. But because breastfeeding can cause pains that mirror birth pains (I can’t believe I now have this river of knowledge about breastfeeding!), Danielle stopped nursing Alyce when she was eight weeks pregnant with Shira. At least Alyce was down to nursing just in the morning and before bed. Alyce transitioned very well. (Shira, who is still a nursling, will not.)  So Alyce and I started spending all Saturday together, to relieve a tired Danielle. We’d go to shul, the park, wherever. These are some of my favorite memories.

So, Danielle, your question asked me to say something about my “remarkable wife.” I will.

I want to tell the story of how Danielle and I got together.

I first met Danielle in Toronto. I moved up to Canada (a.k.a. America's Hat) in 2003 with my band, Ted Dancin'. (By the way, there is actually a DJ in Toronto who goes by Ted Dancin'. He has a Myspace page. What year is this again?) But, you know how it goes: Jimmy quit, Jody got married, shoulda known, we'd never get far (does this qualify as Canadian content under Cancon rules?).

We met my second day in Toronto, at U of T as new doctoral students in Religion. And I fell in love immediately and helplessly. She was (and is) beautiful, had a kind face, and did not say “ewwww” when she saw me. Our cohort had a class together, and we ran into each other periodically on campus. I treasured those moments when I could steal her attention. I don’t think she knew that I was head over heels in love, although I believe our mutual friend Tanya saw it. I assumed no mutual interest, and knew that she had just left a long-term relationship. I had no intention of declaring my feelings, because it seemed impossible that there would be reciprocation. After 18 months, though, we started one summer corresponding regularly. I still have the emails we exchanged during our courtship. Danielle was teaching at another university, and I was living in Toronto.

When Danielle returned from teaching, she invited me to Riverdale Farm. I thought it was just a friendly thing. (Editor's note: Oh, for crying out loud, it was so obviously a date!) We had a great time, and then our correspondence turned more serious. It was the first time--this is June 2005, for those scoring at home--that I imagined that there might be something there.

And then Oliver died. Danielle’s cat, which had had since she was 13, had been through everything with her. Our early relationship is bound up with the loss of another significant relationship.

Then we went out to dinner. I still did not know if it was a date. (Editor's note: Really? How is that possible?!) I had decided, though, that I needed to man up, muster the courage to finally let Danielle know how I felt. And I did. And she did. Now we have two little girls, two little cats, one ENORMOUS cat, and what already seems like a wonderful lifetime of memories.

By the way, I never call Danielle, Danielle. Pretty much from the time we started dating, I called her Navah, which is Hebrew for mountain goat “beautiful” or “shining.”

And you asked how I would describe myself: “Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks.  His eyes were like steel, cold, hard. Had a shock of hair, red like the fires of Hell.”

2. What is your super power? (You know you have one.) For example, I can solve most of Alyce and Shira's problems by dancing.

I just make stuff up all day. When Alyce was around Shira’s age, we went to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Museums, like theaters, are pretty much just an expensive nap. But when we visited the one in Philly, I took the opportunity to tell Alyce that her papa had painted, sculpted, and designed most of the items in the exhibitions. She was tres impressed. Plus it gave me an inflated feeling of self, and has that ever turned out wrong?

Seriously, though, making stuff up helps distract the girls when their moods turn foul. Just say something ridiculous, and they will be tied up in giggles and belly laughs, their concerns over who gets to hold Tasha from The Backgardians forgotten. 

With Alyce, June 2011
3. What's the hardest part of your parenting day, and do what do you do to work around it, or help make it hurt your head less?

Let me start with everyone’s favorite invocation - it depends.  Am I working or staying home? Are we staying at your mother’s or at our home? Is it a school day? Am I getting up with Shira? (The only people awake when Shira gets up are vampires and those on 24-hour missile watch at NORAD). The answers to those questions affect, to greater or lesser degrees, my parenting.

In general, though, I find early mornings most difficult. When my feet hit the floor, I am ready to go, to get started and get moving. I am frightfully impatient. I prefer deferring leisure to the evening. My temperament grinds against the natural disposition of everyone else in the house. I wish I could enjoy the mornings more, but when there is something to do or if I am bored, I can be, um, less than fun. I can’t say I thought through a lot of strategies about how to deal with this.
In the summer, it’s been easier, because I can just loose them into the backyard. I don’t want to simply park them in front of My Little Pony (though the new version is a great improvement on the one we grew up with…not that I would have any experience for comparison), Backyardians (solid), Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs (terrific), Toopy and Binoo (oddly endearing in its manic energy), or Caillou  (I can’t speak about this show rationally, so let’s just move on).

But lately, I’ve been leaving for work at 5:23AM (5:19 if the car needs fuel), and getting home around 6:30PM, and at that time it’s about hustling the girls off to bed, especially Shira. So, I haven’t had many parenting challenges recently because I haven’t doing as much parenting. I like my job, but the travel is brutal in terms of time, and I know my wife is struggling with our taller child at times. I feel guilty--because I am guilty?--for not being there. I miss my awesome family! Hence our planned move to Toronto. I miss the girls terribly during the day. My desk is cluttered with Alyce’s paintings, but at least my wife provides a photographic journal of their day through text messaging.

With Shira, March 2011

4. Who do you look to for support as a parent?

Can you indulge a few quotes from some of my favorite fathers?

Homer Simpson:
You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
The code of the schoolyard, Marge! The rules that teach a boy to be a man. Let’s see. Don’t tattle. Always make fun of those different from you. Never say anything, unless you’re sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do. What else…
Kids are great, Apu. You can teach them to hate the things you hate and they practically raise themselves now-a-days, you know, with the internet and all.
Marge, there’s an empty spot I’ve always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends! I think this chair is the answer.
Marge, don’t discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel.
Well, I won't lie.  Fatherhood isn't easy, like motherhood, but I wouldn't trade it for anything ... 'cept for some mag wheels.  Oh, man, that would be sweet.
Tracy Jordan (30 Rock) to his son:
I’m going to love you no matter what even if you become a doctor or a lawyer or a philanthropist who devotes his life to others. I’ll still be proud of you.
Jack Donaghy (30 Rock):
Jack: Actually, Devin, I do. I have a baby daughter, Liddy.
Devin: And yet you still managed to be here all night, trying to figure out how to bring me down. Damn, Jack. You are strong. You're like Dora's friend, Benny the Bull.
Jack:...Benny the Bull. Thank you.
Danny Zuker. is there anyone who doesn’t follow him on Twitter? He writes for Modern Family. From his account (@DannyZuker):
14 years ago my wife gave birth to twin girls who brought meaning to my life, especially the thin pretty one. #HappyBdayHogFace
You can learn a lot about your kids by simply turning off the TV and talking. For example I discovered that mine are really boring.
I would never EVER hit my own child but after volunteering at his school I think it would be fine if some of you hit yours.
It's payback time, bitches!" - What I think every morning now that I wake my kids up.
And nothing to do with parenting, but:
People in movies talking about what they love about movies always makes me love movies a little less.

Seriously, though, (Editor's note: It's about time) my support for parenting--in terms of advice, strategies, and sharing duties--comes exclusively from my wife. She’s the center (centre, in case Canadian censors are monitoring this blog) of our family, which I imagine is both a challenge and an honor. I trust her judgments intuitively, and I look for her cues in parenting. (Editor's note: ok, well that was a really nice thing to say. All is forgiven, regarding that last list of 3,486 quotations).

Thank you, Matty, for sharing your thoughts on parenting and absolutely everything else. The best part about these jokes is that I've heard them all at home already! I love him anyway. Stay tuned for part two of my interview with Matt tomorrow. 

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