The Cuteness Factor

2014-09-20 15.05.56-1

So I’m going to cheat a little with this entry of Pulitzer Schmulitzer! and share with you something that I wrote that doesn’t have anything to do with the countdown. It does, however, actually contain the words “Pulitzer Prize” in that order, so I’m going to use that very thin connection to justify its inclusion here. And if that doesn’t sit well with you, I’d like to remind you that the only rule here at Pulitzer Schmulitzer! is that there are no rules at Pulitzer Schmulitzer!

Why would I choose to do this you ask? Well, I might possibly tend to hold grudges. For a long time. And I hold them deep deep down inside. Which, people say, isn’t great. So this is like therapy and you get to come along for the ride. You’re welcome.

You see, about a year and a half ago there was an essay contest associated with a charity event that will henceforth go nameless because I love the charity and the event despite whatever I might say that follows. The topic of the essay contest was “Transitions” and the description said they’d expect to see “stories ranging from starting a family, recoveries, graduations, aging, career changes/promotions, marriage and divorce.” I could totally do this.

I could totally do this because, as you may or may not know, I have a 14 year old named Sam, a 12 year old named Lily, and a 4 year old named Macy. That is a long break between #2 and #3. But as you may or may not also know, we adopted Macy from Korea back in 2011, and I could think of no better transition to write about than that one. It’s a story about jumping back in to the proverbial parental pool after many years with an international travel angle to it. #Winner.

But there was something about the contest – namely the name of the co-sponsor that will also heretofore remain nameless – that made me think that it was aimed primarily at women. So before I spent any time writing, I lobbed in an email and asked if that was the case. Happily, I was told the contest was open to all genders, and I equally happily put pen to paper.

According to the rules, they were going to name 30 semi-finalists and post their essays on Facebook for the public to vote on. Although I had absolutely no idea how many people would enter this contest, I figured I had to be in the top 30 (in addition to holding grudges, I also tend to think highly of myself) and then I figured that I could rally some significant Facebook support to win this thing. I was in the driver seat.

So when the day approached for the announcement of the semi-finalists, I quickly scrolled down the list of names to find mine. Instead, this is what I found (last names excluded): Christhal, Judy, Vanessa, Rose, Kat, Generation X Girl, Tonja, Kim, Vicki, Dolores, Tanya, Kelley, Mihee, Heather, Ashley, Stephanie, Abigail, Terry, Kim, Shannon, Marsha, Christie, Leslie, Nancy, Lisen, Laurel, Kerri and Sierra.

Huh. I don’t want to make too many assumptions, but that sounds like a lot of women. Admittedly, there is a Kim (Coates) on one of my favorite TV shows Sons of Anarchy who is a man, and a Terry (Bradshaw) who is one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time and also a man. And I guess Generation X Girl could be a man as well and just trying to throw the judges. But let’s be honest, that is a list of women.

So, bottom line, my essay, The Cuteness Factor, never got its fair shake on Facebook so I’m going to rectify that right now. Even though there are no prizes, it will just be one less thing to hold a grudge about. We’re all winners. And that, people say, is a good thing.


The Cuteness Factor

I have a Korean toddler living in my house. I am not Korean. She calls me daddy.

Three years ago, our family was firing on all cylinders. My wife and I had two fantastic kids who were in the sweet spot of ages. My son was 9. My daughter was 7. They weren’t old, but they were old enough. Old enough to put on their own socks. Old enough to walk themselves to school. Old enough to enjoy movies that were not only non-animated, but also questionably inappropriate for their ages. Old enough to travel overseas and let me watch wholly inappropriate movies. Old enough to wipe their own butts. Life was great. Finally.

It’s not that life wasn’t great when they were younger. It’s just that parenting little kids blows. If you have parented little kids, you know it’s true. And if you haven’t yet parented little kids, don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Yes, it has its moments. And yes, it is rewarding. But on the whole, it blows. Diapers blow (no pun intended). Bubbles blow (pun intended). Bath time blows. Reading Hop on Pop blows. Spending your days at the playground or the zoo or play dates with other little kids? All blow.

Moreover, little kids aren’t “old enough” and therefore can’t do anything they NEED to do by themselves like eat or pee or use the remote control. But at the same time, they ARE perfectly capable of jabbing themselves with scissors, drowning in a pool, climbing up and falling off objects of all sizes, and eating Legos. Until kids turn four, it’s exhausting. And boring. And there’s the added stress of knowing it is your job to keep these children alive and apparently their job to try to kill themselves.

So in my mind, we were done. So done. Not only was I physically done (a pregnancy scare three months after baby #2 will send any sane man to the urologist), but I was mentally done as well. I often calculated how old I would be when my youngest went to college. Fifty-two. That was still young, right? At fifty-two, I could still snowboard and drink Redbull & vodka. Maybe even at the same time. I could summit the world’s seven highest mountains and learn to spear fish. I could join the Peace Corps.

And then, my younger one turned four and it started to be fun. My wife and I remembered who we were and started listening to music that wasn’t sung by grown men in colorful shirts, reading books with words that didn’t rhyme, and traveling to places that didn’t have princesses. And we were sharing all of it with our quickly growing kids. As they inched toward tween-dom, we began to enjoy our lives again, having made it through the not old enough years and not missing it one bit. Or so I thought.

Apparently, the joy of raising older kids is accompanied by a proportionately inverse emotion experienced only by women: loss of babyhood syndrome (LOBS). In those very same years that my joy was compounding, my wife’s LOBS also compounded. Then a friend of ours got pregnant in her 40s, and I casually commented that if that happened to us (mind you, a physical impossibility), we would have another baby. My wife heard only one thing: we should have another baby.

But life is busy and it wasn’t until shortly after my 43rd birthday that my wife’s LOBS hit capacity, and she made a call to an adoption agency. It turns out, Korea thinks old people make crappy parents, and won’t let you adopt if either adoptive parent is 45 years old at the time of the adoption. That gave us two years, and the predicted wait time to adopt from Korea was running approximately 24 months. So I did what any other supportive husband would do: I agreed to submit the application figuring that by the time it happened, I’d either be too old or they would find a cure for LOBS.

My wife and I were each given our own application consisting of at least ten pages of essay questions covering our finances, education, ethnic background, religious beliefs, and parenting theories. I knocked mine out in seventeen minutes before work one day. Unfortunately, it turns out that they actually read them.

So when the social worker came to our house to review our application, my wife got a gold star for her Pulitzer Prize-worthy answers. I (deservedly) did not. For the question that asked how we were going to pay for the child, a question intended to elicit information about our financial situation, I answered: “Money.” Another question, designed to determine if your Korean baby-to-be is going to feel out of place, asked “if you have children, describe their physical characteristics and if they have any special needs.” In response, I wrote: “My kids look like normal kids. No special needs.” It went on. No one was amused.

Moreover, the older kids were unsure of what another kid in the family would mean. My son already had a little sister. He wasn’t all that interested in another one, and wasn’t all that afraid to tell that to anyone who would listen.

But despite my worst efforts, we were approved, which meant I now had 24 months to make this go away. Except I didn’t. They lied. Three months later, that’s right, THREE months later, my wife received a call: “We have a baby for you.” She actually said: “I think you called the wrong family.”

Upon hearing the news, I was in total disbelief that they could overestimate the time it would take by 800%. How is that possible? It was against the rules. The rule was 24 months. My wife explained that they “matched” us with a baby. What? This wasn’t eHarmony. How exactly did they match me to a six-month old Korean baby? We both like Japanese whiskey and Ozzy-era Black Sabbath?

A few months later we were all on a plane to Seoul to meet the newest member of our clan. And that newest member, a little girl we named Macy, is amazing. Yes, I have to deal with diapers, playgrounds, zoos, and swallowed Legos. And yes, they all still blow. But Macy will be three in a few months and could not be cuter, nicer, funnier or smarter and I’m reminded that they have to be not old enough to get to the coveted old enough age.

The other kids are smitten. In fact, our son, now 12, routinely gets Macy out of bed in the morning, gets her some milk, plops her on the couch next to him, and turns on the TV (she is the third kid, after all). He gets upset if he misses her bed time group hug. One recent evening, I was driving him home and he asked if Macy was still up. I couldn’t help but tease him a little about his love for his sister given his initial reluctance. He turned to me, and with all sincerity, said, “I didn’t take into account the cuteness factor.” Neither did I.

6 thoughts on “The Cuteness Factor

  1. I met you the first time when you had only recently been given the news getting matched with Macy. I thought you were just shell shocked about being dragged out for an evening in NYC with a bunch of Gigi’s middle and high school friends. I should have realized…

    So. You were robbed. Completely. I would have voted for this essay, even if I didn’t know you. Because it’s true. True and well and humorously written. Thankfully, our kids are hitting the sweet spot now and I am too old to adopt a baby from Korea. And I’ve made triple sure that there will not be a “change” baby in our future, as one of my clients delicately put it to me a couple of years ago.

    We’ll have all the Riblets out in SF the first week of June – first Giants game, Academy of Sciences and lots of other fun stuff planned. We’d better get to see all of you, too!

  2. I would have voted for you John! Maybe one has to know you to hear the funny, warm, jovial tone in your voice to get your sense of humor! All of which I can readily hear, which make me both laugh and cry a little too! So in awe of the awesome dad you are! It’s so fun to see! Xo T.

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