Before you were four years old

Chapter 11: Advice on How to Successfully Navigate Social Waters from Someone Who Was Never Voted Prom King or Won Any Senior Superlatives

“At the annual firm summer outing many years ago, I began talking to a partner’s wife about our kids and about my and your mother’s childhoods as only children. And the woman, an only child herself, leaned over and said, almost conspiratorially, ‘Well, you know, only children never want to have just one child.'”

At this age, Sofia’s comedic tendencies are very much in line with areas of hipster Williamsburg. “Ah yes, I see what you did there. Quite amusing.”

Alessandra’s comedic tendencies are more, shall we say, a bit broader.

We go to Mt. Snow, Vermont for a relaxing weekend with a bunch of friends. Beautiful, even if the temperature was about 10 below zero Fahrenheit. Here Sofia is crying because she doesn’t like her snow pants.

Sofia crying because it’s -8 degrees outside. We go back inside after about 10 minutes.

Both of them crying their eyes out just because they don’t want their parents to enjoy their lives

Chapter One: How You Are

“Tellon tellon. Tellon tellon,’ one of you would say. Later, one of you would respond: ‘Pee-son. Pee-son.’ Then both of you would howl in laughter, as though a Dave Chappelle routine had been distilled to these two words. ‘Why is that so funny?’ we would ask. You never gave it up and maybe it was better that way, as Red had mused in The Shawshank Redemption: ‘I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid.”

Chapter Two:

“On the other hand, Alessandra, you could always barf in any mode of transportation: car/taxi, bus, airplane, train/subway. About the only way you wouldn’t have barfed was if we’d used a vehicle that gave an illusion that you were sitting perfectly still, synced to the rotation of the earth. Dealing with it on a repeated basis made me a barf connoisseur. We learned not to give you any milk or cheese on the mornings of some long car rides, because that stuff coming back up was the most horrid substance ever. On the other hand, the morning you ate IKEA cookies, my thought while cleaning the car seat was, ‘This actually is not unpleasant.'”

The Unfortunately-All-Too-Common-Double Timeout. These are pretty typical of the kids’ reactions. Sofia gets very upset and it’s a struggle to get her to calm down. Alessandra: “I’m having a perfectly good time on this chair. Go s— in your hat.”

I think a nice thing to do for my mom was to go to brunch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Trustees Dining Room, a perk for museum members.

What I don’t realize is that the Trustees Dining Room at the Met is one of the most uptight places on this planet. Anything above a whisper automatically draws the scorn/disapproval of the wait staff and other diners. So for most of the brunch, we nervously stare at these two kids, not knowing whether they were going to have a meltdown and expecting the worst. The tension is kind of like that scene in Alien when the monster comes out of the guy’s stomach.

We try our best to not spoil our kids. This is a pair of socks.

Chapter 1: How You Are

“Another watershed event for me was taking you to see your first sporting event in person. I only took Sofia, as taking two children under three years old by myself to a game would be galactically stupid. As you already know, sports mean so much to me—but which event would be your first game, Sofia? I agonized over this decision the way students choose their colleges. You hadn’t yet shown a proclivity for basketball yet. Hockey…eh. What if a fight broke out and I’d have to explain all that? Football? I’d definitely have to explain why that Giants or Jets fan was urinating from the upper deck. The default would end up being a baseball game, but then again, Yankees fans are such high-and-mighty assholes, and the Mets…that’s an introduction to a lifetime of disappointment. Tennis’s U.S. Open it was. Was it overkill to be thinking this much about your inaugural sporting event when you weren’t even three years old? Maybe. Is it relevant that I pretended you were under two to get around the inane policy that any children over 24 months had to have a full-price adult ticket? Possibly.”

Sofia looking at the card that I gave her with all of my information.

In the middle of dim sum when one of our children tries to take off her shirt for no reason at all.

Here is what the girls do when I say I’m going to toss a ball to them. This is when I realized that they couldn’t rely on athletics for their academic future.

Halloween arrives, and we buy Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty princess outfits for Sofia and Alessandra. Sofia wears hers for about 2 weeks, leaving a fine layer of glitter all around the apartment. Alessandra wears it for about 30 seconds — hysterically screaming and crying — before we took it off.

About this time I begin telling my own stories, always about princesses, on the girls’ request. They end up being completely transparent ones, like “There once was a princess named Snow White who didn’t listen to her parents and had to be put into time out. And then she learned how to listen to her parents. The end.”

Funniest thing Sofia says to date: on the morning after my birthday party, when I was nursing a hangover, she points out the letter “D” on my t-shirt. I tried to go to the next level: “Good job! Now what sound does the letter ‘d’ make?” “Peanut butter.”

Sarah takes a long weekend to go to Miami with a friend. This is the food instruction list Sarah left me — note the bottom where she is telling me how to prepare frozen and refrigerated food.

We don’t let the girls watch too much TV but . . . it’s so damn tempting. It’s like you say, “OK, for the next hour, you will not utter a word and will not move an inch” . . . AND THEY LISTEN.

The girls draw a picture of me. Between 1) they have no artistic talent whatsoever and 2) I have a horribly ugly and misshapen head, I’ll take the latter any day of the week.

Chapter 1: How You Are

“Sofia, your abdominal pains had been first diagnosed as indigestion. Then it was something flu-related. Then on the first full night of the new year, you woke up screaming in the middle of the night and your mother took you to the E.R. You were so strong, just over three years old, having needles stuck in you, the blood seeping through the gauze.”

Sofia’s plea to get some sympathy for her boo-boo is completely rebuffed by Dave, who’s eyeing her disgusting hospital food.

Sometimes, you haul ass to the Bronx Zoo, carrying two strollers and ample provisions up and down subway stairs, only for the girls to be mesmerized by two ducks that popped out of the brush. It isn’t fair.

“We have to carry the bear with our towel because he can’t walk.” I never thought immobility could be so cute and hilarious.

Chapter 1: How You Are

“A parent’s experience is not complete without trips to the hospital. When the parent is more angry than alarmed—as when you, Alessandra, had to defy us and stick a plastic bead up your nose, which led to me cursing under my breath for the next hour until you sneezed it out—then we can all laugh about it later.”

With the Olympics on TV, I tried to expose the girls to as many sports as possible. After about 30 minutes of boxing — which had them riveted — they started to pretend punch each other. So that pretty much ended all boxing telecasts for them.

After the occasional visits to church, I ask Sofia for whom she’s praying for, she’ll actually respond with names of family and friends. When I ask Alessandra what she’s praying for: “Lollipops.”

Chapter 1: How You Are

“When we began to potty train you, Alessandra, you were able to pee in the toilet, but had a mental block for pooping there. It was like the finality of having your feces flushed down the pipes was just too much for you. Despite our best efforts to have you conform to the rest of society and take a dump in the toilet, you steadfastly stuck to this routine for a good couple of months: whenever the pooping urge struck (which was often, because you ate like a truck driver), you would ask for your diaper. You would remove your underwear, we put on the diaper, and then you would tell us to leave. ‘Go away! Go away.’ And then you would go into the corner of your bedroom. Usually you parked yourself before the blackboard easel and doodled with chalk, your legs spread apart like before Ronaldo is about to take a free kick (as a 100 percent Messi guy, I enjoy associating Ronaldo’s free kicks with you pooping). Five minutes later: ‘I’M FINISHED!'”

Chapter 17 : The Year You Were 4 and 3

“Sofia, for your fourth birthday party, we had a Disney princess come to our apartment. Both of you girls and your friends chose different princess dresses and basically turned our living quarters upside down. It was a good time, because it was one of your last birthday parties where the adults drank freely and mingled like the party was for them. Meanwhile, my insides roiled.”

Chapter 6: What TV Theme Show Songs from Cheers, Friends, The Golden Girls, Etc., Are Trying to Get At “This hill also provides an entrance to the Villa Borghese, one of the largest parks of the city. This was also the park where your mother and I rented a surrey bike and huffed and puffed for two goddam hours while you both sat in the front and squealed with delight and told us to go faster.”

When I overheard one of the girls giving a timeout to one of her dolls, that was when I realized I was probably giving too many timeouts.

The first Christmas the girls could really appreciate, at 4 and 2 years old.

And five minutes after opening their presents, the girls have completely forgotten the spirit of Christmas.

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