Taking care of three kids provides a lesson in quasi physics.
When my first child was born, I understood that parenting was like poetry, and that if I could find the right energy and music for this tiny child, then I could make the narrative or the landscape work for her in a way that gave our new family as much joy as possible.
When my second child was born, I understood that parenting was really much more like a difficult equation. This frightened me. I hadn’t taken a math class since I was 18, but I could see that if I planned, if I put forth a great effort, and if kept some form of balance between the two sides of the equation, I could find a way to keep both my son and my daughter happy and healthy for a long time.
When my third child was born, I abandoned my love of poetry and my new appreciation for the elegance of an equation that ends properly, and I began to study physics. I read up on chaos theory first, because that seemed like a logical place to start. We had the challenge of a newborn in front of us (always a daunting task), but we were also outnumbered now.
So, what was I to do when the 8-year-old needed help with her homework, the 5-year-old needed to be told again that if he was to be naked for the whole evening then he would need to stay inside the house, and our new baby girl was screaming for any number of the reasons that a baby might want to scream? Luckily, I have someone to share this challenge with, but even with two of us working toward the coordinated goal of keeping all five of us alive and functioning at a socially acceptable level for the foreseeable future, the theory of it all felt lacking.
That is what led me to the study of supersymmetry. There are tethers that keep our world from coming apart at the seams, and though that balance of elementary particles is far too complex to hold onto completely when you’re attempting to clean the bathrooms amid the off-rhythm chorus of three children asking for three things that absolutely cannot be done at the same time, it does shed some light on the world we live in. It is, however, not enough of a proper theory to approach the quasi physics of taking care of three children at the same time.
This led me to look deeper into physics, into the new theories of physics, into the idea of physics beyond the standard understanding of our world. I needed the new, the unsubstantiated theories and the guesses at the fabric of our existence if I was going to find the poetry in parenting again. I looked into matter-anti-matter asymmetry. I looked into neutrino oscillations. I spent a weekend talking myself out of the idea that quantum gravity was a lie, and that maybe, just maybe, Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was a prank. I said that out loud to the baby, and she gave me the biggest smile right before she spit up in my lap.
Right now, I am theory-less. I know a little bit more about the absurdly complex machinations of our existence, but I still can’t quite guess at how to plan for today or tomorrow with these three beautiful and unique children. Right now, I have no tethers to correctly position me to be an excellent father, but as I write this, my oldest daughter is reading a book in her room, my son is building a gigantic block structure so he can destroy a gigantic block structure, and my baby girl is asleep in my lap.
I’ll never grasp the true intricacies of how or why these children act and react the way that they do, but I’ll be there the whole time. If I stay close enough, attentive enough to each of their orbits, I’ll have a good shot at being there when they need me to be there. The rest of it all is surely beyond me.
Darren C. Demaree is an award-winning poet, stay-at-home father and a member of the Columbus Parent Advisory Board. He has published nine poetry collections and has two more forthcoming. The Ohio Arts Council recently awarded him a 2018 Individual Excellence Award in Poetry. He lives with his wife and three children in Clintonville. Find him online at darrencdemaree.com.