“Synchronicity Two” by Chuck Nwoke
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
“I’m night-weaning Emeka,” my wife Anna alerted me when I met her in the park after a run. Emeka was two and a half, had dropped his naps, and wasn’t getting Dr. Sears’s preferred hours of sleep because he aggressively nursed at night, yelling and wrestling with his mother until he suckled himself unconscious.
Four months pregnant with our requisite second and sleep deprived, Anna, after deliberating with her attachment parenting group on her phone moments earlier, had already made up her mind.
“Okay,” I unconsciously replied, concerned more that grown-ups, smug with Gen X privilege, outnumbered the kids on my childhood playground three to one. With nothing more to say, I told Anna I’d meet her back at home and ran a little longer.
Bound to a demoralizing job by a hefty mortgage and a growing family to support, my life mirrored the emasculated protagonist’s life in the Police’s “Synchronicity II”: Every single meeting with his so-called superior is a humiliating kick in the crotch. My spirit was broken, leaving me aloof, withdrawn, and unresponsive as Anna chanted—in Sting’s words—her litany of boredom and frustration to me at night until Emeka summoned her to bed, and I later dozed off in front of the TV, resentful, wondering what it was all for.
I worked twelve-hour days and couldn’t get home earlier than seven, and Emeka’s bedtime was at five. I fought hard to have it pushed back, but Anna sought the counsel of what I was beginning to think was a mothering cult, who steadfastly supported her bedtime decision, calling it “typical” that I didn’t understand.
I blamed that narrative for why Emeka cried every time I held him, changed him, or fed him—pretty much whenever I looked at him. “Nooooo!” he’d plead, with his hand out to keep me away, before climbing into Anna’s arms like a tree-dwelling monkey to nurse for safety.
“They say it’s normal,” Anna always reassured.
Fuck they, I thought.
Because I knew Emeka was a happy kid. I saw it in all the jolly traveling gnome pictures Anna posted of their outings. His smile drove family to visit unannounced. His social calendar was filled with playdates. Young mothers sought enlightenment from Anna. To them, she was Mama.
But then Emeka got night-weaned. No longer was he a sweet edible sleeping prince saint in Anna’s eyes. Where pre-weaned he slept for two- or three-hour stretches, post-weaned he slept for ten to twenty minutes, never giving Anna time to do anything after his early bedtime. I’d get home and not see her until morning.
The hostage situation lasted into our third trimester—essential time alone in which I was able to think, find my way out of the void and regain some perspective, accept and embrace my familial role. Grow an erection again.
My sense of worth returned as Emeka surprisingly turned the corner. He missed me more and called me at work to tell me. Mornings, he got up with me and I made us breakfast while Anna slept in. It killed me to hear him wailing four flights down after I left, knowing I wouldn’t see him when I got home.
Until one day I came home to him barreling down the hallway in his pajamas to greet me at the door, his voice quaking with excitement, “Daddy, Daddy!” The rush I got when he jumped into my arms was narcotic.
Behind him waddled Anna, in tears. I asked what happened and, long story short, she told me her breast milk had changed to colostrum, which Emeka had no taste for, and because he wasn’t nursing, her remaining supply dried up. No one in her AP mothering community could help.
“Mommy is a failure,” Anna agonized, rubbing Emeka’s back, projecting how she felt through him.
Her pain palpable, I hugged her, kissed her, acknowledged her ordeal wasn’t easy, and apologized. I suggested she rest, reminding her we had another baby days away, and said I’d get take-out. Anything she wanted.
“Not tonight,” she said. Before skulking off, she asked if I was okay doing bedtime, said she and Emeka had talked and thought it would be nice if I did. Her words: “He wants you.”
He did. At only thirty-four months old, he’d suffered major heartbreak. Such human condition had given birth to religion, Camus, and the twelve-bar blues, and Emeka saw himself in me, as I did in him.
CHUCK NWOKE was born in Nigeria and raised in Houston. A sponsored skateboarder in his former life, his love for storytelling won out while in college. His stories explore themes of masculinity, identity, connectedness, and the absurd. He is currently trying to find a home for two novels and a story collection. Aside from fiction, he’s published music features and received awards for screenplays. He was last published in the Broome Street Review no. 5. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his family and their shoes.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: May 19, 2015
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