I know this is a controversial perspective in some circles, but I consider kids to be a good thing. And from that standpoint, John Lynch has THREE good things! Two of his good things arrived very recently, in tandem. (Sorry to keep calling your children ‘things,’ by the way, John.) Whenever I see John, no matter how much poop he has scraped away that day, he is always as cheery as a crisp apple, bursting with life and full of projects. For those of us still on the pre-kids, a-cat-is-hard-enough-to-keep-alive, side of the divide, this is an intriguing phenomena. Because kids aren’t what scares us, but rather, their parents. So without further ado, ladies and gentleman, John Lynch presents: Secrets of a Sane Parent.
1. What I like about you and Wendy is that you have not gone off and gotten practical haircuts and reduced every aspect of your lives to things child related. You still do things like build houses, write books and play in rock bands. So what is the secret to having kids and still having a cool life?
I have always considered my current haircut the pinnacle of practicality — I cut it myself with clippers in about 10 minutes: what could be more practical? But I get your point. What is the secret? Neglect your kids so you can appear to be “having it all”! No, seriously, I think the key (having watched many couples do what they do with varying degrees of success) is simple: support each other. I know, it sounds stupid and Deepak Chopra-like (though I have no idea what he sounds like), but if you care about what makes your partner happy (because seeing your partner happy makes you happy), you make choices and compromises that allow your partner to be happy. The crazy thing is that if you do this, unless your partner is a dick, your partner will likely reciprocate. Boom. Done. Cool life. No one gets to do everything they want to do, but no one is left feeling like they’ve given up everything. It also helps if one half of the partnership has very very small aspirations and doesn’t actually care that
much if they happen or not…
2. What is your average day like and how much sleep do you get?
On average, the boys are still only sleeping about 3 to 4 hours between feedings. On rare occasions, they will go 5 hours at night — these are gifts. Feeding, changing and getting them back to sleep takes about 30 minutes for two people, or 45 min to an hour if you are flying solo, since the kids have to cared for sequentially instead of simultaneously. This means that, in general, our sleep at night is interrupted every 2.5 to 4 hours or so, we do our 30 minutes of work, and then back for another couple or three hours of sleep. Surprisingly, you just kind of adapt to this, though I think it’s been harder for Wendy (oh, and Wendy sometimes has to pump breastmilk after the feeding to keep her supply up, so sometimes she has to stay up another 20-30 minutes after I go back to bed, so that might contribute to things being harder for her…). So that’s the average night: I usually fall asleep around 11 pm, up anywhere between midnight and 2 am for a feeding, back to sleep for a few hours, up again between 3 am and 6 am, and then possibly back to sleep for a couple hours (unless it’s now 6:30 am, and then sometimes I just stay up…). I think I’m averaging about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night. I’ve never been big on sleep — I think it’s overrated — so this hasn’t been terrible for me. I am definitely more tired these days, but that’s what coffee is for. The average day is still being established. We just hired a nanny who comes for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. This has been great for allowing us to get work done between 10 am and 4 pm. Breakfast and dinner are kind of the same: keeping babies happy while trying to feed everyone else is like juggling cats. It’s different every morning and every night. Sometimes we can actually sit together and
eat (Sam, Wendy and I), and sometimes it’s just chaos, with one of us feeding a baby while cooking noodles for Sam and the other one changing a diaper and dreaming about running away with the circus (where one would hone one’s cat juggling skills). On average, everything is taken day by day, minute by minute. You just react to everything as it comes up. This is good for me (never good with plans) and horrible for Wendy (a planner to the core). But we’re doing it because what else are you going to do?
3. Having newborn twins and one non-newborn, but still quite small, child sounds overwhelming. What are the tiny pleasures that help you keep your equilibrium throughout your day? Are there any rituals that keep you afloat in a time of maximum stress and minimum sleep?
In the early weeks, when my body was still adjusting to less sleep, I required calm in the morning. This came down to two things: coffee and music. And the music I was listening to was music that I either hadn’t listened to in years (if not decades) or music that I rarely listened to: renaissance choral music (Tomas Luis de Victoria is my favorite, but also Josquin Des Prez, Ockeghem, etc), and quiet jazz piano (Bill Evans, mostly). I would wake up and my nerves would be frayed, but I’d put on some music and it was like, “ok, I can do this… one minute at a time…” And the ritual for staying calm in the evening was basically the same, but you just substitute beer for coffee. Just have to remember: stimulants in the morning, depressants at night. Don’t get mixed up!
Also, a very consistent stress-reducer has been (don’t laugh!) re-runs of Friends. Wendy and I used to watch Friends when we first started dating — we actually looked forward to Thursday night date-nights with Friends and Seinfeld, etc. So Friends has been with us from the beginning (1995) and is like comfort-food. We have a DVR, so I set it to record every re-run on every channel, so every time Wendy sat down to pump or breastfeed, there would be “new” episodes to watch. Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Ross and, of course, Rachael… very calming… They’re like crack.
4. What is one small good thing you can recommend for a parent? It can be anything (including this Michael Jackson video of ‘Dangerous’ live that I have watched fourteen times now).
One small thing? Hmm… I like my baby sling. It looks silly and like I’m inappropriately appropriating other peoples’ culture, but I like how it tightly holds the baby to my chest (unlike other baby carrying apparatuses [aparati?]) and you can feel his warmth. Also, it puts the baby to sleep almost immediately, no matter how angry the baby was before it was put in the sling. The only downside to the sling is that it can only hold one baby. I’ve seen youtube videos of mom’s carrying two babies in two slings, but I haven’t attempted this daredevil maneuver yet. I actually did a post on my blog partly about the sling (with photos):
my answers were longer than I intended. Sleep-deprivation gives me logorrhea.
You can read more about John’s wacky misadventures on his blog.