The other day, I was at my wife’s restaurant. It was slow. Like, no-customers-in-the-entire-restaurant slow. The bartender had a wad of plastic wrap he had made into a ball and was tossing it at a small trash can. Over and over and over. He missed every time.

Then, this kid, the son of the kitchen manager, asked if he could have a try, and from about 15 feet away, this kid, this seven-year-old, drained the shot. Perfect.

The servers and cooks cheered. I gave the kid a high-five and said, “You are not allowed to ever try that again.” The kid asked me why, and I told him, of course, “There’s no topping that. Go out on top.”

I always assumed that, when I eventually had kids, I’d be learning as I went, and my wife would as well. Of course, that was before I married a woman who already had a daughter. So when we found out we were going to have a baby, immediately I was at a knowledge disadvantage. I’d have a question, and she’d have the answer. What’s the point in buying a hundred different books when I have a veritable expert sleeping in the same bed? It wasn’t really how I pictured having a baby for the first time.

 

seeking freelance writers to submit work about families, parenting and kids

 

I don’t say this to complain. Not at all. I’ve really come out ahead in the whole thing. My wife’s daughter, my stepdaughter (screw it, my daughter), Abigale, is awesome. She will be playing a game or reading a story, or any number of things, and she’ll stop randomly, and say “Daniel?” and when I respond, she’ll say “I love you,” and go back to her game like nothing happened. She wants to help cook, she loves singing along to any song I want to play, and – get this, and I’m not kidding – she loves cleaning toilets. It’s her favorite thing. The kid is six, and it just makes her day when we give her sponges and Comet and maybe some yellow gloves.

I have friends whose entire knowledge of Abigale is seeing her at the wedding, or seeing pictures on Facebook. Even those friends will send me texts about how much I won the stepdaughter sweepstakes, how adorable she is, how they can only hope their kids will be as cute as she already is.

That’s a lot of damn pressure, guys.

Abigale is my daughter. That’s how I introduce her, and how I think of her, but she also doesn’t have, you know, any of my genes. She’s half Laurie, half her dad. Now Laurie and I are expecting. So if my offspring isn’t awesome, amazing, texts-from-strangers adorable and toilet-cleaner responsible? Well, it’s clearly my fault.

To be clear: I’m not unhappy that Abigale is awesome, I’m not unhappy Laurie is pregnant, and I’m not unhappy that I’m behind on the knowledge front, but when my sister was growing up, it turned out she had no adult, permanent teeth for her bottom fronts. Just a genetic abnormality. My mom blamed it on her ex-husband. But then mom got re-married, had me, and I’m sitting here as a 33-year-old who still has baby teeth hanging out in his mouth. Sorry mom, that’s on your genetics.

That’s it, then. If every kid Laurie and I would ever have shared all the same genes, well heck, anything awesome about them is because of me, and any flaws they have are her silly genes. That’s how that story goes.

No such luck, though. Laurie’s pregnant, and if I end up with some jerky, uncute kid, one who won’t clean toilets, well, that’s all me and my genetics.

It’s like that kid in the restaurant – he shot the plastic-wrap ball again, because he loved the success. Only, the next time, he missed, and he missed badly. No one ever goes out on top.

You know what else? What adds to the pressure? What adds to the chances that my genes get blamed for some non-toilet-cleaner?

Laurie’s pregnant… with twins.