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The Tortilla-Faced ManIt’s a different dating game when you meet and then marry in your forties. The back-dipping silver screen kiss may be followed by a rock for your ring finger, but neither man nor woman takes anything for granted when it comes to the notion “and baby makes three”.

In your 20s and even 30s, so many assumptions are made that the mating process is imbued with them—you are expected to produce an “heir” plus a few more just in case (although eight is still deemed way beyond enough (http://http://www NULL.google NULL.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen NULL.wikipedia NULL.org%2Fwiki%2FEight_Is_Enough&rct=j&q=eight+is+enough&ei=YpIQS7XcAtKonQfD-MjWAw&usg=AFQjCNFu_ps8k_gfoSpsywE6OWjhGfGK9A)). This is so inherent to the marriage process that I suspect that younger couples do not delve as deeply into the repercussions of parenthood as they might.

When Frank and I finally got together, the prospect of parenting was daunting—if not downright frightening at times. (Now we know such fears were entirely justified.) The wisdom of our years made us cautious. We knew that we were investing our lives into a commitment where there wasn’t going to be a “Get-out clause” further down the road.

Now in our 40s, we had the perspicacity to know we’d be travelling blind to what lay beyond every bend in the road; for most of the baby-making and child-rearing journey would be unpredictable and, at times, challenging. (Man, were we clueless!)

We never bargained for downright harrowing—the 3am screaming arrival of an ambulance and fire truck with a baby burning a temperature to the tune of 105 degrees and nearly strangled with croup; the day your 3-year-old did a disappearing act in the midst of Macy’s; or the day you’ve freshly changed the mattress cover and the sheets, to have them wet the bed in the dead of night.

Oh, and there’s so much more.

But Frank and I did do something—our little “parenting prophylactic”, let’s call it—that saved the day and our marriage on countless hair-raising child-rearing adventures in God’s little Amusement Park of Parenthood (which I’m sure was not created for our own comfort and enjoyment).

It was a simple exercise—before we were married, when Alex and Lizzie were yet to twinkle in anybody’s eye—we took long walks, interminable talks, and a negotiated a series of parenting deals on all issues big and small.

For example it was agreed that our children would take martial arts for discipline, dignity, self respect and defense. We agreed how the “birds and the bees” discussion would take place and with whom. (In fact, with Alex being 7, that fated fishing trip is about to take place at long last.) We agreed never to become religious fanatics and to avoid the false fanaticism of hockey moms and dads.

Whatever path our children chose, their motivation had to come from within.

Most of all, we agreed to support each other unquestioningly on two things: First, that we’d never undermine the other parent’s disciplinary approach in the moment, even if we disagreed with it (because it could be argued out later behind closed doors). Second, that if one parent claimed to be “losing it” with the kids, the other would drop everything and step in.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that we were the owners of such profound foresight in the midst of our nearly debilitating naivete on the matter of being parents.

However, no part of that agreement could prepare me for what was to come. Only in the last week, in the frenetic run up to Thanksgiving, did I discover the true identity of the man I had married.

And he was beyond my wildest girlhood dreams.

In the 1960s and 70s, television offered a virtual playgirl’s lineup of real beefcake men. There was Batman (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Batman_TV), Superman (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_New_Adventures_of_Superman_%28TV_series%29), Gemini Man (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Gemini_Man_%28TV_series%29), Man From Atlantis (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Man_from_atlantis), The Six Million Dollar Man (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Bionic_Man), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Man_from_U NULL.N NULL.C NULL.L NULL.E NULL.) (two men, actually).….and, of course, the mouthwatering Dr. Kildare (http://www NULL.imdb NULL.com/title/tt0054535/mediaindex) (Richard Chamberlain) who even gave my mother cause to pause over her knitting needles and ask plaintively: “Now why can’t I get a doctor who looks like that?”

(I think the TV McMarketing guys knew more than they were letting on.)

It was late Saturday morning and I was still in my pink fleecy pajamas when I had the bright idea that I would get the children together in the kitchen to sing and make some chocolate chip, pecan and oatmeal cookies, like Princess Giselle (who’d obviously been sniffing too much fairy dust) from Enchanted (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Enchanted_%28film%29).

Of course, I forgot that 7 year old Alex had rolled in from ice hockey practice after nine o’clock last night and Lizzie had been up late watching Yo Gabba Gabba (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=CMaECkONScA)—a children’s television program I find can often stimulate unexpected hallucinations in mothers suffering from either PMS, estrogen or sleep deprivation.

So, when I said “Let’s make cookies, children!” in my Giselle-voice, I thought they’d be, well, enchanted.

What proceeded can be best described as the opening frames to Nanny 911. Fighting broke out over meaningless territorial issues—who gets to hold the mixing bowl, one counting each chocolate chip and the other eating them as soon as they were counted, and bitter two-fisted grappling over the mixing hook.

I broke for lunch, sweat beading on my brow. They adamantly refused to eat a hot lunch, however, with Lizzie insisting that I’d buttered her bread the wrong way and Alex whining he hadn’t finished playing with his guitar.

So I called in the heavy artillery. “Fraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank! I’m losing it!” With that, I hastily left the room and my partner in parenting to his fate.

Fifteen minutes later, the screaming started. I was fearful. Had Frank lost it? I mean, really lost it? (If he had, I commiserated, but nonetheless, it needed checking out.)

As I walked down the hallway, the screaming was suddenly peppered with bursts of breathless giggling—the almost painful kind. I turned the corner into the kitchen and the children were standing up on their chairs with the last remnants of lunch dangling from their open mouths like the children of Jaws.

As the man who was once their father turned toward me, I became transfixed like Jamie Lee Curtis in the 1994 film True Lies (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/True_Lies), discovering the covert identity of her (hitherto apparently average) husband.

Yes, I was married to…The Tortilla-Faced Man!

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