I was raised in a family of three brothers, raised among uncles, and I've raised a son. Now I'm taking on a new wife and three young step-daughters. There's a son, Derek, but he's attending college in Hawaii.
So I'm tackling the Brave New World on my own.I feel like the first man on Neptune.
Already, the girls are teaching me the facts of life. I should have no problem getting into the bathroom, I'm told. All I need is a reservation. My reservation is for March 23, 1992.
"Well, at least the grocery bill will be small," I told cartoonist Craig Holyoak, father of three daughters. "Mice eat more than these girls do."
"Did you factor in the cost of tissues and hair spray?" he asked.
"Your grocery bill won't be small."
These days I keep finding myself in un-chartered sections of department stores: girls' toys, female shoes, petite fashion. Every time I stroll through those places I hear the opening bars of "Twilight Zone."
So the other night I decided to get some insight. I sat down with 14-year-old Erica for a man-to-girl talk.
My question was simple:
"What's a good recipe for living with four women?"
"That's easy," she said. "You need four curling irons, four bottles of mousse, a well-stocked fridge - mostly diet pop - some tanning passes, some packs of gum and a budget for clothes."
"What about the stereotype I see on television," I asked, "that silly old cliche about girls talking on the phone all the time?"
"That's another thing," she said. "You might want to get `call waiting.' "
In Shakespeare, King Lear's three daughters eventually drive the old boy mad. When his favorite daughter Cordelia won't listen to him he cries out, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" and takes to wandering around the countryside wearing a little crown of flowers and spouting nonsense.
Former Deseret News columnist Clifton Jolley, dad of several daughters, once told me he could never be sure what he'd call his middle daughter when he was angry, but he knew very well what he called her when he was totally livid: "Cordelia!!"
Still, I must say I've found plenty of benefits. Having spent the past few months with and without my new family, I find I feel twice as alive when they're around. Church News writer John Hart claims we could solve the energy crisis by hooking generators up to children. And the energy my newfound daughters give off could light St. Louis. Some of it even rubs off on me. I sit amid all these gymnasts, class officers, dancers, singers and partygoers like that craggy old coot in the movie "Dark Crystal," the guy who achieves immortality by siphoning the "essence" from all the little creatures around him.
Sunday night, after a full day of siphoning, I collapsed in a chair by my future father-in-law in his Brigham City kitchen. He raised a family of five himself - all daughters.
"Well," I said, "any last-minute advice for me?"
He thought a moment, then said: "Have you thought about taking a second job?"