Friday, February 15, 2013

What on Earth Was I Thinking??

In a moment of blind sentiment, I decided to take my 1 year old on a date for Valentine's Day.

I planned to do a little window shopping at the mall, eat at the food court and play at kiddie land, all while I smiled benevolently at my busy, beautiful and well-behaved offspring. When it was time to leave, I would quietly give him a five-minute warning, after which he would walk over to me, reach for my hand and we'd go home. There I would help him wash his face, brush his teeth, we'd read a book, cuddle and pray. Then, I would tenderly tuck him into bed for the night.

What happened was quite different. At 5:30, I picked up a surly toddler who'd had a very long day. He was hopped up on sugar from his daycare Valentine's party an hour before. He was also ready to eat dinner and be left alone. Instead, it took us an hour to get to the mall (note: he sucked down 12 oz of milk on the drive), where he protested (loudly) to being confined to a stroller while I looked at earrings. I rushed through a purchase I now regret then moved on to dinner. I eyed our choices at the food court and realized, "yeah, he's not gonna eat any of this crap." Instead, I spent $10 of a hard-earned gift card for a turkey and swiss sandwich and more milk.

I rode the elevator up to the food court to eat (did I mention he's terrified of elevators?), where he objected (loudly) to being confined to a stroller while we ate. Seeing a pattern, here? I scarfed down my food. He scarfed down his. Then he loudly protested that there was no more milk. I wasn't spending $2 on another carton--he'd already had sixteen ounces in two hours. I told him he wasn't getting any more damned milk (no swearing; but I felt like it). He knocked over his stroller in impotent rage. I dragged him, kicking and screaming, back to the elevator, decided it wasn't worth it, and did what I swore I'd never do. I hauled my screaming toddler, an overstuffed diaper bag and an umbrella stroller down the escalator. He wasn't in the stroller, but still...I work for an escalator manufacturer where I get almost daily reports of escalator injuries due to stupid choices that passengers make. Even before I worked here, I judged parents harshly for doing what I was doing. I learned a valuable lesson in humility last night.

During that ride, I discovered his diaper was soaked (Remember sixteen ounces?) and toted him to the family changing room. Thus ensued a 5-minute death-match over changing that diaper. I won, but not without collateral damage and a great deal of sweat. Thank God there were no mandated reporters in there.

Then I thought, "let's end this trip on a high note and go to the play place, instead of going straight home!" Dumb idea. Apparently, Valentine's evening is when fathers take their smart phones and their children to the play place at the mall, so they can ignore them in an enclosed space. These kids, like mine, are also wound up from earlier candy binges. I chased my ecstatic and blissfully unaware boy around a 20-foot enclosure for 25 minutes, begging much bigger children not to step on, roll over, push or otherwise maim him in their sugar-induced euphorias. After his last narrow escape from death, I decided to call it quits, which is when the top of his head exploded.

Okay, it didn't, but it surely seemed like it. I dragged him--arching, screeching, and hitting--out of the mall and into the car. He babbled angrily at me all the way home, where I stripped him, shoved him into jammies and tossed him in bed--no book, no cuddle, no prayer.

Yep. Mother of the year, right here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daddy Day Care

I’m a mom who works full-time away from home. I’m grateful for my work—I’ve got great benefits, a degree of flexibility and supportive work environment that allows me to respond to family emergencies, a place to interact with other adults on a regular basis and it (mostly) helps me to afford childcare when I can’t be with my son. In my mind, childcare is both a blessing and a curse. It’s so expensive that I know several parents who decided one of them would stay home with the kids because taking a job, simply to afford to pay someone to watch their kid(s) while they worked, didn’t make sense. In our case, neither of us loves that our boy is in the care of others multiple days a week, but it’s a necessary evil. As parents, we both need to work. I work for the benefits and intellectual stimulation and he, because he was born to make music. Were he not teaching young aspirants to play guitar, writing, engineering and performing, he’d shrivel up and float away on a breeze—and not in a good way. Knowing that makes it that much more remarkable that to keep down costs and to have as much face-time with Miles as possible, he’s sacrificed two weekdays of his more-flexible work schedule to care for our son since I went back to work when the baby was 3 months old. And since that first day, back in August of 2011, many hijinks have ensued.

Let me paint you a picture of life on Daddy’s watch:

-Pants are optional, socks encouraged to ward off cold floors. Comfort is the word of the day.

-No loop is ever completely closed. At the end of the day, my apartment usually looks like they were interrupted in the middle of many tasks and asked to vacate the premises, immediately. Or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe they were body-snatched by aliens for a father/son mind probe experiment and hadn't yet been returned by their captors. But he takes out the trash and recycling, no matter what.

-Messes are tolerated, vomit is forbidden. If I’m home, clean up is my job. If I'm not home, I will still get a call for moral support (which is usually an unspoken request to come home, asap). On the flip side, he will stand by and supportively apologize that Miles has spewed his lunch all over me and will verify that yes, this is truly gross and awful. Then, while I tend to the kid, he will spray any affected surface with cleaning enzymes (while swearing and gagging). High comedy. He's much better at poop than I am, though, and is way more respectful of (and patient with) wiener time on the changing table. Fair trade, I'd say.

-Drinks abound. The kid will never go thirsty on his watch. He plies him with a steady stream of liquids the whole day, whether he’s asking for them or not. Maybe he died in a drought in a former life, I don’t know.

-Mama gets all the kisses. He's not totally sold on the idea that it's okay to get kissed on the mouth by his son, but he's always a bit jealous that the buddy kisses me so freely, while considering it a game to avoid giving or receiving them from him.

-No choking. Our boy eats in big mouthfuls and makes gagging faces when he’s bitten off more than he can chew, which drives Daddy crazy. He regularly requests that we brush up on our infant/toddler Heimlich maneuver skills. Heaven forbid, but if it should ever become necessary to use it, I’m not sure if I’d put my money on him doing a bang-up job and saving the day or passing out, cold. We’ll pray that I never get that question answered.

-Sitters must be qualified. When considering outside child care, his concerns have nothing to do with early childhood certification. He wants to know if they remember to take the buddy's shoes and jeans off for nap time. It makes sense, I guess. One should be comfy while sleeping.

-No “babying.” When the boy is trying a new skill, he doesn't hover or help, like it's my tendency to do. He stands by and encourages him to keep trying. The kid always rises to the occasion.

-Good food is king. He won’t cook if he can avoid it, especially for a picky and ungrateful toddler who will reject it anyway. Also, he rarely keeps to any kind of eating schedule for himself, let alone the kid, but he has tasted every food he's ever given him, including baby food, because he wants to know what is good and why the kid likes it. He always offers a veggie, cares that the water is clean with good minerals and will go to three stores to buy organic. I do not have the patience (or stomach) to do this.

-No energy will be spent unnecessarily. He'll take a bath with Miles, forsaking any chance of peace and relaxation and risking unauthorized peeing, to save time and effort. He also still encourages two naps a day, though Miles can go with just one.

-Stop and smell the flowers. He values a meandering walk in the sunshine, daily roughhousing, and would rather hunker down on the floor making cool car sounds than to plop the kid in front of the TV (not that this doesn't happen in an emergency).

-Material things aren’t what matters. Miles plays with and climbs all over his expensive music equipment, because he wants him to learn how to use the real stuff. So I have a one year old who knows his way around a guitar, a drum kit, a Bluetooth speaker and more. I don't know how to work any of these things.

-Certain details are important—others aren’t. He won't notice if the outfit he puts on the buddy no longer fits, especially if it is one he loves. However, my taste will be challenged if the outfit I choose isn't up to his standard of cool. *sigh* There is no justice.

The daily drudgery of caring for a toddler isn’t his #1 choice of how to spend a day, but he does it like he does everything else—to the beat of his own drum, getting all the joy from the experience that he can. I’m sure he will breathe a sigh of relief when it’s no longer necessary, but secretly miss the good times. When it’s my shift, I often do things differently, but Miles never lacks anything important either way. In fact, he thrives. And let's face it, pants-optional isn’t a bad way to live.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

2012 was not my year. There are things about it that I loved—epic travels, building and deepening relationships with family and friends, rekindling my fledgling faith and desire for intimacy with God, and most of all, the precious front-row seat that I had to the buddy’s milestones—those things were delightful. All the rest? Not so much. It was rough and I felt every bit of it—on any given day, you could find me soaking up the hardship like a sponge and wallowing in the slog. I’ll be the first to say that a good mope can be satisfying. Fortunately, I can also say I've lost patience with downward spirals. It’s not who I am, nor is it what I want my son to learn about how to handle the bumps and bruises life will hand him. I choose to reset the balance of power between myself and my circumstances. All I can actually control in this life is my reaction to it. I hope by modeling that, with God and his daddy’s and my help, my son will become a man capable of the same thing.

2013 will be better. I’m certain of it.