People ask a lot how old N will be when the baby is born. When I tell them, they say, almost without fail, “oh, that’s perfect. He’ll never remember life before her.” I don’t know why this is such a good thing. Continue reading
Hilarious things my toddler is doing these days:
- After seeing someone (his father, no doubt) dipping something in ketchup, N now prefers all his food with some kind of dip. He spends mealtimes smearing finger food into sauces, pinky extended daintily. The best part, though, is that he narrates: every dunk is accompanied by an exclamation of “Bip!” Seriously. Every single one. He also refers to all sauces as “bip.” I totally have that weird kid yelling “Bip! BIP! BIPPAHHHHH!!” when we roll through the condiment aisle at the grocery store.
- C owns multiple guitars, which he plays for N pretty regularly. N knows the word, which he pronounces GEE-towe. He’d be right at home as a member of a Dire Straits tribute band. Which I should start, and call Custom Kitchen Delivery.
- He’s a budding choreographer. Make that Choreographer/Dictator (which, incidentally, sounds like an AWESOME job). He’ll sit or stand somewhere, and then proceed to point to a spot near him where he wants each person to stand. He generally positions us so that we are facing him in a row. Awaiting orders. Or a firing squad.
- He recently learned how to give high fives. He won’t high five humans who request it of him, but he will spend half an hour running around after squirrels, birds, bubbles, and helicopters, fat little hand outstretched, demanding that they give him five. I don’t have the heart to tell him that none of those things technically have hands.
- He loves animals. Like, LOVES. We have been to the zoo several times, where he has (like you do) demanded that the meerkats give him five. We go to the aquarium, to the pet store. We have two enormous dogs, a cat, and a bird feeder where he can watch them to his heart’s content. His favorite pet? A computer keyboard. He drags it around by the cord like a puppy on a leash.
Not-hilarious things my kid is doing right now:
- He is learning lots of words (in two languages), which is fascinating to witness. However, he gets stuck on a new word and will say it over and over and over again at an extremely high pitch, with a question mark on the end like a valley girl in an 80s movie about shopping malls. He’s into birds rights now. The soundtrack to my day goes, “birdie?birdie?birdie?birdie?birdie?birdie?birdie?” interrupted by the occasional crash when he slams into a glass door trying to see said birdie.
- Taking every diaper-less opportunity, no matter how brief, to drop a deuce on a carpeted surface. Or in the bathtub.
- Acting like he has never been fed in his life. I have to be careful not to let him see me eat, if I want any of what I’m having. Or crinkle paper, since that’s the sound of food packaging being opened. And not to walk by the bakery, since he has learned that’s where they make the cookies. I feel you, kid, I do, but sometimes mommy wants to eat her lunch, and not just the half-chewed strawberries and still-warm-from-your-fist hunks of string cheese that you left on your tray. The other day he had what appeared to be a low-grade seizure because the macaroni was still in the pot and not IN HIS MOUTH.
- He loves music, which is great. It’s adorable to watch him bounce around when he hears something he likes. Unfortunately, what he likes best is the devil’s own invention: the “Meowsic Keyboard.” This is a truly terrifying piano in the shape of a cat’s head that my not-yet-forgiven husband bought for Christmas. There is a setting that makes every note sound like a “meow.” There is a setting that plays songs sung by tone-deaf children. They are written to the tune of well-known songs, but all the lyrics have been changed to be about cats. And if you stop playing it for a few minutes, it will purr (read: growl) and meow, to remind you that it’s NOT going to be IGNORED, Dan. I love my baby, and I love that you make him happy, but I will see you in hell, cat piano. HELL.
I speak to the baby in Spanish, and C speaks to him in English, so he’s learning words in both languages. He recently learned the word “no,” and when he shakes his chubby finger back and forth saying “nonononono,” he says it with a heavily Spanish accent. Guess we know which parent I am.
There are ways I want to be as a mother that don’t come naturally to me. In particular, I don’t want to hover. I want to let him learn and explore and make mistakes without trying to protect him from every disappointment or frustration. I check myself every day, a hundred times a day. Let him play alone, it doesn’t mean you’re ignoring him. Let him cry a little, he’s fine. Let him try to put the sock on his foot four thousand times (dude–you have to OPEN IT) and don’t intervene until he gets frustrated. Think before you say “no.”
To be clear: I do not intend to be all hippie-permissive. I don’t think a baby needs to make his own decisions based on what his soul tells him. No, you may not slap mommy in the boob because you think the sound is awesome. No, you may not throw all your lovingly cut-up food on the floor because it makes the dogs like you (even the one that REALLY doesn’t like you). No you may not stick that spoon/toothbrush/pipe cleaner in that outlet because the allure of putting a thing into another thing is too strong to resist.
If there’s no real risk, though, I’m trying to let things play out. Yes, you may put that playdough in your mouth–tastes like crap, right? Yes, you may walk a little further from me than is totally comfortable for either of us, because you will look back and I will be there (and I’m faster than you are). Yes, you may open and close cabinet doors, even though you mooshed your finger once, because now you know that mooshing is a possibility and you are careful. I read a great article recently about kids crawling up the tube slide. Yeah, they are going to take it in the chest once or twice, but after that they will know to look before they go in. Remember see-saws? They don’t exist anymore, because kids get hurt and their parents sue. I remember vividly (as I’m sure we all do), the day I thought it would be a good idea to put my feet up on the see-saw. And then the rat bastard on the other end jumped off, and I broke my ass. Happens to us all. But you know how many times it happens? ONCE. Because after that, you learn to keep your feet down, and more importantly, to watch out for rat bastards. These are important life lessons.
On the playground the other day, I was reading the rules posted on the fence. Pick up your trash, don’t leave kids unattended, the usual. And there it was at the bottom: “No Running.” ON THE PLAYGROUND. Yes, little boy, you may run. Because you are learning. And if you fall on your face, it will hurt, but you will be fine. I will applaud you if it’s a minor tumble and hold you if it’s a big spill. And I will try not to laugh, because let’s be real. Falling down is hilarious.
I assume I won’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom. A friend says to me at some point, “I LOVE my kids, but I don’t want to hang out with them all day long.” This seems totally right to me, totally reasonable. I’ve heard stories about people who go weeks without having an adult conversation, grown-ass women describing their one-year-olds as “my best friend.” I like work. I like productivity. I will love my baby, but surely I will want to keep the rest of my life the same as before, right?
Keeping life the same is, of course, a ridiculous notion in itself. It is, to quote Monty Python, “an act of the purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place.”
In the first weeks, I am a weepy mess, swearing that I will never remove him from the Moby wrap, let alone leave his side for even one second. A little later, postpartum depressed, I can’t stand to be away from him, but I can’t care for him myself. My new life will be lived watching my mother watching the baby. She’ll just have to quit HER job. After proper chemical calibration I think, sure, I can go back to work in 3 weeks. I can totally go back to work in 2 weeks. Work in a week? Um…yeah! Work tomorrow? OH HELL NO.
I extend my leave twice. I change the arrangement so that I go back half days at first. After all this generosity, I am allowed telework 2 days a week, indefinitely. I am lucky (for the U.S. anyway. I’m totally moving to Sweden before my next baby), and for a while it’s going ok. Eventually, though, he starts to get more fun. Like, WAY more fun. They should really make you go to work right after you give birth, when the baby is basically a good-looking meatloaf, and let you take maternity leave from like 8-11 months, when the party starts. I get to a point where I’m missing him all day, and I can’t believe I’m leaving those eyelashes and giggles and first words to come deal with the cloak-and-dagger drama of my workplace.
I talk to C. I ask him if there’s a way to make it work. Many discussions later, with each other and with our families, we decide. There is, in fact, a way to make it work: we will sell our condo and move into my mother-in-law’s basement apartment, so that we can afford to live on one salary. I know– but truly, she’s fantastic; this is not an arrangement I’d recommend for everyone. I feel like a deadbeat sometimes, being a full-grown adult living in a basement with my husband and a toddler. My childless friends look at me like I’m batshit insane, although how much this has to do with their mothers-in-law, I don’t know. Some of my friends with babies, though, are quick to tell me that they would do the same thing if they had the option.
I know there will be times when we all think it was a terrible idea. I know there will be times when I will long for a giant coffee, the internet, a door to close, and sweet, sweet silence. But last week, I quit my job.
Because who knew? Who knew I’d feel so strongly about being with this little person as much as I can, while he’s still adorable and not yet a douchebag teenager? Who knew that watching a baby thread dry noodles through the holes in a colander would be every bit as fascinating as a fancy job? Who knew that even on a bad day, when there’s whining and bitching and food-throwing, seeing him point to the cat and say “GA-TO!” would make it all worth it?
I sure didn’t.