Tag Archives: parenting

Toddler Life, Chapter 419: We Have Lost Normality


Kids make you insane.

Not necessarily in that gibbering, banging-your-head-against-the-walls, strait-jacket kind of insane (well, maybe in small doses), but in the way that it warps the way you look at the world. The world a parent lives in is not the same world that a normal human lives in. We see things that are invisible to most people. We do things that make normal people scratch their heads in wonder. Our heads are constantly filled with bizarre fuzzy maths that would make the physics department at MIT weep. We tie ourselves in knots to make the world livable for ourselves and the future humans we are tasked with raising to adulthood.

Here are just a few of the strange behaviors that have become totally commonplace for my wife and myself since having kids (we have two, and that’s probably significant as well):

  1. Normal people can drink out of cups, but we can’t. If we have a glass of some beverage, and we leave that beverage unattended for even fifteen seconds, then that beverage will end up spilled on the couch, the carpet, the dog, or possibly the ceiling. The fact that we have cats plays in here, too, because our cats cannot abide an upright glass. So instead we drink out of bottles with lids, all the time, until the kids are asleep.
  2. Normal people lock the bathroom door to poop, but we don’t. I don’t even close the door all the way; I just rest it lightly against the frame. For some reason, the kids never want my attention so much as when I’m trying to drop a deuce; something about the fact that I’m bent over, pants around the ankles, making my offering to the porcelain god brings them scrambling. And here comes that mental math I mentioned: I can lock the door (which will keep them both out) or simply close it (which might keep out the 2-year-old), but then I have to suffer the slings and arrows of a tireless banging on the door to the chorus of “DADDY? DADDY? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Or, I can give them easy access, and put up with the lesser indignity of relieving myself in front of two future humans while listening to them prattle on about the bug they just saw or the piece of candy they want or why does it smell funny in here? (Generally, the prattle wins out over the banging on the door.)
  3. Normal people can buy just one of something, but we can’t. When we buy treats — and let’s go ahead and establish that a “treat” is anything special that one of them gets that isn’t basic sustenance — we have to buy two. Two bags of popcorn at Target. Two kiddie sundaes at the restaurant (not that we take them out to eat with us, but on that rare occasion…). Two silly little paper hats. Case in point: just this past weekend, we were at the grocery store and saw on the endcap (by the way, the people who design end caps for grocery stores and for Target seriously need to be shot, or at least saddled with a 2-year-old and forced to walk through their own stores) a cute little pair of Minion goggles. You know, the annoying little blobs from that Steve Carrell movie, Despicable Me? Well, my son loves those things, and the goggles were only a couple of bucks, so of course I picked them up. My wife immediately went to pick up a second pair for my daughter. She doesn’t even like the minions, as far as I can tell, but the point is, my son had a thing, so it was gonna be a problem if she didn’t have that thing, too. So we double up, and fill our house with twice as much crap.
  4. Normal people check the thermostat maybe once or twice a day, but I have to check it somewhat more often. This makes me crazy, because the thermostat is not a thing that changes on its own, and I feel like an insane person looking at it as often as I do. But little kids love pushing buttons, both the metaphorical and the literal. Seriously, they had somehow managed to turn on the heat while it was 95 degrees out the other day. Luckily, I caught it before the house or any of us combusted from the heat. Because I check the thermostat more often than your dad does. Every time I walk past the thing, I check it. Very OCD, and I am not even a little OCD.
  5. Normal people know what “no” means, but we don’t. The word “no” means nothing in our house. For two reasons. First of all, it obviously means nothing to the children. My wife and I say it and say it and say it, but they keep asking or doing the thing that had us saying “no” in the first place, so we clearly haven’t taught the meaning of this simplest of words properly. Then, there’s that thing that happens, you know, where you say a word over and over and over in rapid succession and, like a soggy Cheerio, it just kind of disintegrates in your mind? Like the syllables and the letters come apart and the meaning just evaporates? Where do words come from, anyway? What’s a language, for that matter? How are we even able to communicate at all?

There are more, but I have to go check the thermostat.

How about you, dear readers? In what ways have your kids fragmented your reality?


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Childish Energy


Child, Cool, Dress, Fun, Hero, Red, Feeling, Kid, Boy

Tap, tap, tap.

It’s six AM on a Saturday, and my 4-year old is tapping on my forehead.

“Daddy, it’s Friday o’clock. It’s time to wake up.”

I grumble and open one eye at him. “Friday isn’t a number, Sprout. Time has to be a number.”

He thinks about this and says, “Dad, it’s Saturday o’clock.” Which is closer to correct.

I pull the sheet over my head. He climbs up on the bed and jumps on me. Why? Because he’s awake, the sun is coming up, and he’s ready to start his day of watching cartoons, eating fruit, drinking chocolate milk, running around in the yard, tormenting his little sister, chasing the cats, coloring on the walls, and all the other things he has to do. His schedule is a giant blank slate, but he runs from one thing to the next like he’s trying to stretch out time by moving close to the speed of light.

Seriously. He runs everywhere. To the kitchen. To the bathroom. Up the stairs to his room. To the car. After the dog. In circles around the coffee table. Everywhere. And, to shamelessly reminisce upon my post from a couple weeks ago, he does nothing halfway. With every task, every diversion, he throws himself into it like … well, like a 4-year-old hurling himself into a bouncy house.

He’s that kid that adults see and think, I wish I had that kind of energy. Imagine what we could get done! But the fact is, we do have that kind of energy, we’ve just forgotten how to channel it. We work at jobs that wear us out physically or mentally or emotionally or all of the above. We come home from those jobs tired, wanting nothing more than to collapse on the couch and watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or whatever Netflix show is binge-worthy this week. And it’s all we can do to haul ourselves into bed a few hours later to steal a few hours of blessed sleep before it’s time to do it all again. We don’t have energy because our momentum sucks.

We watch TV because it’s that time of day. We heave ourselves out of bed after hitting the snooze button three times because we can’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, my son has seemingly endless reserves of energy because he’s always moving. He doesn’t rest because he just got done coloring or because he just wants to sit down for a minute after a hard day. He rests because he has to. He’ll run fifteen laps around the playground, then come to me and say, “daddy, I’m tired, I need to take a break.” And he does. For about two minutes. Then he’s up and running for the slides again. In fact, I can hardly ever capture a decent picture of him because he is always in motion.

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He doesn’t even touch the *ground*.

 

He has an urgency to everything he does that I wish I could recreate. He does everything in his life like he knows it won’t last forever.

And we can too, if we let ourselves.

Momentum matters.

We come home and watch TV for hours because our momentum sucks. We drag ass and sleep in and laze around on the weekend because we feel like we need the rest to muster ourselves for another week at work. But that’s only true if we view the movement, the activity, the doing of things as an obstacle in our day.

But these things are not the obstacles in our day. They are the stuff of the day itself. They are the stuff of life. Your job. Playing with the kids. Going to the store. Cleaning the house. This is life. And if it wears us out, well, okay, maybe that’s what happens. But energy is transformative. The more you spend, the more you seem to have.

It’s why I feel like I can get more done on a day when I run than on a day when I don’t. It’s why I feel like I need to write for an hour after I push through grading a whole stack of papers. The days I feel like I can’t get anything done are the days where I just never got started and can’t break out of the funk of the negative momentum.

So, back to my son tapping on my forehead.

Six AM on a Saturday. I’d rather be sleeping. But I’m coming downstairs. Making him breakfast. Taking time out to write a little bit while he chases the cats around.

And now, I think I’m going to go chase him around the yard a little bit.

You know, fill up the tank a little.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: It Even Snows in Atlanta


The world is not equitable. The playing field is not even.

Sure, most of us start with more or less the same genetic code, and people are generally people wherever you go, but there’s no telling who’s going to be naturally gifted at this thing or that thing. Some great writers languish, undiscovered, for their entire lifetimes, while the Stephanie Meyers and the E.L. Jameses of the world spread their cancerous tripe like a brush fire. Some of the best athletes the world will ever know have never set foot on a proper field or court.

All of which makes it pretty darn reasonable to throw in the towel. Getting discovered is a mug’s gameIt’s who, not what, you knowProbably, you’re too old anyway to take up anything new. Old dogs and all. Right?

And that’s the problem with our culture. We think that we’ll never get to the top, so we give up on our dreams before we even take the first step. I’m never going to lose the thirty pounds I’d like to, so let me chomp down on this pile of cheeseburgers and watch reruns of House all day. This or that measure won’t solve every single problem with gun violence, so let’s not even bother disrupting the status quo.

We have such a distorted view of success that we’re afraid to reach even for the hem of its garment. We might not be perfect, so let’s not even try to be decent.

But that’s bullshit. Kids know it.

Give my kids a couple of crayons, and they will gladly launch into a whirlwind of artistic expression. They’ll branch out from doodling on paper to scrawling on the walls to decorating the family cats, then bring their work to you with a face-splitting smile saying “look what I did!” They take pride in their work, even though it’s crap, because they have no conception of what good work is. They have no idea — and are therefore not concerned — that there could possibly be somebody else out there doing anything better than what they are doing right here, right now, at this moment.

And that’s where this insecurity stems from, isn’t it? The constant comparison, the inescapable knowledge that while I’m sitting here tying myself in knots to bang out a few more words on my novel, Stephen King is somewhere in a mahogany study probably twenty pages deep into today’s copy. Every word better than mine, and by dint of that betterness, more valuable, and once we start talking about value, well. Steve’s words have value and mine don’t. It is as unlikely as a blizzard dumping two feet of snow in Atlanta that my words will ever be as valuable as Stephen King’s.

So why bother?

When we focus on the prizes that the things we could do bring — publication, wealth, an adoring audience … or a slimmer waistline, or a smaller number on the scale, or a promotion at work, or a new car in the driveway, or a medal or a trophy — we take our eyes off the road at our feet. Now, having a goal in mind is great. You have to dream big and aim high or you really won’t have a shot. But the prizes we’re aiming at — or the prizes we’re told we should aim at — aren’t the only prizes out there.

You can run for the serenity of it rather than to be the fastest. You can play pickup basketball for the distraction and the exercise and never have to worry about getting picked for a team. You can write for the sheer joy of it, or for the rush of playing god with the lives of the tiny beings you’ve created, or because it relaxes you, or simply because you have a story to tell.

I may never get published, or never reach the audience I hope to, or never make a dime off my writing. But I think I’d be okay with that. (I mean, it’d be a bummer, but I like to think I’d be okay with it.) I’m having a damned good time telling stories, even if it’s just to myself. Even if I’m never even a patch on Stephen King.

Then again, every now and then, it even snows in Atlanta…

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This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Cloistered In


When a nun pledges her life and her various other parts to God, she goes to live in a convent. Those convents have some fairly archetypal architecture, like what you see below:

File:Cloister of the monastery Unser Lieben Frauen Magdeburg.jpg

This covered walk is called a “cloister”, and this particular feature of religious buildings led to the expression of something being “cloistered”, or shut in and closed off from outside influences.

We won’t be going, today, into the particular irony of a religious institution requiring its most devout believers to live such a cloistered existence, or the fact that such an idea itself comes from religious ideology.

Rather, the metaphor of the cloister. It’s an important one, a powerful one, because so many of us live cloistered lives. We wake up at the same time, drive the same roads to work, see the same people, eat the same things for dinner. Our own footsteps mark the boundaries beyond which we dare not tread.

And there’s something to be said for that. Routine is important, and not only to the writer. (Just try moving naptime up by an hour on your three-year-old, for example.) But as much as time inside the box is vital for our comfort, well-being, and peace of mind, so too is time outside the box critical to keep us from living life in a rut. I realized the other day that I have some co-workers who are almost friends (as close, I guess, as a co-worker that you only ever see during work-related functions can come to being a friend) whom I have not seen in months. The reason? Their classrooms are on the other side of the building from mine.

You can find the cloister as deep down as you care to drill. I write at pretty much the same time every day, even down to the weekends. I park in the same parking spot at work, even though we don’t have assigned parking. I run the same routes over and over when it’s runday funday. We even try to have the same meals on the same nights of the week, just to cut down on that tiresome discussion: “well, what do YOU want to eat?”

It takes effort to break out of the cloister. We’re so closeted in with our routines, with what’s normal and easy, that we resist doing anything else. Our cloisters are climate-controlled, with blackout curtains and indoor plumbing. If we don’t make the effort to leave them behind now and then, they can and will swallow us whole.

So, how will you break out of your cloister this week? This month? This year? (Don’t wait to make a New Year’s Resolution — start today.)

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.

The Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image above is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at //commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cloister_of_the_monastery_Unser_Lieben_Frauen_Magdeburg.jpg under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.


Toddler Life, Chapter 331: Dinner Plans


Parenting is nothing if not a slow ceding of control over your own life to humans less than half your size. You think you’ve got things more or less figured out, and then along come the sprouts and you realize that not only is the world not what you thought it was, but it’s incredibly and ridiculously more dangerous than you thought. I personally can no longer do the dishes without keeping a wary eye on the upturned silverware on the tray in the dishwasher. Incidentally, you also learn just how slippery certain surfaces can become when covered in chocolate milk or melted popsicle or (and this is happening alarmingly often of late) toddler vomit.

Control slips away by degrees.

First, it’s sleep — you are now slave to the sleep schedule of somebody who has no need for an alarm clock to wake up at 4 AM or earlier.

Then, it’s evening entertainment — gone are the days of late (or even evening) movies. Banished are quiet dinner dates. No more can you even enjoy a leisurely glass of wine while cooking. The rugrats steal all this away in great grabbing gusts.

But there was another milestone, another reckoning of just how far we’ve fallen, and it’s come over the past few weeks, because our oldest has started to develop a taste and preference for certain foods. Pizza is a big hit, though he knows he can’t have it all the time. Grilled cheese is a several-times-a-week favorite.

But you know the toddlers are running the house when you’re having bacon and eggs and pancakes for dinner on a Wednesday.

Respectable adult life, I hardly knew ye.


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