1. People tend to forget that your primary job is to get them safely to their destination (Tulsa, adulthood, etc.) – not to keep them supplied with endless beverages, snacks, and entertainments.
2. You spend a great deal of time in close quarters with irritable, irrational people – particularly when the weather causes delays and cancellations.
3. Your job does not involve long stretches of time sitting around doing nothing (if it does, you’re probably doing it wrong).
4. Your job requires saying the same things over and over.
– “Please stow your tray tables in their upright and locked position.”
– “Aiden, the cat is not a footrest.”
5. You are required to do your job in a perpetual state of jet-lagged exhaustion.
6. Stepping away for a quiet moment to pee is surprisingly challenging sometimes.
7. Your job forbids you, on a regular basis, from saying what you truly think.
8. Your feet are sore at the end of the day no matter how great your shoes are.
9. There is a great deal of monotony and repetition in your day-to-day work, punctuated by unpredictable moments of sheer terror.
10. You find yourself answering a lot of questions that really don’t deserve a response.
– “No, sir, I cannot sell your 14-year-old a nip of Wild Turkey, even though we will all be on the plane for the next 12 hours so I know he won’t be operating a vehicle.”
– “No, Ella, even though Skittles are fruit-flavored and very colorful it is not the same thing as eating a bowl of fruit salad.”
11. Regardless of how frightened you may be, you always need to present a calm face – because all eyes are on you.
12. Patches of turbulence are inevitable.
13. No matter how bad things get, once you’ve started your journey, walking out is literally not an option.
(noun) 1. The precarious and inevitably ill-fated state one enters when one tries to quietly sneak into the kitchen and consume the last brownie.
(noun) 2. The mistaken belief that a parental infraction, upon being noted by one’s child, will not be brought up again ad infinitum in conversation (See also double jeopardy)
(noun) 3. The daily state experienced by parents of young children involving a rapid-fire barrage of endless, and often unanswerable, questions by one’s progeny, e.g., What is this song about? Are there bones in your tongue? Why do fire trucks live at the fire station? Are crab apples apples with crabs in them? What do hummingbirds look like? Is 42 less than 100? What makes the wind? What happened to the last brownie?
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I found myself back at the endodontist’s today, getting some stitches removed from the spot where my back molar used to be, and making small talk with one of the assistants there.
She asked if I had any fun plans for the weekend. “Trying to stay awake past 8:30” didn’t seem like a socially appropriate response, so instead I said, “No, not really – how about you?”
“Well, I’ve been looking for more ways to fill my free time lately…”
[At this point my suspicions were firmly confirmed: This young, cute woman is not a parent of small children.]
“…so I think I might do some of those planter terrarium balls that you hang in your windows. Of course, that will only take an hour or so, so I’ll need to figure out a few other things, too.”
Lorelei would love that sort of project, I think to myself. This girl has a fun-aunt kind of vibe; maybe she’d like some help. Lorelei’s brand of help would almost certainly extend the project beyond an hour. Heck, I could send Nicholas, too – he would probably destroy everything and double or even triple the project time, not including clean-up…
I actually said nothing of the sort, of course. But it did get me to thinking about the last time I felt like I had extra free time to fill. I think it was sometime before the Obama Administration.
Casting my mind back, I could vaguely recall ideas of taking an adult tap class, and even learning shorthand (because, you know, I need yet another way to illegibly remind myself to “buy milk”), but these never came to fruition. And now it will be several more years before I can squeeze in anything extra that involves more time or brainpower than, say, a nightly fluoride rinse. (This may be why I wound up at the endodontist’s in the first place, but that’s a story for another time.)
As all you parents of small children out there know, your free time – what little scraps of it remain – is readily and fully absorbed by those little monkeys, as if they were magical time Shamwows.
Yesterday alone, for instance, Eric and I collectively dealt with the following:
– A Mommy/Lorelei project involving the drawing of many crayoned flowers, to eventually be turned into floral crowns
– A trip to the playground (where there were, unsurprisingly, several other stir-crazy parent/kid combos there, despite the raw 15-degree windchill)
– A real-time, on-the-potty request for prunes to help move things along (from Nicholas)
– An impassioned yet short-lived hypothetical commitment to vegetarianism, by Lorelei, until she realized this would necessarily entail giving up pepperoni and chicken skin
– Separate requests from Lorelei to become a Girl Scout, have Daddy teach her soccer, have her birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and for Daddy to turn off the Red Sox game (in the fleeting few minutes he had between returning from work and collapsing into bed)
– An ongoing to-do repair list that includes a broken Sponge Bob figurine, a barrette that has lost its plastic flower, a well-worn-yet-much-loved pair of holey little-girl leggings, and a broken dryer handle (which isn’t directly kid-related, but for the fact that they necessitate astonishing amounts of laundry)
– 20 fingernails (10 tiny; 10 mid-size) that needed clipping
– A talk with Nicholas about the importance of nixing potty talk (except when he is actually on the potty and in need of prunes; see above)
– Nicholas’s modeling of Lorelei’s nearly-outgrown fuzzy pink sweater, known to us all as “the Muppets sweater,” which Nicholas claimed made him look like “Mrs. Pig.”
– 4 children’s books read
– 1 cup of spilled milk (which Nicholas was quick to blame me for, accusing me of overfilling his cup)
– Numerous hugs and kisses (some of which involved elbows to sensitive body parts and yelling in ears – and mouths – but all well-intentioned)
And that’s just it. No matter how exhausted or exasperated you get, you’re always ultimately very glad these little guys are around. Even if they do cut into your terrarium ball-making time.
(And all your other time, too.)
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Lorelei and Daddy finally got around to completing the castle today, and Lorelei is taking no chances on a repeat performance. She relayed this message to me via her patented carrier-bag-on-a-string-down-the-stairs:
My bum and I will be sure to maintain a safe distance from this point forward.
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Despite being one of the baldest babies on the block for a very long time, Lorelei is now sporting a thick head of gorgeous blond hair (currently cut into a shiny, swingy bob that would easily land her a spot in one of those Vidal Sassoon commercials from the 1980s).
I spend a lot of time looking at that pretty hair. It occurred to me yesterday, as I was seeing her off to her school-vacation-week camp, how often I’m saying goodbye to the back of her head.
She’s always so excited to be off and running to the next thing – whether it’s school, camp, a playdate, or even a dental checkup – that I’m usually a distant object in the rear-view mirror long before I’ve even left the room. This was true even when she was tiny, smiling at the big world around her from her perch in the Baby Björn.
This is one of the very best things about our girl.
I hope she’s always this excited to get out there and take on the world. And that she knows, even when she’s charging full-steam ahead, that I’m still there and behind her every step of the way.
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A few weeks ago, during music time at one of his schools, Nicholas was dancing with one of his teachers when he announced that he wanted to dance by himself for a while. She good-naturedly agreed – until he immediately turned to another teacher in the room and asked if she wanted to dance with him.
Poor form, to be sure, but the kid is a bona fide ladies’ man – and his moves are getting more sophisticated all the time. Eric reports that he’s got a real Betty-and-Veronica dynamic going with two of his female friends, one of whom he regularly exchanges hugs, smooches, and head rubs (it’s a 3-year-old thing, I guess) with at the end of the school day.
At swim class, we’ve watched him somehow wrangle a lengthy pool cuddle with his pretty instructor – not a hair out of place on his blondie head – while the rest of the group splashes away on their swim noodles. Nicholas, meanwhile, is barking orders and encouragement from the security of her embrace.
His charms are not reserved for the outside world, either. Lorelei got dressed for school the other day and started down the stairs into the living room. Nicholas looked up from his coloring at the coffee table and gave her a million-watt smile and a heartfelt “Hi, Beautiful.” She was appropriately dazzled. As Nicholas’s mom, I am more frequently on the receiving end of his tantrums rather than his charms, but every now and then I get a smile or a cuddle that disarms me.
The kid’s even got a new catchphrase. Every day, as Lorelei and I get ready to leave for the bus stop, Nicholas readies himself for the morning’s departures by announcing: “Say goodbye to Chocolate!”
I fear the world may not be fully ready for Chocolate. I know I’m not.
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“Turn back the clocks and get an extra hour of sleep!”
This is one of those rage-inducing things people with no small children say, right up there with “You’ll get a chance to relax over the weekend.”
If your children are already waking up at 5:30 am, turning the clocks back an hour means they’ll both be raring to go – demanding cartoons and doughnuts – at 4:30 am.
(And lest you think the solution is just putting them to bed later the night before, well, that’s a rookie mistake. Overtired kids don’t sleep in; they actually sleep poorly and wake up even earlier. This makes no sense, of course, but then very little about having small children in the house does.)
On top of messing with the clocks, everyone is already weird, overtired, and oversugared from Halloween. Case in point: Nicholas went down for his mid-day nap hollering “melon!” over and over for no apparent reason.
By the time tonight rolls around, everyone will be more than ready to collapse at what their bodies (little and big; parents too) are telling them is regular bedtime – but what the clock is mockingly declaring an hour too early to call it a day. It’s a vicious cycle, really.
Eric says what we need is not turning the clock back an hour, but a day that’s only 5 hours long. I think he’s onto something. We’ll call it “Parent Savings Time.”
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We were thrilled to get a lot of classic kids’ books at Lorelei’s baby shower, and she’s finally getting old enough to enjoy them. The other night she took out Judith Viorst’s wonderful Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
While the fundamentals of the story continue to ring true – some days are like that (even in Australia) – I was struck on almost every page by just how different the world is in 2015 than back in 1972, when the book first came out:
Then: The boys (except Alexander) find fantastic toys in their cereal boxes.
Now: Toys in cereal boxes? Cost + liability + choking hazard = out of the question.
Then: The car pool consists of 4 kids, plus driver, in a VW bug. One kid is in the front passenger seat. No visible evidence of seat belts or car seats. (All that’s missing is a lit cigarette, though perhaps it’s resting out of view in the ashtray.)
Now: This particular car pool would involve a Hummer, 4 well-anchored and suitably positioned Gracos, 4 cup holders filled with some kind of organic juice blend or soy milk, and 4 iPads – plus a half-caf no-whip part-skim Venti macchiato-something-or-other for the driver.
Then: Alexander’s teacher, Mrs. Dickens, is wearing a striped shirt, an argyle vest, and a herringbone skirt without apparent irony.
Now: Many variants (but, seriously – you’ve gotta love the fashions of the ’70s. I still miss my poncho and clogs.)
Then: The boys bring their lunches to school in paper bags and metal lunchboxes. They all have sweet desserts (again, except Alexander), one of which is a Hershey bar with almonds.
Now: 1) Metal and paper have been replaced with BPA-free polymerized lunch systems. 2) A Hershey bar with almonds would never make it within 100 yards of the average nut-free school. 3) No modern children’s author would mention a real-life brand without an endorsement deal and/or movie tie-in.
Then: The family takes a trip downtown to buy shoes for the three boys (Alexander’s choice, of course, is out of stock).
Now: Zappos. Amazon Prime. Etc. Nothing is ever truly out of stock but merely backordered.
Then: While picking up Dad at his office, Alexander makes a mess of his paperwork, knocks over his inkwell (!) and accidentally dials long-distance from the desk phone (!!)
Now: We still tell kids not to play with the copying machine, probably because we adults have enough trouble with them as it is. Side note: Anyone else remember those mimeograph (aka “ditto”) machines with the cool purple ink?
Then: Lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV (yuck on both counts, rules Alexander).
Now: Just one TV? That a parent controls? We can learn a lot from the 1970s.
Then: Alexander’s Mickey Mouse night light burns out and his brother steals back his pillow. The three boys are in a single room with one twin bed and two bunk beds – just like the brothers Brady.
Now: See Hershey bar product placement/movie tie-in note above; mess with the Mouse and Disney will sue you for copyright infringement before the ink is even dry on your children’s book. Bottom bunk has been replaced with loft space for creative play and clever storage compartments, courtesy of Pinterest.
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Some people have multiple cars, or multiple homes. We have multiple child care centers.
We didn’t set out to do things this way. Due to a recent change in my work arrangements, we’ve bumped Nicholas up from two days a week of child care to five. Unfortunately, his terrific center doesn’t yet have space for him on the other three days, so he is now at a different center on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (We have been completely transparent with the folks at the new center; they know we’re seeing other people, so to speak, and are fine with it.)
The new center is a great place in its own right, and Nicholas quickly settled in there. We were concerned that it might be too much upheaval for him, especially given our recent move – when we shake things up around here, we really shake things up – but on the very first day he was excitedly telling Eric about a new friend he’d made.
“Is it a boy or a girl, buddy?”
“What’s his name?”
“I dunno his name. But he wears girl socks.”
“Yeah, girl socks. And he have teeth like a beaver.”
Now, you’d think this kid would be hard to miss, but several more days went by with us unable to figure out the identity of “Girl Socks.” We did, however, all start to refer to him this way, e.g., “Did you play with Girl Socks today, Nicholas?” “I was sad because no Girl Socks was there today.”
Finally, this past Friday at pickup, Nicholas pointed out to Eric a photo of the “Kid of the Week.”
“That Girl Socks,” he definitively announced.
As it turns out, Girl Socks is a little girl – with short hair; hence the gender confusion – named Amelia. And she does not in any way, shape, or form have teeth like a beaver.
(We later found out, upon further probing, that she once pretended to have teeth like a beaver. If parents of small children were subject to the same restriction on leading questions as that suffered by trial lawyers, we would seriously be in the dark about everything.)
The jury’s still out on whether we will continue to refer to her as Girl Socks in the privacy of our own home.
When your kid’s teacher sends a note home asking for family photos for a collage project, and every single photo you own is already packed – except for the bizarro souvenir one from your recent pirate ship outing – because you’re moving soon, and you could print some photos on your husband’s color printer downstairs but it’s a little touchy and you’re not sure how it works and that seems like a lot of effort, and you decide to print out a few B&Ws upstairs on your own printer and think your kid is going to wind up with something kind of weirdly film noir for his collage and may be mocked by his fellow toddlers for it but you do it anyway and send your kid in with these printouts and an apology and your kid’s awesome teacher somehow makes it all work because she is way, way more on top of things on an average day than you are on your best day.
That’s how we roll around here.
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