The other day, I had Cy perched on the edge of the kitchen sink to “help Mama” do the dishes. By help, I mean I let him run his fingers in the water, splash around, and dip his fingers in suds while I tried to get the dishes done. I stood behind him so he wouldn’t fall off the sink, and interspersed my rendition of “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” with refrains of “No, don’t put your fingers in the dirty dishwater; that’s yucky” and “No, don’t pull on Mama’s plants,” meanwhile taking pauses between dish sudsing to discourage his hand from inserting suds in mouth or reaching for the glassware.
Might be someone would call CPS on me. But knives were well out of reach, no glasses were harmed, boy was entertained, and dishes got done.
It’s actually a little
frightening amazing how many borderline bad idea things I do to keep him entertained and keep my household from disintegrating into crisis (and keep my sanity intact).
I sit him up on counters (with my body as a guard), I let him make veritable messes (of my choosing), and I let him explore things that aren’t exactly toys (under supervision, of course), if it’ll keep him occupied and happy while I make coffee and a bowl of cereal, put away laundry, respond to any urgent phone calls or emails that can’t be done while he’s sleeping, or do any of the other million little tasks that pop up in a day.
I was reading a blog post yesterday that called bunk on the piece of parenting wisdom that says “it gets easier.” The author argued that it doesn’t get easier; it just gets different. You just trade in one kind of hard for a different kind of hard. At first, I disagreed. When Cy was less than six months old, taking care of the house (or my work) and him at the same time was impossible. He was what you might call a “high needs” baby. He needed my undivided attention almost constantly, so almost everything I did aside from child care was done when Toby finished work and could help with Cy. I scaled back everything in my life to the bare minimum.
Now, I can do so much more with him. I can run short errands with him if he’s in a decent mood, I can include him while I take care of small easy tasks, and I don’t need to be his entertainer nearly so much as when he was younger. I mostly supervise while he manages his own play.
But it’s all relative: I can do so much more than I once did, but still not nearly so much as I need to or would like. I still have to wait for evenings and weekends for many things; living my own personal life on the fringes of a day or week. And sometimes it drives me insane with impatience and frustration.
A couple days ago was one such time. I was itching to continue working on the final details of getting my book published (i.e. copyright registration and getting the ISBN), I was bored because Cy had been unusually clingy all day wanting me to read him the same books 7 or 8 times apiece, Toby had an unusually busy day, and I thought I would save us time by going to pick up dinner. Long story short, I got stuck in the worst traffic this side of Shanghai, Cy cried in the car almost the whole way (nearly 30 minutes each way) and I couldn’t do a single thing about it, I ran into several problems with the food, and I didn’t end up getting home until after 8, so we were still trying to eat dinner when I should have been getting Cy a bath and into bed. Turns out, my idea to “save time” took more than twice as long, and I still didn’t get anything done. Sometimes my impatience leads to really poor choices
But with the hard comes this other thing: resilience. Once Cy calmed down after the trauma of the car ride, he was all smiles and giggles again. I couldn’t help him while we were stuck in traffic, but I did help him get over it afterward. With each new hard you encounter as a parent, you (try to) learn and devise new and creative ways to be who your child needs you to be. Might be that things are easier now than they once were. Might be that being a mama makes me a stronger person than I once was.
Thing I Love About Cy Today:
Cy’s new favorite book is one that used to be his dad’s – all images, and no words. It’s about a little mouse who gets trapped in a book, but as he tries to nibble his way out, he discovers a whole ocean just outside the book. The book begins to fill with water, so the little mouse builds a boat and sails away. I narrate the story for Cy and every time we get to the end, I say “bye-bye mouse!” and Cy opens and closes his hand, waving goodbye to the little mouse.