Friday, February 26, 2010

Coming Clean

Tonight was a typical bath night in our house. Although they usually put up a pretty good fight about getting in the tub, once they are plopped into that warm, bubbly water, these little guys could not be happier. Eli sings to himself. Jonah tells "stories" with his bath toys. They pour and splash and slide around on their bellies. They laugh and squirt and make bubble beards and they almost never ask to get out. And yes, they do get clean, but for these little dudes, cleanliness is clearly NOT the main event; this party is all about the FUN.

As I watched Jonah and Eli splashing and swimming and singing in the bathtub tonight, I was struck with a sudden sense that, well, I can't imagine approaching my daily bathing with such zeal. First, to be honest, I don't remember that last time I actually made time for a bath. It's strictly showers here. And sure, I enjoy a good shower as much as anyone, but I don't just PLAY in there. I don't tell stories to myself or squirt myself with a toy fish or splash around just for the fun of it, and I don't remember the last time I laughed in midst of my daily shower. I am oh-so-utilitarian. I get in there to get myself clean, maybe shave my legs if it's a good day, and get out of there and on to the next thing.

At what point did I begin lose my children's incredible capacity for joy in the most mundane of daily tasks? When did the faucet cease to be something looked on with wide-eyed wonder? I'm not sure, and I fear that, if I'm really honest, I am most likely contributing to the loss of this playfulness in my little guys. I rush them around. I warn them not to splash so hard that they make a mess. I often set to work cleaning the toilet or the bathroom sink while they play in the tub, subtly and silently teaching them that there are MUCH more important things to do than giggle and float in a warm soup of Mr. Bubble.

But maybe with the help of my soaking wet boys, I'm slowly unlearning all those "rules" that convince me that every moment needs to be productive, that for adults, silly time is "wasted" time. I'm discovering that despite my grown-up agenda of toilet-cleaning and bill-paying and errand running, more often than not, a squeaky rubber duck and a shampoo mohawk in the bathtub is just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Good Night

One final lullabye

One last kiss

Curious George tucked in tight

I switch on the motorcycle nightlight

And quietly close your door.

I stand for a moment in the hallway as I listen to your hushed giggles

and I contemplate an evening's possibilities:  

read a book

eat a dessert with much, too much sugar for you

call a friend


drink a glass of wine

argue with your dad

pay some bills 

make love to your dad

clean the bathroom

watch a movie with foul language

practice yoga

take a long, hot bath

tidy the house of the very toys that will find their way back underfoot again tomorrow


All of these have lurked in the corner all day, watching me

And waiting impatiently for the few and precious hours

when you finally sleep.  

But later, as I pass your room again

I tiptoe inside, adjust your blankets, and lean down to breathe you in.


just almost

hoping you will wake.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Age of the Informed Parent (or, 500 Ways to Mess Up Your Kid Before He Turns Five)

We Gen X moms and dads have more parenting resources at our disposal than any parents in the history of the world.   If we're confused about where and how to put our babies to sleep, we can choose from a dizzying array of books, magazine articles, and websites stressing the dire importance of sleeping with your baby in your bed, NOT sleeping with your baby in your bed, rocking to sleep, nursing your baby to sleep, "crying it out", parent-led scheduling, child-led scheduling, swaddling, and NEVER, ever, letting a baby sleep on her stomach.  We know more about the complexities of breastfeeding, the dangers of BPA, and the intricacies of choosing the "right" preschools than our parents ever did.  So really, we should have this parenting thing all figured out, right?

Heavens, no.  We're more clueless, and anxious, than ever.  

As a self-proclaimed parenting book addict, I'll fully admit that all of the information overload has two main effects:

First, the guilt factor.  Now, I'm very aware that TV is not good for little people.  Numerous studies connect excessive childhood television viewing to increased rates of ADD, autism, learning disabilities, obesity, and just plain laziness.  I've done the reading and I believe all this, I really do.  I've never even owned a Baby Einstein DVD.  But here's the thing:  sometimes, a mama just needs a few minutes to make dinner, or sneak in a shower, or take an important phone call without her little boys smacking each other with toy golf clubs or "decorating" the walls with bright red tempera paint.  So yeah, my guys watch a little TV just about every day.  But really, as I'm turning on the tube for them, I often just wish I didn't know all that junk about how bad TV is;  I'm just trying to survive another day.  

Next, I think modern parents are often nearly paralyzed by all the scare tactics and endless options.  At a playdate this morning, we moms stood around the kitchen watching our toddlers romp in the adjoining room.  The topic of conversation revolved around how to best sweeten our foods without causing our children irreparable harm.  High fructose corn syrup?  Unthinkable.  Refined sugar?  Of course not.   Organic cane sugar, agave nectar, honey, blackstrap molasses?  Maybe, although one mother had recently read that agave nectar, sweetener of choice for many a health-conscious mommy, caused a whole host of problems.  What's an over-informed parent to do?  Eventually, we all just faded into a hopeless silence and munched our muffins.  

With all of the parenting possibilities out there, it's often too easy to forget that there's very rarely one "right" answer for every child, or every parent.  Even a quick assessment of my own two boys make that concept undeniably clear.  Instead of the endless array of books and magazines, I could often just use a good dose of grace for myself, a reminder that I'm doing the best I can for my little guys, and ultimately, that must be enough.  Yes.

There's gotta be a book out there to back that up, right?  

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Little People to the Rescue

It's been a tough week. Not the garbage disposal isn't working right kind of tought week, or the annoying parking ticket on your windshield kind of tough week, or the "my kid is kinda whiny and frustrating" kind of a tough week, but the kind of week that makes you want to just curl up in a ball and only come out to eat pints of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream. Tragedy in our extended family and some heavily emotional job/life decisions have made it a week full of endless late-night discussions, plenty of grown-up tears, and more prayers than we've prayed in a long, long time. This is life-changer stuff. 

But in the midst of all this heaviness, on the days when I've been most tempted to tend toward despair, one look at Eli with a grin covered in chocolate pudding or Jonah sharing his silliest knock-knock jokes offers me a much-needed respite from the larger struggles. One recent day, I was feeling particularly down when Jonah, upon learning that our local grocery store was open all night long, exclaimed, "I see... so wombats and King Soopers are both nocturnal!". It wasn't hard for me to find a deep laugh, laughter that made my heart feel just a bit lighter.  These little guys just keep doing their daily thing: we visit the geese at Golden Ponds, we bake brownies, we snuggle up before bed and read Curious George. We visit the the library, we run errands, we build Storm Trooper helments out of cardboard boxes.  My little boys have very little knowledge of the chaos swirling around them.  And although I'm sometimes envious of their oblivion, spending my days with them allows me, if only for brief moments, to be a little oblivious, too. Life with small children just doesn't allow for curling up in a ball; there are just too many diapers to be changed, PJ&Js to make, and games of Candyland to be played, and for that, I couldn't be more grateful.