Last night my wife had to leave the house for about an hour or so, right around what would normally be dinnertime, and so an opportunity arose for a timely bit of rehearsal. As I alluded to earlier this week, my wife is going back to work soon (June 28th, to be exact) and although my mother is coming to visit for a week starting this Saturday, which will help us ease into the transition somewhat as Nana can keep the kids at home on the days both my wife and I are at work, a week is only a week and retirement is still a good thirty years away. By the 5th of July I’ll be driving cross-town in the evenings (three nights a week) from the train station to the daycare center, picking up both kids, getting them home, and somehow juggling dinner for the little guy and myself with bottles for the little girl, plus a bath, pajamas, a snack and story and bedding down for the little guy with … well, I foresee getting a lot more use out of the two different mechanized swings we’ve borrowed from friends. (In fact so far we’ve used those swings extremely sparingly, and I’m not 100% sure if that’s because we didn’t want to waste whatever limited amount of magical soothing ability they might possess for the little girl, or simply out of pre-emptive guilt in knowing that my daughter is bound eventually to spend a lot of time being auto-swooshed back and forth when her brother is being wrangled toward bed.)
Thus last night was a bit of a dry run, me on my lonesome, outnumbered by an unpredictable toddler and an infant prone to late-in-the-day clusterfeeding. All I had to do was get through ninety minutes, max, and reinforcements would arrive. To the kids’ credit, things started out pretty smoothly. Little girl deigned to be placed in her bouncy seat for the time it took me to dish up a couple of chicken pot pies for myself and the little guy, and the little guy did not offer even token resistance to eating what was on the menu (despite no resemblance whatsoever to grilled cheese). Of course the baby didn’t remain content in her little fleecy chair for very long, but fortunately I am a fast eater and polished off my dinner so that I could pick her up and attempt to feed her, though she’s still somewhat iffy on bottles.
Of course things went downhill from there. Once I sat down on the couch to offer the bottle to the baby, that was exactly where the little guy wanted to be, too, and while its sweet that he craves physical nearness to his father and his sister, it’s less endearing when he wants to enjoy same while also flipping and tumbling in place and coming perilously close to kicking his sister’s noggin. And if I wasn’t raising my voice at him with warnings to sit on his bottom or get off the couch, then he was yelling at me for smooshing him. (Said smooshing came about, of course, because I was trying to settle the little girl down for another go at the bottle, via a combination of burping her over my shoulder and rocking my upper body back and forth at the waist, and each rock forward created a gap between my back and the couch which the little guy elementally needed to fill with his own body, only to be summarily smooshed as I would rock back again. So you see.) Then once the bottle was gone I opted to see if the baby would enjoy some time on the floor not being held so she could stretch her arms and legs, but as soon as I put her on her playmat her brother was practically on top of her. Not in a mean aggressive way, at all, quite the contrary; he was just excited to demonstrate his great affection for her without any parental intermediary cramping his style. Unfortunately his style involves a little too much … everything, really. Hand-holding becomes arm-throttling. Cheek-caressing becomes head-rattling. It’s like Of Mice and Men if Lennie were 2 foot 9. Hence, more voice-raising.
I had been trying to put off bathtime for the little guy until his mother got home but eventually I decided if I didn’t move on to that portion of the evening I could only discover previously undreamt of versions of “and then it got a little worse”. So by the time my wife did walk in the door things were actually reasonably under control: little girl awake but quietly content in her swing in her room, me and the little guy across the hall in the bathroom with the little guy happily focused on splashing around the tub. But of course I had to confess to my wife that the previous hour had not been my finest and I was exhausted, more than anything from the vicious cycle of hating to yell but not seeing any way around it when my hands were occupied with an infant and my voice was my only means of getting the attention of a small rambunctious child, with the unfortunate side-effect of making the little guy act out and wear me out more, which left me even more frazzled and prone to yelling, and so on.
Once the little guy was in bed, my wife and I got to talking about how things may not have gone very smoothly, but they also came up due to a singularly unusual set of circumstances. Once having the kids by myself has a chance to settle into a routine, it will doubtless more or less do just that: settle down. And the other silver lining is that, at least if I were going to crash and burn, it would be in a reasonably minor way with plenty of time afterwards to reflect and recover, as opposed to diving into the deep end and sinking straight to the bottom, right?
Here’s hoping, anyway. We’ve survived both me and my wife working while there’s a baby to care for before, and we can do it again, complications of the little guy’s ever-increasing free-spiritedness notwithstanding. But if the bloggery runs more and more headlong into the incoherent as the first week of July goes along, there’s no reason to wonder why.