Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Buckle wild

A while ago, I was talking to one of my friends who happens to be single and childless and I indulged in a little bit of venting, expressing my a realization which had left me somewhat aghast, specifically that a great deal of my quotidian activity revolved around poop. Between walking the dogs, cleaning the cats’ litter boxes, and the fact that at the time I had only two kids and both the little guy and little girl were in diapers, I had constant never-ending encounters with excrement every single day. Of course that could apply to a lot of people, and it’s not really all that bad and certainly constitutes at least part of the price of admission if you choose to have pets and/or kids. There’s nothing to be done about it except to buck up and deal with it, and possibly call very vocal attention to it sometimes in order to revel in how ridiculous it is. It’s really only tedious when you dwell on it, and clearly I excel at resisting the temptation to overthink upon things.

I was thinking about this recently because, in the year-plus or however long it’s been since that first conversation, I’ve only gotten more and more accustomed to that being the way of things. The little guy is long-since potty trained, but the baby has taken his place in the diaper-wearing demographic of our household population. I think we have more cats now than we did back then, as well. I barely think about it any more (though I do need to remind myself to scoop the litter boxes tonight) but there is a new object of fascination for me which seems to dominate many a waking moment, one way or another. Don’t worry, this is significantly less gross.

Yes, the modern plastic buckle, also known as the side release. Let me count the ways in which it repeatedly presents itself:

- The car seats. Any time I take one or more of the kids anywhere, they have to be buckled into their car seats (and then unbuckled again when we arrive). The little guy and little girl have both gotten to the point where they want to be allowed to buckle themselves in, with varying degrees of success.
- Have I taken one or more of the kids shopping? Then they have to be buckled into the shopping cart, too.
- Forget the car, are we staying closer to home, maybe playing outside and riding bikes? Then the kids need to wear their helmets, and they are much farther away from mastering buckling something under their chins than across their chests or waists.
- The little guy wants to ride his bike but the little girl just wants to be pushed around in the stroller? That of course has buckles as well. And did I mention that when the little girl turned two earlier this month we bought her a baby doll stroller? COMPLETE WITH BUCKLES.
- The stroller gift came along a few weeks after the new baby came home from the hospital, and during that time we often had the infant carrier part of his car seat in the living room, as well as a baby swing and vibrating baby seat and so on. Both of the older kids, but especially the little girl, spent a lot of time playing with those items and trying to buckle dolls and stuffed animals into them. And then calling me in to help when they couldn’t make the buckles work. And then calling me in again five second slater when it was time to get the toy back out of the belts. I eventually had to draw the line and stop helping them play with those items. But my wife and I do use them for their intended purpose (the baby) and do plenty of buckling and unbuckling there.
- And last (and least), the pets get in on the action too, as our smaller dog has a full harness that we attach his leash to for walks. The smallest thing about that dog is his brain, and if we just clipped a leash to his collar, he would pull and strain at it hard enough to choke himself, hence the need for an apparatus that runs across his chest and puts the anchor point for the leash between his shoulders.

It’s perhaps worth noting that this whole buckle-mania thing is yet another example of the two halves of my life, commuting and working on one side, domesticity on the other. I wear my seatbelt when I drive to the parking garage at the train station, but there are no buckles to be found on the train nor anywhere in my office. It’s only when I’m at home, interacting with my children (and the dogs) that it seems like every time I turn around I’m clicking together or squeeze-releasing something for someone, trying not to pinch any skin or pull any hair while I’m at it. So no, I’m not literally dealing with hooks and catches and center guide rods and side holes around the clock; sometimes I’m in work mode, and sometimes I’m asleep. But obviously I don’t really think of work as my life, any more than I think of unconsciousness that way. I need money and I need rest and I do what I need to do to get them. The rest of the time is what I’m actually living for, and that’s where everything important is. Maybe that’s why I’m forever strapping things down safe and sound there.

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