Thursday, July 11, 2013

Five Days with a Toddler

I've been staying with friends this week, attempting to work remotely with a toddler running around. I have learned things.

THIING ONE: I can do about 10-15 minutes with the child before I'm bored/annoyed/want to do anything else but wait on her every need, and this is a child I adore. On This American Life, in its Back to School episode, Ira Glass referred to babies (as seen through the eyes of teenagers) as "these incomprehensible bundles of need", and that's what this child is.

She isn't a bad child, by any means, she's just two, and that's what two-year-olds are to me. It's especially the case for toddlers who aren't verbal. She's bright and appears to comprehend well, but she's barely talking aside from babbling, which just plain frustrates everyone, including the baby.

THING TWO: The primary job of a toddler's caregiver appears to be keeping her from accidentally killing herself. Not just hurting herself, mind you — pain is an excellent teacher, and if she learns that putting fingers there means pinched fingers, that's a life lesson. I'm talking possible DEATH. It's the stray piece of sharp(!) plastic in her mouth that came from god knows where. It's the heavy thing on the shelf she can just barely lift. It's the gate above the stairs you swear to god you clicked shut — or hell, did she figure that out too? It's keeping her from putting her finger in the dog's eye/ear/butt and pissing him off. It's the drawer she figured out how to open and the knife you carefully set on the counter that's juuuuuuuuust within reach of her tiny fingertips because she developed the ability to stretch just a little further. It's constant vigilance.

THING THREE: As a parent, your life is a series of little messes. Cereal bowls poured on the ground, crackers crumbled on the sofa, yogurt covering the baby. Diapers and dishes and blah blah blah. So many messes, all the time. And when she's cleaning up, the baby NEEEEEDS her attention, so while she's doing the dishes, baby is whiiiiiiiining, a sobbing mess on the floor because she's not the center of attention. Mom has to turn off the part of her brain that says "I am causing my child pain" because it's not pain. It's manipulation. It's a game. Which leads me to…

THING FOUR: Holy crap, are toddlers manipulative. Figuring out when they're hurt and when they're crying wolf is a crapshoot. Everything is a crisis. Not responding to a whine? Try a cry? Let's make it sound like I'm in pain, that you're actually harming me. It's awful. To someone as sensitive as I am, it quickly becomes emotionally overwhelming, even though I know that taking my Kindle away from her so she doesn't destroy it is not actually causing her traumatic physical pain.

They say it's different when they're your own kids, and to that I call bullshit. It's not different. You just have the love that balances out the awful more, but it's still awful. On a bad day, Mom calls baby the Soul Sucker. While baby is up, it's all about baby. She wants to work, but realistically she can't concentrate on work until baby is in bed. It's not different. It's just "worth it" I guess?  I don't know.

And it's not just that. It's the series of broken Xbox controllers from being thrown around. It's Mom's brand new iPhone that got dunked in her cup of water because all the sippy cups are dirty, and the shelves full of things pushed way to the back, out of baby's reach, and the annoying door knob covers and drawer locks aimed at keeping her from getting into things she shouldn't get into. It's the screaming when she DOES get a hold of the expensive, breakable thing you tried so hard to keep her from getting her hands on. But it's "worth it"? I guess?

I found myself escaping into the basement to work in peace this week because even when baby wasn't bothering me, her emotional neediness, mom's frustrations, they weighed on me so much that I couldn't focus on my work. My guilt weighed on me too, for being annoyed when the kid is just being a two-year-old.

The adorable moments are great. But this week, I recognize those moments and say "these are the moments they say make it worth it. It's just not moving me." Right now, she's breaking up saltine crackers and crumbling them into the sofa and I've lost my will to tell her not to do it. I can't anymore. I'm tired.

It's now just one more mess for mom to clean up. Lucky her.


Lyz Grace said...

Whew, that was exhausting just to read. I completely agree with your statement that it's not any different when they're yours. That sentiment never made any sense to me. So... the behavior of a child that irritates me after 20 minutes would be more bearable if I had to LIVE with it and CARE for it... just because I was the one who baked it?

I used to think that the martyr moms were just being overly dramatic and I would roll my eyes at them. Now that I'm working in an office full of moms and hear complaints day-in and day-out I realize that it honestly is its own degree of torture. Not that there aren't still dramatic moms out there, but... no thanks. I'll stick with being the cool aunt who can sugar them up and send them home.

Anonymous said...

Boy do I hear this - I have a 14 month old niece and while I love her, I know I couldn't deal with taking care of her 24/7. I just don't have it in me to spend literally every waking moment entertaining and watching her.

Amber Keeler said...

Totally understand where you are coming from. Next week I go on vacation with my family. All 13 of us stay in one house, so I'll be subjected to my brother's kids. Every single time it reminds me why I take birth control so vigilantly.

Anonymous said...

It is so clear you don't want kids. Shut the blog down, get sterilized, and move on with your life. We get it. You are too childish, self absorbed, and clueless to even attempt motherhood. So move on and enjoy your life! To write about it for seven years only focusing on the messes of raising children shows most of us you simply don't get motherhood. And you never will.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly the point. She doesn't want kids. Slow clap for you figuring that out. And the reason she blogged about it for such a long period of time is because it is a never ending struggle which is dealt with on a daily basis for the rest of one's life. There is no difference between her blog and the never ending stream of mommy bloggers moaning about the trials and tribulations of raising children. And hey, some of us would LOVE to be able to get sterilized, but would you believe we get told its a "childish, self absorbed and selfish" choice to make? How shocking. I guess you simply don't "get" that there is a world outside the decision of motherhood that comes with its own challenges.
Childfreeme, keep doing what you're doing. The younger generation I'm in can really use the support. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, keep it up!

Childfree regards and hugs from Germany

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog- thank god! My husband and I are childfree by choice, and we don't really have any support. We are the only DINKS we've ever met (yes, true!) as we live in a little city in Australia where everyone wants to be a parents but us. And yes, we will move.
For the 'Anonymous' who wrote above, they just don't understand that being Childfree is a constant battle- literally everyday we are questioned for our choices. Something that most parents don't ever get because 'it's so worth it' covers it and it would be rude for me to say, "No it isn't, in my opinion" right back at them.

Thank you for this blog!!!

:-D Bubble Bee said...

It only crossed my mind last night to search for child-free blogs (squeezed my eyes shut thinking 'they must exist - I hope they're normal and not baby-hating crazies'). Yay you're here!

Hubby & I are 32yrs old, child-free and have just emigrated to Canada. He's finally caught up with me in thinking we can do ANYTHING - we're not tied to one place/person/thing! :-D

I love spending time with our little nieces. I am also working with children/families because I believe kids/parents need all the support they can get. I'm energetic and it gives the parents a break. 2-5hrs later I leave... :0) still not feeling any urges!