Friday, January 23, 2009

An Exercise in Parenting

As my kids get older, I often forget those early toddler years when the simplest tasks were seemingly insurmountable. I could not change my clothes without an audience pointing to body parts and demanding an explanation. Attempting to speak to another adult was futile and consisted of half-finished sentences and lots of peanut butter and tears smeared on my pants. I could never make an appointment on time because invariably, someone vomited on my way out the door. Grocery shopping was more a search and rescue mission as my two Lucans-raised-by-wolves climbed out of the cart and dashed off in different directions only to empty shelves and knock over displays. Those years were so teeming with minute-by-minute obstacles, it’s a wonder my kids are alive and that I still know my name.

Now that my kids are 10 and 11, I have to remind myself of how much easier life is. Don’t get me wrong: they have moved on to new ways to torture me, some of which I have written about in this blog. But at least now I can shower, change and use the bathroom in private. Most days, I can usually have a complete thought. I can get to places on time without puke on my shoe. And we can grocery shop while having meaningful discussion about why Hot Cheetos and Double Stuffed Oreos are not part of the four food groups.

Two of my New Year’s resolutions for 2009 are: 1. getting organized and 2. putting my health back on the list. I promised my husband I’d sift through old files and actually throw something away this time.

In my sifting, I came across an email I wrote to my mother back in 2000. My kids were two and three. I saved the email to read to them one day, to instill an appropriate level of guilt for all they put me through.

Here it is:

Hi Mum,

I decided I was going to work out upstairs this morning and take the kids up there with me. I figured, with three boxes of toys, I could ensure at least 30 minutes of sweat.

Did I just infer "time to myself"? Somebody slap me.

I gated the top of the stairs and got them situated: Ally on Legos, Jack on trains. Hopping onto the Stairmaster, I admired my brilliance. Why hadn’t I tried this before? Look at them, lost in their wonderland of imaginative play.

Into my second minute, all toys were abandoned. The kids were orbiting me. Ally had her arms out and was whining like a broken appliance. Jack had joined me on the steps of the Stairmaster and was holding onto the back of my shorts (underwear included) and pulling them down giving me a classy, refrigerator repairman look. Ally grabbed one of Don’s barbells. Before I could reach her, she dropped it on her foot causing her to emit a screech not unlike a fire alarm. I’m pretty sure I need new tubes in my ears.

After much hugging and redirection, the kids were engrossed in new toys and seemingly reaching a state of nirvana. I tiptoed back to the Stairmaster and resumed minute three. I lost myself in my book and one page later I was jolted by the sound of broken glass.

Jack was perched at the gate with his arms up in a SCORE!-like position. He had discovered the meaning of cause and effect. A proud smile took over his face. He looked at me to share the moment. Gulping fear, I inched my way over to the stairs. I looked down. Littered at the bottom was a vast array of hurled objects -- toys, books, pillows, sippy cups, toilet paper, my Thighmaster and a broken vase.

Witnessing my horror, Jack unleashed a machine-gun ripple of a laugh. Ally took a peek and joined him. This was toddler humor. I wasn’t feeling it.

I figured I burned a few hundred calories between the stress and cleaning up the shards of glass. I decided it was time for Plan B: the tent. If there’s one thing I know about kids, it’s that they all love to hide under things. It’s universal. I tied my best sheets together and erected a tent that Jeff Probst would have marveled over.

Back on the Stairmaster and into minute 7 of my workout, I heard nothing but silence. It was an unfamiliar, out-of-body experience. Two minutes later, I was on the verge of breaking a sweat and was thinking this tent thing was the key to my new buff self.

Suddenly, I heard a muffled scream. I dropped my book and ran. Jack had taken the tent and rolled Ally into a burrito. She was about to be mummified and was hollering beneath the layers of sheets. I started to panic as I unraveled her. She was crying and red and panting.

I decided I had to separate them. I put Ally in the bedroom with a stack of my In Style magazines, thinking to myself, “Read this and grow up already.” I brought Jack with me and tossed him some Consumer Reports hoping he’d be able to figure out which Belgian waffle maker was best. They seemed enthralled by their new reading material and I attempted to finish another minute of exercise.

Somewhere in that time frame, Jack had slithered away into the bedroom with Ally. I was too busy basking in the silence to notice. Rounding my 10th minute of stair climbing, I heard the terrifying sound of giggling.

Oh no.

Every mother knows that giggling means we-are-destroying-something-and-loving-every-minute-of-it. I rushed to the bedroom and upon opening the door, I saw a large green fitted sheet on the bed under which two heads were bobbing up and down. As I lifted up the edge, out popped two guilty faces covered in crumbs. All over the bed were mashed up animal crackers. They grinned at me with the we-weren’t-jumping-on-the-bed look.

After cleaning them up and vacuuming the bed, I decided that I don’t need a Stairmaster because my kids are the greatest workout of all. Exhausted, I grabbed my two little monkeys and we fell asleep on the couch.




Jill said...

I can't tell you how much this made me laugh out loud...and the post about the haircut. My husband and children want to know what's up. Oh, I think we could be friends!

San Diego Writer Girl said...

Hi Jill,

I'm so glad you liked the posts! I have terrible writer's block right now and fear that nothing funny will happen ever again. My kids have been so good lately, which is great but not so good for the blog. They have always been an endless source of comedy. Thank you for paying me a visit!

Loren Christie said...

Do you have a spy camera in my home? ... If yes, please explain. If no, then YaY! Maybe I AM normal after all. Love your imagery! You are an excellent writer!!!!