February 19, 2008

And I thought I was such a good parent

For a while tonight, I was really proud of my parenting ability.

It turns out that daycare is closed on President’s Day, but Microsoft isn’t. So Molly & I divided responsibilities for the day. Molly watched Alex in the morning while I was at work, and then I came home and Molly went to work for the afternoon.

Molly was the wholesome parent. She took Alex to the zoo in the morning, where he got to visit with our friends Eva, Rainier, and Johan. When she got home around noon, I was already home with my oh-so-nutritious lunch of McDonald’s. Alex was thrilled. He proceeded to sit at the dining room table for almost an entire hour and ate all of my fries. Clearly he’s a future gourmand.

He then took a long nap (3 hours!). At 4:00, he woke up and I somehow managed to get him out of the house to go to the neighborhood playground. We spent some time chatting with neighbors on the way. I was proud that I got Alex to walk most of the way to the playground instead of carrying him, which is the way he normally gets there. He had a great time playing, and I got him back home without incident. I told him we were going home to eat dinner, and he answered, “Long noodles?”

“Yes,” I said, “You can have long noodles.”

I was a little surprised that Molly wasn’t home when I got back to the house. She’d called when we were on the way to the playground. We didn’t have much of a chance to talk, as Alex was about to dart into the street, but I thought she was on her way home. “Surely,” I thought, “she’ll be home any minute. In the meantime, I’ll get Alex’s dinner going.”

Well. It turns out that the only “long noodles” we had in the house was some fresh pasta we’d bought at the farmer’s market over the weekend. So, on the fly, I both cooked Alex a meal of pasta, peas, and olive oil AND improvised a dinner of pasta, mushrooms, sausage, and chicken stock for Molly and myself. And I managed to do this with Alex constantly underfoot, demanding to see what was happening on the stove or picking up a jar of spices and saying, “Smell!” (He’s no longer content to pick up the spice jars and shake them. Instead, he and I sit down, take the top off each spice jar, and smell the spices. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are his favorites.)

As I was finishing cooking, Molly still wasn’t home. “No matter,” I said to myself. “I can handle all of the cooking, and I can feed Alex on my own.” As I put the final touches on the improvised adult meal, and I finished preparing Alex’s meal at exactly the same time, I was in awe of my own ability to run a household.

But then, behind me, Alex said, “Potty?”

I turned around and he had his pants down to his ankles and he was struggling to get his diaper off. At the pinnacle of my excellence as a parent, Alex decides he wants to get potty trained. I run upstairs to get a clean diaper and diaper wipes, then run downstairs to bring Alex over to the toddler potty that Molly bought him a couple of weeks ago. With his pants pulled down but his diaper still on, he happily sat down on the potty on his own.

Here was my real test as a parent. Do I get that diaper off him now, maybe clean up a mess, and let him learn how to use the potty? Or do I let him just sit there with his diaper on, and then have him eat dinner?

Well, since you all know me, you know I chose the lazy and non-messy route. I let Alex sit there with his diaper on. And after a while, I started talking about “long noodles” with him, and he pulled up his pants (with my help), washed his hands (with my insistence), and went to the dining room table to eat his dinner of long noodles, peas, and olive oil. I ate my nice meal at the same time. Eventually, Molly came home, and everything mostly returned to normal. We ate, we finished our meals, we did the dishes.

And as we were doing the dishes, I saw Alex reaching into the dishwasher to play with some plates, and he came back with some gunk on his hand. As I was currently scrubbing things in the sink, I told Molly, “Ugh, Alex has some crud on his hand. I think it’s a mushroom from one of the plates. Can you clean it off?”

“I don’t know,” she said, when she took his hand and wiped it clean with a cloth. “It doesn’t look like a mushroom.”

Then it it me. “Oh no!” I said. “Is it poop?” Molly looked at Alex’s back, and sure enough, the back of his shirt was brown and chunky from where he’d shoved it down into his diaper and then pulled it out. This is the same diaper that had probably been poopy since Alex had wanted to sit on the potty at the beginning of the meal.

He was a mess, and his clothes were a mess, and thank God Molly was home because I don’t think I could have handled it on my own. She cleaned him off and put his clothes in the laundry while I wimped out and got the bath water ready.

So much for my superhuman parenting skills!

Written by Brian Dewey.

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