The time we have with our daughter during the work week is pretty limited, but we try to make the most of it. We get about an hour with her in the morning before dropping her off at daycare, and in the evenings once we pick her up it's about another 2. So we basically spend 3 hours each work day with our child, which I never really thought about until writing this. Part of me feels guilty for relying on other people to watch our child, teach her things we should be teaching her and help her grow and develop as a human being. The other part of me is jealous that she gets to basically hang out all day with her friends, run around and play without a care in the world and take mandatory naps while I'm stuck at my job in front of a computer wondering what I'm doing with my life. Screw guilt, now I'm just jealous.
After we pick Olivia up from daycare our evenings pretty much go on auto pilot, as we've developed a fairly solid routine for her from the minute we get home to when we put her to bed. It's basically as follows:
- bottle (aka bah bah) as soon as we get home
- playtime with whatever piques her interest (toys, anything with shiny lights or digital displays, feral animals, power tools, etc.)
- dinner whenever she gets cranky enough, or shows signs of hunger (e.g. getting our attention by dragging us into the kitchen, pointing with one hand at the refrigerator while the other points intently at her open mouth)
- bath time depending on how much dirt she's accumulated during the day, or how much food she's used as mascara
- some more playtime if she shows no signs of being tired
- final bah bah followed by bedtime routine
While the above seems pretty basic and easy to pull off, there will almost always be a tantrum, tears or some small thing wrong with the way we look at our child which can and will complicate the process. Some nights go off without a hitch, and you wonder which planets are in alignment and what people you need to pay off to make it happen again. Other nights you get your child down for the night, close the door behind you, find your spouse and stare at each other in bewilderment while simultaneously exclaiming, "Did that just happen?" What happened recently is an evening that falls directly, with the burning speed of something entering Earth's atmosphere, into the latter category.
On this particular night we got home and Olivia didn’t want much of the bottle I gave her. She mostly just played with it and asked for the milk to be replaced with some of the whiskey she knows I hide in one of our kitchen cabinets. I refused, reminded her that she's not old enough to drink any of daddy's medicine and made a mental note to hide that in a different location after she's down for the night.
We played together for a bit, but I could tell she was getting cranky fast and decided to head to the kitchen to start her dinner. While I'm prepping the food my wife comes home, settles in and leads baby girl into the kitchen to see what's going on. Olivia wasted no time in letting us know that she was hungry, but the food wasn’t ready yet, so Jodi grabbed a piece of chalk and asked Olivia to help her write on the chalkboard wall in our kitchen. O marked a few lines on the wall before she decided that it was no fun and began scrawling on our kitchen table and chairs, a habit we're currently trying to break. J tried to get O to write on the wall but she wasn’t having it and threw the chalk to the ground, watching it break into a few pieces. This amused Olivia and she decided she wanted to do nothing but pick the chalk back up and throw it down to break it again. We tried to stop her from doing this, and that's when she broke into a wail that only a siren could appreciate.
Dinner was ready, so J quickly transferred O to her high chair and got her strapped in and bibbed. I offered her a piece of the pasta I'd prepared and she promptly tossed it aside with another siren shriek. She's gradually becoming more aware of her voice and how she can use it to convey her frustration in ear piercing fashion, so she's making sure she uses it whenever she gets the chance these days. I offered another piece with the same result, so we then had to figure out how to stop our little blond haired, blue-eyed nuclear reactor from melting down completely and actually eat. Parenting 101: bribery. J broke out a packet of fruit snacks (teensy fruits), O wiped away her huge tears, does the "gimme gimme" motion and, with that, dinner began.
With only a small portion of the pasta I'd made gone, it's clear that Olivia is not really into eating. J began to remove the tray from the highchair and O just loses it again. We couldn’'t figure out what was wrong and Olivia decided to show us in the only way she knew how: grabbing her right foot, bringing it up to her mouth, opening wide and biting down on her big toe. Jodi and I gave each other a "What the fuck?" look and tried hard not to laugh at the absurdity on display in front of us. O opened her mouth to release the toe, paused for a second, and then rubbed her tired eyes WITH THE TOE SHE JUST BIT. I swear, I'm lucky if I can bend down to pick something up without making the old man "oof" noise every time. I don't know where she gets her flexibility from, but I can only hope that someday she'll run away to join the circus, become a successful acrobat and eventually fight crime at Batman's side. Or maybe something safer, like a yoga instructor. A badass, crime-fighting yoga instructor.
Where was I again? Oh yeah, she's rubbing her eyes with her big toe. Obviously she was tired, but instead of getting down she wanted to sit tight in her highchair and demanded that we give her these chalkboard markers that Jodi had sitting nearby. J pulled one out and handed it to Olivia. O pointed at the marker box and demanded another. And then another and another until finally she had her arms filled with these markers that are about the size of her forearm. She gave us this devious look with a smirk that said, "Mine," and then finally allowed us to take her out of the highchair. We moved to the living room to play a bit more with the markers, but eventually got another eye rub from her (sans toe) and I made a beeline to the kitchen to prep her last bah bah of the night.
I met up with J in O's room for the next difficult step of the evening: changing the diaper and getting pajamas on. When she was a baby, Olivia would lay on her changing pad for a while and hardly squirm at all. These days you'd think her changing pad is a mechanical bull and she's holding on for dear life. She bucked and kicked and wanted nothing more than to sit up and avoid any type of changing. So Jodi took the top half, holding O's arms down and trying to shush her while I took the bottom half. I got the diaper off, grabbed a fresh one and came back to legs that were flailing all over the place. I yelled out, "The power of Christ compels you!" a few times, which disoriented O because she's not old enough to watch scary movies yet and has no respect or appreciation for referential comedy, and we eventually managed to get the diaper and pajamas on.With the bottle finished and only a handful of attempts to try and get down to play instead of calming down, the bedtime routine is initiated and I can put Olivia down for the night. I closed the door behind me and Jodi and I just stared at each other in disbelief. We had no idea how we managed to get through this night, but I can guarantee that we were both thankful and lucky to have one another to lean on. We grabbed each other in a long embrace and as we let go I whispered in her ear, "Want a bah bah?" She gave me a strange look, wondering what I meant, and I vanished into the kitchen. I opened our fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer for me and a cider for her, feeling we deserved a celebratory drink after witnessing the full blown crazy on display that night.