And the last installment of #SoD finds me posting from my actual home, in Baltimore, after driving ~3,300 miles and flying cross-country to Seattle and back all in 12 short-but-sometimes-long weeks. All told, Gabe and I visited or traveled through nine states (Maryland, Delaware, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington). What’s odd though, is that on Wednesday I was relieved of the primary parenting duty and I’ve gone primary-parenting cold turkey. (Jenny and Gabe stayed in New York, as I had school meetings on Wednesday and Thursday). Some observations about going cold turkey:
- The last 48 hours without him constantly around have been eerily quiet and calm.
- I haven’t sat on the floor or ground at all. Like not once.
- I haven’t had food stains on my pants or shirt.
- Without organizing a single logistic, I worked out, watched some TV, read a book, wrote, did laundry, unpacked, and went through a mountain of mail. And that was just in the afternoon! I feel like a superhero, where efficiently checking off a to-do list is my superpower.
- And I’m not nearly as tired as I was at the end of the day during the summer.
- But there have also been a lot less laughs and giggles going on. Gabe and I usually get our laugh on pretty good. I was excited to pick them up from the train station on Thursday!
That’s an incomplete list. I suppose it’s easy to be around Gabe in quantity because he’s got such a happy and silly disposition. Sure, there are times when he’s cranky, but if he’s fed and had a nap, he’s a smiley delight. So going cold turkey is nice for some things, but it’s definitely not without cons.
Now, as a best-of recap, here are some of my favorite moments this summer:
- At the small municipal park in Philadelphia, where one day a dad and an older toddler were playing chase (toddler chasing dad). Gabe wanted to play too, but he was too slow, and would start running at the two as they passed him, at which point he would turn around and take a few steps, only to have them come whizzing back by him. He never caught anyone, but he loved the game.
- The slow afternoons on the grounds of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, especially in the small lawn behind the bar, where we would blow bubbles and play with bean bags. I would juggle three bags and he would watch, laughing, then he would try and just throw tow bags in front of him.
- In Maine, one of the neighbors had a small playground area. The family bought a car-shaped toddler swing. Gabe loved it. It was red, had a horn, and had a steering wheel. He swung on it every day and would point to it whenever we went on walks.
- At the public pool in Leavenworth, WA, where Gabe ran around in the shallow end in literal circles shrieking with excitement at being in the water. Then he would, at random times, put his face into the water and come back up for air immediately, a huge, whole-mouth grin on his face.
- In Seattle, there was a playground that we would frequent and we met a 5-and-three-quarters year-old (her emphasis, not mine) who wanted to show Gabe all her tricks—hanging upside down on the monkey bars, going on the big slide, and pushing him on the swing. It was a really fun and funny half-hour.
- Lastly, I enjoyed every small town library we found—from the ones in Waterford and New London to the amazing one in that tiny town in Rhode Island that I can’t remember. Gabe got to run around and play with new (to him) toys and tear books of the shelves; we bought cheap books; Jenny got to nap; everyone survived the long car rides.
Over the course of the summer, I definitely learned some things. Here is another (incomplete) list of the things I realized while primary parenting:
- If something doesn’t go right—like a forgotten bathing suit, an accident on the playground, or an inopportune poop—the parents are usually way more upset than the kids. Usually the incident is funny in the I-can’t-believe-this-is-my-life-right-now sort of way.
- The world is not constructed to make your life easy as a parent with an infant or toddler, let alone a parent of a kid with any sort of condition or disability.
- Toddlers are divining rods for Dangerous Objects. No matter how well hidden or how small a Dangerous Object is, Gabe will seek it out immediately.
- These darn little kids do precious, adorable, cute, silly little things all the darn time. It’s non-stop!
- It’s OK, and probably a good thing, to not be entertaining or interacting with your kid at all times. It’s definitely not sustainable from a personal standpoint. Perhaps other parents can hang with their infant/toddler all day and keep activities rolling, but for me, there was always a time between 3-5pm when it was all I could to trail after him, making sure he wasn’t playing with some Dangerous Object.
- Primary parenting is a Jay-Oh-Bee: job. It’s work, and just like work it can be fun or mundane; it’s something where you have to keep learning to stay good; you perform better when you’re fed and have had some good sleep; and it can be done poorly, adequately, or excellently—and I’ve seen all of three on display at one playground multiple times. On any given day, I probably did all three (but hopefully more of the ladder two). Anyone who says parenting isn’t a job—and an important one at that—hasn’t spent a day, let alone a week or month or years or years, doing it. It’s project coordination of the highest degree.
- More than anything though, I realized that I can’t do this alone. Yes, it takes a village; and yes, it can be done as a single parent. But more than that, it takes a a great partner to make a great parenting team (and great babysitters, of which we had many, and great family, helping, too). Needing a village in and of itself isn’t surprising, but what is surprising is just how important I found it, which is: indispensable. Even though Jenny was often working, she was instrumental in helping find babysitters, scheduling them, listening to me talks about the (sometimes) mundane details of the day, helping find better ways to do things, and giving me ideas of things to do. So, with all that said, I can’t thank Jenny enough for her love, support, and help! Thank you and I love you!
So that’s it for now. I start classes next week on Tuesday, September 1st and will fill in with parenting duties when I can, which is still a good portion of the time, but not the majority of the time. After this summer, I’ll be lucky if I get anything close to approximating it again. But if I do, I’ll be excited for it!