Category Archives: small boys

How We’re Spending Winter Break

I love the school my kids go to, and the teachers are really wonderful and engaged and caring, and they are kind.

One child’s teacher sent him a letter, which arrived today, thanking us for a gift and asking what he’d done over break: Had he traveled? Been to a museum or the movies? She reminded him to be ready to share his vacation fun with his class when he got back to school.

I immediately, defensively, bristled (NOTE: She’d meant the note to get him thinking about what to share about his winter break, certainly not to make us feel like we hadn’t done enough over break!). We’d done none of those things. Max had mostly wanted to stay home, playing with his little brother, especially after Christmas, when they both had exciting new Legos and other things to explore.

Many families at the school are quite wealthy (not us!). Thus we hear about sailboats and ski houses and spring break in Paris and such. When I drop off my kids in my 14-year-old Honda Civic, I am especially careful not the bump the Range Rovers and BMWs parked on either side. The letter made me think maybe every other family was having a winter break filled with travel and culture.

Then I calmed down and decided to talk this over with the boys. How had we spent our winter break?

What we’ve done so far:

1. We hosted Christmas dinner, for one thing, which involved a fair amount of planning, cleaning, shopping, and prep. My mother had come here for a few days, and my boys got to finally see my childhood Christmas ornaments, some of my mother’s childhood Christmas ornaments, plus use my parents’ wedding china and the family silver for the first time. Plus have everyone come to our house for a holiday meal, for the very first time ever. Big doin’s, indeed.

2. We made and delivered little packages of warm new socks, homemade cookies, and a tiny bit of cash (thanks, Mom!) for the people who live under the bridge. No, really. We live at the edge of town, near the subway, and several people live in the underpass. Of our various holiday charity, this was the one thing the kids got into and could relate to, because they actually see these people every time we go to the subway. Kids without toys? My kids don’t really comprehend that, so our Toys for Tots donations were just confusing to them. Warm things and treats for the people under the bridge? Max was on it.

3. We spent a few days in the woods (not continuously!). We spent a few hours with school friends in a local conservation area, and returned a few days later with friends from our old neighborhood to spend even more time exploring the woods and meadows and enjoying a picnic lunch.

4. We went ice-skating. Both boys now want lessons.

5. We went to the New England Aquarium today, an adventure involving one bus ride; six trains; lunch out; and a return to the aquarium after lunch to see the octopus, the penguin feeding, and the seal training session. Several M&Ms were given as bribes and rewards, and I didn’t totally lose my shit when the little one ran his bare hand the entire length of the handrail on both the Blue Line and the Orange Line….and then touched his hand to his face (why oh why had I left all the hand sanitizer at home??). I told him if he touched one more thing, he’d need to get an extra flu shot (yes, I did say that—and yes, it worked).

6. We saw a movie (Planes 2), but we saw it at home (thanks, Redbox!) because we are movie cheapskates and would rather spend $1 and make our own popcorn (and uncork my own wine, thanks!) (though theater movies are certainly fun, and our local ancient theater is really cool).

What’s left to do before school starts again: 

1. New Year’s Eve family party at the neighbors’, which will be an early, fun, low-key, kid-filled affair.

2. New Year’s Day dodgeball party at my friend’s house, which will be full of young childless single hungover mountaineering people and could be a total blast.

3. ?? Who knows? Will the kids go spend the night at their grandmother’s house? Will we all head north for a day of skiing?

We will know by the time the kids return to school, that’s for sure. But even if we stay here, which Max would probably be very happy to do, we’re enjoying our winter break.

 

 

Relishing the Last of Summer: Burning the Entire Candle

We’re running out of summer fast, though the final two weeks stretches long ahead of us.

I keep breaking my own rules and policies. It started when we went to Iceland back in July (I swear, I’ll get a post on visiting Iceland with kids out soon!). We were traveling, right? To a different time zone, where the sun didn’t set until around midnight, right? So bedtimes got quite lax.

And it was fine.

Once we returned home, well, it’s summer! The children, I’m sure, stayed up late and did things out of the ordinary plenty in the first part of August, but lately I feel like we’re on high speed toward the end of summer.

We went to the Cape for several days of fun at the beaches (ocean and pond). I took the kids out in a kayak. Back home again, we’ve gone to the local pond nearly every day to swim. We had a flurry of blogger/social media events which included a Hood ice cream party (#MeetHarvey, to introduce their new ice cream bars—yum) at a wonderful playground with a water feature. The kids enjoyed the treats, the water, the other kids, and I enjoyed hanging with some fellow local bloggers and catching up a little (plus, those Hood people treat their social media friends right!!).

Last weekend, we went on a last-minute camping trip. I was concerned about the state forest campground we ended up in, about not being prepared enough, about sleeping together in a tent, etc. I needn’t have worried. The boys had a great time riding their bikes up and down the camp road, having tons of freedom, hiking a “secret” trail to the lake, and then going for a night hike after dinner, headlamps on as they ran down a trail through the forest.

Back at our campsite, we let them eat too many s’mores, perhaps, because you’re only young once. Then everyone slept hard and fast in the tent, waking to enjoy a morning campfire (I mean, why not?). After we struck camp, we drove to Mt. Monadnock, where we hiked to the summit and down again, five often steep miles round trip, with lots of bare granite face to scramble up using hands and feet.

Max did it all on his own, very excited and proud. I was thrilled for him. Ben needed to be carried at times, especially on the way down, where he nearly fell asleep riding on C’s shoulders (note to self: get a hiking carrier). We found a diner for dinner, then (despite my quite Capricorn objections, it already dark and we were more than an hour from home on a Sunday night) we stopped for ice cream. Of course.

The next day, it was a full day at the Museum of Science, including a planetarium show and the butterfly garden. Tuesday, I made a last-minute decision not to catch the last family concert of the season at the lake, because the boys were tired. Wednesday, to the lake to swim, and today, off to a local pool to swim.

On top of this, my work has really picked up, with some heavy deadlines coming up. I’m hoping to pick up some other fall projects as well.

On top of all that, twenty pounds of peaches sit in my kitchen waiting for me to turn them into jam before C and I head to New Hampshire tomorrow for a weekend backpacking trip with some friends.

We’re not at a frantic pace, for sure, though it may sound like it. It’s actually fairly relaxed, just super-spontaneous. The boys are with the sitter for the morning and with me from right after lunch, on. I make sure they’re eating dinner by 5:30 or so. But oh, life is short, and time is short, so we do whatever they want in the afternoons. Errands can wait, for now.

Though I know we need to get back to an earlier bedtime in order to facilitate earlier wake-up times (hello, back-to-school!), for now, we’re just enjoying life and each other. I’m certainly enjoying the rhythm of things, having mornings to work and afternoons with the boys.

And it feels great.

 

 

Rude Awakening (Broken Record)

I know it’s partly due to the rude (RUDE) awakening of returning, for the first time in four years, from a place where I was fully immersed among like-minded others, talking and learning about things that interest me. No mention of kids, husbands, potty-training, the hell of dinnertime, the hell of bedtime, the hell of getting out the door in the morning–

–stop me if you’ve heard this before–

and returning to daily life here with two small children in an admittedly hot apartment during a heat wave (and no, more air conditioning wouldn’t really help). School’s fully out for the summer. Max had a harder time with my absence than his little brother did, leaving us with two full days of testing-testing-testing and some of the most defiant behavior I’ve seen from him yet.

Or, really, from any child.

Add to that Ben’s refusal to go to bed (he was up until 10 on Monday, and now it’s nearly 9 and he’s leaning companionably against my arm as I type this), and the completely nonstop neediness of these small people, plus perhaps some hormonal stuff (my general bitchy condition) and I am desperately unhappy.

I know, right? It’s hard to be grumpy when the whole household settles down and it’s just me and this cutie.

I’m, once again, too tense to eat. [Aside: I heard someone say this at dinner Saturday night, that that was her first real meal of the conference, because she’d been too anxious and tense to eat. I thought, Are you kidding? I can finally relax and eat and enjoy it! It’s when I’m home, on my own with the kids, that it’s a problem.] I’m really tense being around them all day. They do play by themselves/with each other, to some degree, but every 8 minutes Ben is screaming and crying and Max is yelling. It is really hard to think with that going on. I cannot even fold the goddamn laundry.

I did have today with just Max, as Ben was at daycare, and it was like a vacation. I took him to see a play this morning (which he loved) and then he wanted to come home instead of going to Ikea. We came home for lunch and I took a nap (a NAP! During the day!!!) while he ate sorbet, then he cuddled with me, and eventually we rallied (thanks to 3 cups of coffee for me!) and went to Ikea for some stuff and then to get him the soccer cleats he’s been wanting for months.

Then we picked up Ben and it was dinnertime and everyone was crying and yelling and I was trying to boil water.

And I thought, I am wasting my life. This is not what I’m supposed to be doing.

It came to me clear as day.

Unfortunately, every time I think, That’s it! I’m getting a full-time job! I think of Max’s misery about having a sitter pick him up from school, Ben’s refusal to go to daycare, the way they are extra-needy when we’ve been apart from each other, and I wonder how we’d all adapt if I returned to the workforce full-time.

It’s unfair, is what it is. I return to work full time, I still have all the stress of making dinner every night, plus needier children who’ve missed me. I return to work part time, I have all of the above plus more stress, since I’ll have to do it all since I’m only part time. I stay home full time and lose my mind, scream at my children all the time, start drinking wine as soon as I serve them dinner….

I don’t know what the answer is except I am about to quit this job.

Swimming Lessons: Updated with Pictures

I didn’t mean to disappear for so long. Days turned into more days turned to a week turned into longer.

What’s going on is that it is summer, and we have been swimming. I’m not sure why any of us bother to take off our suits, in fact, except that Max is immediately freezing as soon as he comes out of the water, even if it is 90 degrees and he’s in the sun (he gets this from me, I think); Ben needs something diaper-like as he is still not entirely potty-proficient (well, he’s really proficient, but if he’s wearing something like underwear or a swimsuit he forgets to pee in the toilet, whereas if he’s buck-naked he has almost no accidents at all); I feel clammy if I stay in a damp suit; and C, well, he changes out of his, too.

Me trying to keep Ben from swimming out to a pod of seals in Chatham…yep, Chatham, where the shark was. The shark wasn’t a problem; the ripping outward current was. I think I did a masterful job of keeping Little Half-Naked Boy from washing out to sea, though.

Us in Chatham. We weren’t even swimming; we were just parked briefly to show some friends this beach, and next thing I know, Ben’s almost naked and in the water.

We were on the Cape for several days, in the water. In the ocean. In the lake. In the lake. In the ocean. Every day: eat breakfast, pack lunches, get the kids into swimsuits and covered in sunscreen, find the sun hats, and head to the water.

It sounds so quick and easy, but it actually takes hours, even with several adults taking on various tasks (child-watching, sandwich-making, breakfast clean-up, car-loading, etc.).

At the ocean, Max and Ben played happily in the water. Max used to love “dolphin rides” (I swim on my side or back while he rides on me), but this year he doesn’t. It could be that I find it harder to swim with 42 pounds on my midsection, and he rides lower in the water than he used to. Or maybe he’s just more interested in playing with his cousins now and building sand structures. Or trying out his snorkel and goggles with C. He still likes water, though.

Ben can’t get enough of it. He and Max and I played “Ring Around the Rosie” in the surf zone, on a day when the waves were pretty strong, and he repeatedly got facefuls of seawater before I’d let go of him and let the waves carry him onto the sand. He loved it.

At the lake–both on the Cape and here, in our town–he likes to wade out deep, to his chin, and sometimes deeper. Sometimes he’ll say something like “It’s getting deep!” just before he steps into even deeper water, and then I pull him out and he’s sputtering and coughing. And then he does it again.

He happily plays motorboat in the lake and in the bathtub, putting his face down and blowing bubbles in the water. He kicks strongly as I pull him along. He walks into the water as soon as we arrive at any beach.

So naturally I thought his swimming lessons would go….swimmingly.

The main protest was that is was “too wet.” That’s right. The pool at the local Boys and Girls Club is “too wet.”

It didn’t help that we had to shower before getting into the pool, which he hated, and then had to sit around for 10 minutes, since we’d arrived early. He doesn’t like to wait, and he was getting cold.

While most of the things the instructor had us do together were things we’ve already done, he didn’t like doing them in the pool. “Noooooo, Mommy, noooooo! It’s too wet!”

Though relaxing back in my arms while kicking may be something he won’t enjoy doing for years, he loved jumping off the wall into the pool and then climbing back out again. He’s two years old. I know he loves being in the water and doesn’t mind getting his face wet. So we’ll look at this set of classes as “Adjusting to an Indoor Pool” class instead of “Adjusting to the Water” class, which is really the point of it at this age.

Max’s lesson’s are next week, drop-off big kid lessons. That should be interesting. I think he’ll be OK with the drop-off part–something I wouldn’t have said two months ago. I’m curious to see what skills he develops in his lessons. He’ll definitely be continuing lessons this fall. He’s four. He really needs to learn to swim now.

So I’ll be in the pool every day this week, at the lake this weekend, and, who knows? Maybe we’ll have some after-school trips to the lake next week, too, so he can practice his new skills.

Of course, the only photo I have of all this swimming is this one of them in the bathtub, because I was too busy keeping them from, you know, drowning to take any pictures at the ocean or lake.

The Nanny Forces Me to Become a Good, Fun Mom

“Remember, I’m not here for the next two weeks,” my nanny* said as she left yesterday.

Whoa–what??!? Apparently when I first hired her she’d had this on her calendar but I had failed to notice or remember (also, I thought my current project would be over long before now).

But here we go! If I really kick ass over this holiday weekend and finish up this project, and if I don’t have more work from this client, then in the next two weeks I’m going to be the fun-lovin’, adventurous stay-at-home mom part of me wants to be. I can stop feeling wistful that we don’t have time for all the adventures I want to take the boys on and instead, we can just do them. It helps that the baby has stopped napping entirely (WTF? What one-year-old gives up all naps???), so we won’t have to worry about being stuck home for his morning nap (or, you know, any nap, the way he’s going!).

So, on the docket, in no particular order:

  • strawberry picking
  • bus ride to commuter rail train ride…either out to a farm or to meet Daddy for lunch (I think the bus and train rides will be exciting enough, to be honest)
  • beach/lake/pool (I’ll need to rally another adult for this, because keeping an eye on two non-swimmers is hard enough to do in the bathtub, let alone in open water)
  • farm trip
  • making ice cream
  • long bike rides to play in a different town and get ice cream
  • Martha’s Vineyard (hey, why not? What do we have if not time on our hands to ride a ferry to an island?)

I’d like to add in “visiting my parents,” but visiting my father is a big trip that may have to wait; visiting my mother happens a lot and can easily happen during a normal week, anyway; and visiting C’s mom is a big trip that we’d need more advanced notice for.

It’s funny–I was looking forward to the end of this project so I could get a pedicure, get a haircut, do more yoga,** and take care of some paperwork that keeps getting put aside. But instead, we are going to have some really excellent adventures.

I can’t wait.

* “Nanny” sounds so “live-in governess,” doesn’t it? She’s a weekday sitter, three partial days/week. That’s all. Three very important, very welcomed days per week. Her arrival calms me immensely. Plus I get tons of work done.

** I’ll temporarily have to switch to an early-morning yoga class, which I am sure the late-sleeping C will love, but there is no way I’m giving up yoga for two weeks, and I’m not at the point where I can or will do it here in my living room with Max jumping on my back and the baby climbing onto the dining room table to whack the windows with a–jesus, kid, is that a curtain rod? Where did you get that? Get off the table before you fall!

Like a Parachute on a Fire Plane

 

Let’s say you only have one small bathroom. And your three-year-old son is in the bath and his father is hanging out with him and the bath is taking FOREVER. And you have your period and really need to change your tampon right this very minute. And you really really need to do it in the bathroom and can’t, say, swap out in the bedroom.
You have already explained to your son some days ago, when he noticed your o.b. variety pack on the back of the toilet, that healthy mommies (and other women) bleed once a month if they don’t have babies in their tummies. Admittedly there are probably better ways to explain menstruation to preschoolers, but you were caught off guard when he asked.
So anyway, there you are in the bathroom with your husband and son, hoping they continue their conversation about the hatch on your son’s plastic fire-fighting plane. You quickly unwrap the new tampon, hoping you can get it in place before–
Too late. He sees it. You chime in something about the fire plane’s hatch, but he is focused on one thing.
“What’s that, Mommy?”
Your husband possibly snickers.
“It’s a tampon.”
“Can I see it?”
You freeze for one second before thinking, What the hell, and you finish unwrapping it and you hand it to him. “Sure. Here you go.”
Your husband is definitely snickering now. Your son holds the amazing, bright-white object.
“Why don’t you see what happens when it gets wet?” you suggest as you grab another one out of the cabinet.
He dips it in the water. It expands instantly. You wash your hands, and as you leave the bathroom they are discussing how it can be like a parachute on the plane.
It’s true. It is kind of like a parachute.
You really wouldn’t mind having a second bathroom.

“You Need Another Baby In Your Tummy”

“Let’s play doctor,” he says. I put down my coffee and comply.

He brings the stethoscope over and puts it against my stomach. “I put a baby in your tummy,” he tells me. He returns to his table, where the doctor’s kit is. “I just need to cut it now.”

“Cut it?” I ask. “What are you going to cut?”

“I need to cut an inch.”

“An inch?”

He comes back over with the calipers in his hand. “Yeah. When a baby is born, after a baby is done being born, you have to cut the cord.” He is totally matter-of-fact about this. He is not yet three years old. He puts the calipers on the skin of my stomach. “I cut it.”

He wheels over an imaginary cart with an infant scale; we weigh the baby. Then he gives it a shot and takes its temperature. I set up a follow-up appointment in 6 weeks. I go sip my coffee; he gestures me to come back.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi! You need a doctor appointment. Come.” He commands me to sit down on the floor again and approaches me with the stethoscope. “I put a baby in your tummy.”

“No!” I protest. “I already have a baby! Why do I need another baby?”

“Your baby is growing bigger and bigger,” he says dismissively, not looking at me. “You need another baby now.”

“No I don’t,” I say.

“Yes you do,” he insists.

“No, I don’t. Why don’t you have a baby? Why don’t we put a baby in your tummy?” I ask.

He walks calmly back to his table of tools. “Because I am not a woman. Only a woman can have a baby in her tummy,” he says, putting down the stethoscope and reaching for the calipers.

He seems to know a lot about this stuff, my little guy. But I do need to let him know that just because one baby grows bigger and bigger doesn’t mean we need another baby. Next thing you know, he’s going to insist that I need to make a baby sister for the babies I already have.

And you know C will back him up on that.

At Least It is Quiet

I return to an empty house after yoga class. A half-eaten apple is on the dining room table; I absently pick it up and begin to eat it. On the living room sofa are clustered a pair of bright-red sequined flats, a fire helmet, and my thick black gloves. A yoga mat is unrolled on the floor, another pair of thick black gloves holding down one corner of it. Cloth baby books, a cloth diaper, and a soft soccer ball litter the rest of the floor.

It looks like they were playing a ripping game of “Fire Chief” before they left.

In the kitchen, I glance hopefully at the coffee pot. It is on. The carafe is full of clear warm water. I open the top to find the filter wet; someone obviously distracted or in a hurry ran a pot of coffee but forgot to put in the grounds. I turn off the coffeepot, finish the apple, and load the dishwasher.

I find a second half-eaten apple on the dining room table. Didn’t I just eat that? Is that another one? Where are they all coming from? I decide not to eat this one. I am pretty sure I just ate a half-eaten apple. A cookie better suits my mood.

After a long week of children, children, children, followed by almost a full Saturday on my own with children, children, children, I have declared that today is mine. I encouraged C to plan an outing with both boys. Then I left for my long run this morning, ending it at a yoga studio for a class with a friend. My goal was to take myself and my computer on an extended outing for the day, but I don’t feel like clearing snow off of C’s car and driving in this messy weather. Instead, I’ll walk up to the local cafe, leaving my much-needed in-search-of-jeans shopping trip for another day, or maybe later today.

I know getting home late for lunch with both boys is hard, and getting them both down for a nap ain’t always easy, either. My guilty-nice self urges me to stay until they get home and then help–or even to prepare lunch before I leave–but I deal with that chaos 5 days a week and think that it’s probably fine if C handles it on his own today. He’s a good, involved father and partner, but not being the primary caretaker, he usually doesn’t get to “enjoy” our “little blessings” in quite the same way I do.

A friend recently told me that, due to a change in circumstances and jobs, she returned to work when her baby was seven months old and her husband became the primary stay-at-home caretaker. After his second day, he said, “I cannot do this. It’s making me crazy, and I’m wasting my master’s degree.” The baby went into childcare and the guy worked on some freelance projects.

I get it. I totally get it. Much as I am glad that I can spend so much time with my children–especially the baby, just because he needs me more than Max does right now–and much as I know that I’d be pretty torn putting them into full-time care right now, I would love to take a job out of the house. Of course, it’s not quite like going to CVS and picking one out–“Hon, I’m gonna go get a job. You need anything? Do we have any of those ExtraBucks?”

But all of that is for another day. Today, I’m going to enjoy the quiet, take a quick shower, and slip out the door to enjoy a few uninterrupted hours in which I take care of no one’s needs but my own (and my client’s). I know I’ll still end up making dinner tonight and being the hard-ass about brushing Max’s teeth, but that’s later.

For now, at least it is quiet.

“Knock It Off!”

One who listened to Max this morning and yesterday would think he’s being raised by some horrible person.

“Knock it off,” he tells me. “Stop it!” And today’s priceless moment, as we were heading out for a walk and (I thought) getting along swimmingly: “I’m really upset!”
“You’re upset?” I asked him, as he was walking down the stairs.
“Yeah,” he said, breaking out into a big grin. “Pahhh!”
[“Pahhhh!” is the sound he makes when he thrusts out his arm in a gesture reminiscent of a person casting a fishing line, or tossing a ball for a dog, or–perhaps–striking someone with a stick, or–again, perhaps–urgently beknighting someone. I have no idea where he learned this gesture (daycare? playground? something inherent to small boys?), but it’s a “kidding around” sort of thing that he does for fun.]
He wasn’t upset. And there was nothing for me to “knock off” doing or stop. What he’s doing, though, is echoing me…me at my worst, when
  • the baby is crying and
  • his diaper is dirty and
  • Max is whining nonstop and spilling his milk on the floor and
  • the kitchen is stacked with dirty dishes,
  • there is no clean laundry,
  • the bread has gone moldy,
  • there’s an essay I’m dying to write,
  • my husband will not be home for 9 hours,
  • I’m trying to get us out of the house,
  • it’s not even LUNCHTIME yet,
  • and Max–still whining–is climbing up the side of the changing table and throwing clothes on the baby’s face as I’m changing the baby’s diaper.
So, it possible–quite possible–pretty darn likely, in fact–that I might, just might, after trying my absolute most patient maternal best to use positive reinforcement, deep breathing, gentle encouragement, distraction, and redirection, simply give up and snap, “Knock it off!” to my toddler.
Go ahead and judge me.
OK. Now let’s move on.
So yesterday Max wanted a post-nap snack of granola. I make granola; he loves it. I’m happy about this. I gave him a bowl, with milk. He ate half of it and then when I left the room for a minute dumped the rest onto the table and smeared it around.
I wasn’t happy to see this. I insisted he help clean it up. He wiped it around and then onto the floor. Then he stepped in it. I asked him to move out of the way; I also moved his chair. He kept pushing his chair back into the mess, tracking more granola around. I got fed up and picked up Max and moved him across the room and told him to stay there until I cleaned up the mess.
He walked right back into it. I was furious and told him I was very upset.
Somehow we muddled past this incident with no yelling and not too many tears and several hugs and some cuddle time on my lap.
Later, at dinnertime, after I’d cleaned up the granola mess, suggested activities for Max, cared for and nursed the baby a lot, played with Max, and made dinner, I put our dinner on the table and–yep–had to leave the room for a minute (what I wouldn’t give for an eat-in kitchen, or at least a view between dining room and kitchen). I returned to find him studiously crumbling his cornbread all over the table and floor.
“I’m making a mess,” he announced.
I stayed calm. “I see that. Why are you doing that?” I asked.
“Because it upsets you,” he said, keeping his eyes on the crumbs.
I was stunned.
“Why do you want to upset me?” I asked. He didn’t answer.
I’m not sure what to do here. I’ve been trying to give him my attention as much as possible; I also have this stupid “housewife” part of my current job description and have to tend stuff like laundry,* kitchen, cooking, and dishes–not to mention a two-month-old baby–during the day. Plus I sometimes check email and make a quick phone call to make an appointment for baby vaccinations or my knee doctor or something. But I’m otherwise engaged and present and trying to come up with fun activities and outings for Max.
So what am I doing wrong? What more can I be doing for and with him? Is this just some reaction-to-new-baby behavior, or is it typical two-year-old behavior, or am I a horrible mommy who is ruining a perfectly sweet boy?
What I could do is get a full-time job so that our housework responsibilities are more evenly divided, the kids and I get a break from each other, I get to do something tangible and creative with my intellect and energy, and we all end up happy. Right? Except for the initial months of stress I’m sure would ensue from such a change, plus a possible bad case of “the grass is greener.”
* Our washer and dryer are down in our moldy basement. We live on the second floor. To do laundry, I must make sure both children are safe before heading down, or else take one with me and hold him while I do laundry. Max hates to be left upstairs (or be carried to/from the basement), but by the time I put his shoes on, let him walk down the stairs, keep him from getting into anything grody in the basement, and let him walk up the stairs again, the baby is wailing. Doing laundry during the day is Nigh Impossible most of the time, but there is only so much laundry one can do when one starts at 8 p.m. and hopes to be in bed by 10 or 11.

Morning Scene, and Max Tells a Joke

Morning Scene

[Scene: Morning. Max and C have just been in the bathroom for potty time. Max, wearing only a T-shirt, comes running into living room where I’m sitting on couch with sleeping baby.]

Mommy: Max, did you use the potty?
Max: I ripped up the floor.
Mommy: You ripped up the floor?
Max: I ripped up bathroom floor.
Mommy: You ripped up the bathroom floor? What did you do with it?
Max: I ripped up bathroom floor and put it in the bathtub.
Mommy: And what was Daddy doing while you did that?
Max: Poop!
[snort from bathroom, and then C’s voice follows.]
C [from bathroom]: Everything he just said is true.
* * * * *
Max Tells a Joke (his first)

[Scene: I’m driving through Davis Square with Max and sleeping Ben after a fun morning outing. Max and I are in good spirits, after lots of playing outside; running around in a field; fantastic cooperation, behavior, and obedience on his part; and some snacks. For what it’s worth, Max is somewhat obsessed with all things related to firemen.]
Max: We’re going to fight, Mommy.
Mommy: We’re going to fight, Max?
Max: We’re going to fight, Mommy!
Mommy [puzzled; glances at Max in rearview to see if we are, in fact, about to disagree about something; he is grinning]: What are we going to fight about?
Max: We’re going to fight fires, Mommy! [bursts into laughter]