Earlier today I was wondering out loud what to do with Dylan, who was rolling around on the carpet fussing angrily — was he hungry, was it naptime, etc — and Riley looked up briefly from his pirate ship toy and said, “He wants to go in the bouncy seat, Mommy.” So I put Dylan in the bouncy seat and that was in fact exactly what he wanted.

Huh.

As I type this they are both tucked into bed for afternoon naps, and if there is any greater feeling than concurrent naptimes I do not know what it is. Dylan didn’t even issue his normal ear-splitting protests about being put down, he just curled up like a fat cocktail shrimp and zonked right out, and . . . people, he’s sleeping in the crib.

I figured since our nights had already gone to hell sleepwise I’d end the swing addiction once and for all, so on Monday I dismantled the Fisher Price Nature’s Touch-of-Heroin Baby Papasan Swing, then stuffed it in the back of my car (knowing that if I didn’t get it out of my house completely I’d be putting the damn thing back together at 3 AM). Not surprisingly, Monday night was — um, pretty bad. You know how in Blair Witch Project the nights get consecutively worse until it’s just, like, a sphincter-loosening melee of incomprehensible, insufferable horror? Yeah, it was kind of like that.

Last night was a vast improvement, so I guess he’s getting used to the new sleeping arrangement. I’m also tapering off how often I go in there when he wakes up, Ferber-style, and that does seem to be helping. Also, thanks to the genius recommendation of someone in the comments here the other day, I stuck in some earplugs during some wee hour of the night after he’d woken up and I’d tended to him and he was still complaining, and they were a godsend. I could still hear him, so I could tell if the fussing was going from Angry to Sorrowful, but the sound wasn’t boring directly into my skull in the same anxiety-producing way. He groused for maybe ten minutes, and that was it until 7 AM.

Who knows what tonight will bring, but I am hoping the worst is over.

There’s always a Challenging Thing in parenthood, isn’t there? When they’re little, it’s the Sleeping Thing, or the Potty Thing, maybe an Eating Thing, or a Friends At School Thing. And I don’t even want to think about all the Things in store for us when they’re older. Oh, the THINGS.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s book of essays Small Wonder, she writes (in the essay “Letter to a Daughter at Thirteen”), “When I was pregnant with you, I read every book I could find on how to handle all things from diaper rash to warning lectures on sexually transmitted diseases. I became so appalled by the size of the task that I put my hands on my belly and thought, Oh Lord, can we just back up? But the minute you were born I looked at your hungry, squinched little face and got it: We do this thing one minute at a time. We’ll never have to handle diaper rash and the sex lecture in the same day. My most important work will change from year to year, and I’ll have time to figure it out.”

It’s true that I doubt JB and I will ever be in a situation where we’re explaining S.E.X. to one kid while still wiping the other’s ass (please no), but my most important work is different with my 8-month-old than with my three year old. There is twice as much work, and it’s all important, and is there really time to figure it all out, because dude, I’m not always so sure.

She’s right, though, that we deal with everything one minute at a time. We are project managers, us parents, breaking the enormity of the overall task into manageable pieces. Now I am changing someone’s diaper. Now I am cooking someone’s dinner. And the Challenging Things are so often put into perspective by the more important things: Now I am feeling a baby’s hand trail wonderingly through my hair while a toddler curls against my side and tells me a story about cows.

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… they’re still napping. It’s like some wonderful plot device sent to cut me a break today; like dude, Monday seriously shit the bed, we get it, how about a really fantastic naptime to make up for it? GRATIAS AGO VOS, DEUS EX MACHINA.

Comments

46 Responses to “Action items”

  1. Niki P. on October 22nd, 2008 2:26 pm

    It’s all about stages. You go from one to the next to the next. I am currently in the preteen stage with BOTH. 13 yr old is immature and 11 yr old is worldly. They grow to darned fast if you ask me.

  2. Craze on October 22nd, 2008 2:32 pm

    Parenthood is really practiced minute by minute, hour by hour. And how we react is everchanging as they progress through the various stages. We don’t have all the answers we just learn as we go.

  3. Jen on October 22nd, 2008 2:33 pm

    Man, you just made me all misty. Also, question? What type of stroller do you have?I’m looking for a new one and I see that one in your picture and I’m just wondering.

  4. Lauren on October 22nd, 2008 2:42 pm

    That was an awesome description of parenthood. One minute things are so hellishly bad you contemplate running away, and the next minute you just want to go on forever because it is sooooo perfect.

    I am in love with your writing, as usual!

  5. mixette on October 22nd, 2008 2:44 pm

    Damn you and your awesome descriptiveness:

    “curled up like a fat cocktail shrimp” is up there with my favorite “feetie pajama’d otter.”

    Glad to hear that your little shrimp is letting you get some rest.

  6. Lisa B on October 22nd, 2008 2:55 pm

    Just hope there was a hand washing project between the diaper changing project and the dinner preparing project. ;)

  7. Korinna on October 22nd, 2008 2:55 pm

    I’ve completely given up on feeling like I ever have a handle on what WILL happen. Ever the Anal Annie, I sort of like to plan for things further in advance than, say, 30 seconds. But it seems like that is the precise length of time in which things can also get shot straight to hell.

    Sometimes I want to shout a la Frank Constanza, “SERENITY NOW!”

  8. Casey on October 22nd, 2008 3:13 pm

    Congrats on getting baby nirvana at last! Glad Dylan is catching onto the plan… it’s hard to give up the swing (we had the same one and my kid got a flat spot in the shape of the swing). Kudos.

  9. Operation Pink Herring on October 22nd, 2008 3:18 pm

    Has anyone told you how good looking your kids are lately? I know all parents think their kids are the most handsome creatures on earth… but when you think it, you’re actually right.

  10. Carrot Cake on October 22nd, 2008 3:33 pm

    Good for you. It almost seems like you’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief in this entry. Is it wrong of me to feel some measure of happiness at knowing someone like you, who appears to have her shit together, is struggling with many of the same things I am parent-wise? Not happy in a malicious way, but happy in a thank god I’m normal way. I hope JB kisses the ground you walk on.

  11. Sharon on October 22nd, 2008 3:35 pm

    You sound like a mom who got a decent night’s sleep! Hope there’s more good nights ahead.

  12. Carrot Cake on October 22nd, 2008 3:38 pm

    By the way, I have to ask, how do you find the time to say…shower with a little one and toddler at home? A 3 year old can maybe play while you make yourself presentable for the day, but a 9 month old gets fussy quickly. What tricks do you employ?

  13. sundry on October 22nd, 2008 3:56 pm

    Carrot: I put Curious George on TV for Riley, and I bring Dylan into the bathroom with me in the stroller. He usually stays fairly entertained if I hand him a constant series of toys while I’m drying my hair etc.

  14. wn on October 22nd, 2008 4:16 pm

    That post kinda took my breath away…it’s all about breaking it down…then it’s not only non-painful, but it can be kinda enjoyable (ok, not the grousing, but almost everything else).

    Good luck on the Sleep Thing…I’m sure you’re on the doorstep of progress.

  15. Claire on October 22nd, 2008 4:34 pm

    Thank you: I actually feel a lot less Completely Freaked Out about having a second child. (We’re going to try again in January.) Whew.

  16. Lesley on October 22nd, 2008 5:35 pm

    I am always amazed at how toddlers can translate, with perfect accuracy, the mumbo jumbo ba ba sounds of their infant siblings. Perhaps they are still close enough in consciousness to their baby selves to remember what the sounds mean. Or it’s intuitive or something. Anyway, total magic.

  17. Carrot Cake on October 22nd, 2008 5:39 pm

    Ah. The ol’ toy parade. Good idea. I usually plunk him down in his crib sitting up with an assortment of softer toys (his room is adjacent) while I shower, then he’s moved to the jumper so we can exchange da-da-da-da’s & squeeeeeee’s face-to-face while I diffuse hair until not dripping wet and put on my face. Just had to know if you had some magical button that when pushed, a Mary Poppins-esque nanny appears and attends to the children while you pretty yourself at your leisure, because I personally have given up on ever having presentable hair ever again. Until he’s in high school.

  18. Lesley on October 22nd, 2008 5:43 pm

    Btw, nice post. And for all the grief you may get from some of those perfect moms who wander in from time to time with wagging fingers and capital punishment penalties for those who let their kids grouse for even ten minutes, I still think you and JB are very together, lovely, loving parents. And it shows in your kids. If I had to come back and I could choose two parents, it would be people like you (and yes, I had shitty parents so I know a little about the worst kind!)

  19. Erin on October 22nd, 2008 6:18 pm

    YAY for the successful concurrent nap!

    I hope the nighttime stuff starts working itself out for you soon. I have been there and have serious sympathy for you. IT IS SO DAMN HARD. Hang in there sister.

  20. Traci on October 22nd, 2008 6:48 pm

    Thanks for the reminder about that great Barbara Kingsolver essay!

  21. Mary on October 22nd, 2008 7:07 pm

    Even a mother of (three!) teenagers thinks this is a wonderful entry. We have had our ups and downs, but I love my kids so much, and at the time we’re there, every stage seems like the best one. Except for 18 months. That one still sucks.

    Enjoy them! They’ll be taller than you before you know what happened.

    Mary, still wondering where the time went

  22. nonsoccermom on October 22nd, 2008 7:18 pm

    Yes. YES, that is it EXACTLY. Honestly, more than once I’ve freaked myself out by thinking too much about the next Big Thing. I just have to keep saying “one day at a time” – and be glad that I have kids of different genders that are 5+ years apart. That should really split up the Things. Or maybe I’m just deluding myself by thinking that…?

    Your boys are totally precious, by the way.

  23. willikat on October 22nd, 2008 7:34 pm

    You. are. awesome. You rock motherhood.

  24. Elizabeth on October 22nd, 2008 8:44 pm

    Oh I am so very glad that everything is working so far. Keeping my fingers crossed that it holds out for tonight.

    Oh and I have to confess that when Ramona naps in her crib I still clap my hands in delight.

  25. Brenda on October 22nd, 2008 9:42 pm

    Linda, I LOVE YOU. You so succinctly put into words what I feel every minute that I am a parent to my two little kids. They’re 36 months and 6 months old. The latter is also currently being Ferberized – it’s a necessary evil, I tell you, because after subsisting on 5 hours of interrupted sleep every single night for weeks on end, I could take it no longer and decided to Ferberize her starting 2 days back after I found myself weeping while carrying her, groaning, “I’m so tired, God. I’M SO TIRED.” And coffee was losing its effect on me. I was tired but when it was time for me to finally get some rest, I COULDN’T SLEEP because I was worrying about when she would stir again and start the nightly hell. Anyways why is this about me I just need an outlet guess I’ll go blog about it. THANK YOU SO MUCH, LINDA. I don’t know you personally, but your blog entries make it so much more bearable. God bless you and your family.

  26. Amy on October 22nd, 2008 10:20 pm

    Wow….I needed that today while attempting to parent a newly 4 yo and his 6 1/2 yo brother. Dad has recently gone OTR (over-the-road or driving cross country and gone for 5-6 days a week) I am losing my mind, but you’re so right. When you break it into small pieces it’s not so bad. I was amazed at how well this morning went, but I have started to focus on Ok, I’m up, coffee’s made, I’m showered and dressed, boys up, etc. It’s not so overwhelming when you take it one step at a time. And don’t be so sure about the SEX talks….the first time we bordered on it was during mating season when the ducks at the local park were being particularly aggressive……the previously mentioned 6 1/2 yo was about 4 at the time :)

  27. Kate on October 22nd, 2008 10:29 pm

    A girlfriend asked me after her first son was born “When does this get easier?”. My answer was that what is difficult NOW gets easier, but that there’s always something that’s a challenge. It’s relentless, this parenting gig!

  28. Karin on October 22nd, 2008 10:36 pm

    A girlfriend asked me a couple months back “Are you having a good summer and doing fun things?” I got all panicky and thought, Am I? I don’t know. Is my summer fun?? I dont’ know. Wait, do I have to acommplish that too? Oh God, add that to the list – “Have a fun Summer”. The truth is, as a parent, life is so moment by moment right now, let alone trying to accomplish things like “Having a fun summer!”

  29. Kristin on October 22nd, 2008 11:07 pm

    In a world of hundreds of well-written Mom blogs, it’s easy to become complacent in a sea of good writing. This entry made me remember for the zillionth time why you’re my favourite blogger in the sphere.

  30. Donna on October 23rd, 2008 12:42 am

    You know I don’t remember that much with my kids. Either they were very good, or I have blocked it all out.
    My daughter has 4 kids, the oldest turned 13 on monday, and the youngest was 1 in August. So she actually may be explaining both in a day. At the same time. The other two are 11 and 5. I don’t know how she does it. Shoot me.

  31. Cass on October 23rd, 2008 6:13 am

    When we moved Lexi from the mini-co-sleeper to the crib I had to take it apart, put it back in the box and stick it in the basement. Under a lot of other boxes because I KNEW that I would be weak in the middle of the night and decide what my baby really needed was to be right next to me…even though that’s not what she really needed. I thought I was nuts – I’m glad that if I AM nuts that I have such good company!

  32. tash on October 23rd, 2008 6:20 am

    One minute at a time – thanks. Needed that. Going to break my day up and see if I’m less overwhelmed.

    Great post. And the bouncy swing – Riley knows things :)

  33. Bumbling on October 23rd, 2008 7:46 am

    My sons are 17 months apart and display some of the same (cue “Twilight Zone” theme music) quasi-psychic connection that Riley demonstrated when he told you that Dylan wanted the bouncy seat. Freaky. Now if only they could tell me the winning lotto numbers. Still, it helps that the oldest will tell me “Seba’s awake” before the baby starts crying in his room when he wakes from a nap. Like I said, Frea-ky.
    You were spot on with the one minute a day thing.

  34. beach on October 23rd, 2008 7:59 am

    Loved this post….and that “dealing with things one thing at a time concept”is so simple yet so profound.I am in the midst of teenagerville…and some times I am filled with anger, stress, worry,joy,humor and angst….all within sometimes a 20 minute period.Had a horror of a weekend last weekend with the oldest, then yesterday, he we actually talked and laughed and had some bonding time……I believe the universe does know when we need to catch a break….thanks for this post !!

  35. Lisa on October 23rd, 2008 9:36 am

    i loved this post…and i’m glad you got a little dual nap break thrown in there.

  36. jen on October 23rd, 2008 12:26 pm

    I had the same problem when moving C from the Moses basket next to our bed to his crib ALL THE WAY DOWN THE HALL (a whole 20 feet). I would say to my husband tonight let’s put him in his crib. Then I’d say well, maybe next week. I think only pure exhaustion from waking up with all of the little sighs made me move him to the crib. There are definitely tough nights here and there and particularly after illness but you’ve done most of the work already.

    My next big thing is starting solid foods. I’m seriously frightened by it like I was with the crib move. I swear I would breastfeed him forever, mostly because it requires no dishwashing.

  37. Hue on October 23rd, 2008 1:52 pm

    Glad the earplugs worked for you!

  38. Robin on October 23rd, 2008 2:49 pm

    Man! I’ve had three weeks of shit-the-bed, does that mean my Deus will apply a proportionate Machina? Ha! I can dream…

    But I’m just glad to know we’re all figuring things out as we go. I was worried maybe I hadn’t gotten the memo. You know, THE memo. Explaining things.

    Cheers for your writing and cheers for concurrent naps!

  39. Jennifer on October 24th, 2008 9:33 am

    I keep coming back to read “curled up like a fat cocktail shrimp” (genius writing, ’cause that’s what they look like); then I saw your Twitter thing about Joe catching lobsters the size of Dylan. Another baby=shrimp visual. Now I can’t get babies/shrimps out of my head. But do I think of babies when I see shrimps, or think of shrimps when I see babies???

  40. Leslie on October 24th, 2008 11:22 am

    Oh God, the “touch-of-heroin” swing comment killed me. Too damn funny! I remember the concurrent nap times. They are seriously nirvana to a mother’s soul. And glad to hear that Dylan is sleeping in his crib – I know that’s a huge step for the both of you. Keep doing what you’re doing – it will pay off. I had some sleep issues/struggles with Dane too but once we got through them putting him down is a snap. His naps usually last for 3 hrs every day and he goes to bed at night with out a peep of protest. Bliss.

  41. Molly on October 24th, 2008 2:00 pm

    I have two boys, 2 and 4. Ever since I read this post a couple of days ago, I keep thinking, “one minute at a time.” It’s really making a difference, I think, in my state of mind! I’m less frustrated and grumpy. Thank you!! Great post.

  42. typealice » Blog Archive » Money Where My Mouth Is on October 25th, 2008 7:08 am

    […] I’ve said goodbye to other favorite bloggers about conflicting parenting choices (CIO to be specific), Frema, TheNewGirl, and a Flickr friend- Shondi (wife of the owner of Threadless), all who I mourned for a while and then got over. I hadn’t been following their lives for nearly as long as Linda’s, but I imagine I’ll get over it sooner than later- all I have to think about is her laying in bed with earplugs in as her son screams for her attention and goes ignored. See? Already I miss her a little less. […]

  43. Sonia on October 25th, 2008 9:49 am

    I’m so glad your sleep issues with the baby are getting better. That is such a hard stage, I remember it very well despite it being almost 8 years ago now. Here’s to hoping the worst is over!

    And typealice? BUH-Bye.

  44. sara on October 27th, 2008 7:43 pm

    i came over here to bully you because MY GOD you are a horrible mother!

    typealice can SUCK it. you are an amazing person – if people can’t see that through your words, they are fucking blind.

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