Ear wax. Yes, that’s right – ear wax. I looked inside my child’s ear and that is when it hit me: I am responsible for cleaning out someone else’s ear wax.
I agree – of all the things I have to do for Max, the ear wax seems unimportant. After all, I clean up poop all day long. But for some reason the poop seems more funny to me than an actual responsibility. There are days when emails to my husband are composed along these lines:
Max just set an all new poop PR.
PRs can be set in terms of quantity, quality and geographic location. How someone shits forward is beyond me. How someone can shit outside their diaper from the inside is even more amazing.
For whatever reason, the ear wax got me. It just makes me a little creeped out and uncomfortable. It’s kind of like sharing a toothbrush with your spouse. In theory it should be ok. In reality is it wrong that it makes me feel slightly violated? Alas, Max cannot clean out his own ears so the burden is on me.
I have to do this.
The responsibilities of parenthood hit you like that. You get scratched by the baby’s nails and think – dammit, why are their nails so long? Because I HAVE NOT CUT THEM YET! Or they vomit on your shirt, when you’re nowhere near the rest of your wardrobe and even though the smell of vomit is the only thing that can get you to vomit you realize that you’re going to have to wear that shirt for the rest of the day. Gagging. The baby wakes up for the 3rd time in the middle of the night and you’re so so tired, just want to ignore it but know that no one else is going to get it. Wake your ass up.
It’s all day, every day. When the moment is least convenient, the most inconvenient happens.
I went for a run the other night – 60 minutes with hill repeats. It was one of those runs where I just felt off. It was warm outside, I ate too much spinach at lunch, I felt heavy. I got home, sweaty, tired, hungry, I just wanted some water to drink and no sooner did I exit the car than Chris opened up the garage door, pushed the child toward me while saying:
CAN YOU GIVE HIM SOME BOOBIE RIGHT NOW.
It’s not a choice, it’s my duty. The answer is always yes. And you find yourself in situations like this all day long. Which is perhaps the most tiring. There’s no I’m too tired for that or I’m in too much of a bad mood. You find yourself getting over yourself so you can meet someone else’s needs. This happens a lot. I don’t have time to be in a bad mood – I’m too busy trying to keep my kid in a good mood. Know what I mean?
The other morning I was in the pool – yet again – before 5:30 am. I finally figured out why all the people at masters jump into the pool instead of slowly inching one body part at a time from a seated position like I used to do. It’s because they don’t have time to waste. Get in, get over your “it’s too cold” self and get your swim on. At 5:30 am the only way I can get into a pool is feet first. Jumping.
It was one of those swims where I felt like a bear had jumped on my back. Usually I can shake him off after a 1000 yard warm up but not today. He stuck with me, tenacious mammal he is, and had me wondering what the heck was wrong with me. The clock shows me I’m not hitting the times I want. And of course I blame the lane. I switch lanes and realize – it’s not the lane, it’s me. Still slow. Damn you bear.
I got back home, hungry, thirsty, not particularly pleased with swimming like ass but might as well have left it at the door. Because as I walked in, Chris walked out to work and there was Max, all ready to start the day. Ready or not, mom, I’M AWAKE! Forget the recovery window, stretching, or even worrying about intervals (intervals? What intervals? Did I swim this morning?).
The day begins. But didn’t it just end? People keep ask if I’m sleeping. Technically I sleep. But Max still wakes up twice a night. There was a night a few weeks ago where he did the unthinkable – he slept 10 hours straight. I finally woke up at 5:30 am sensing something was wrong because my chest was exploding in milk (yes, this wakes you up, kind of like wetting the bed would wake you up – it just feels wrong). Picked him up, carried him to Chris with eyes wide open when Chris asked what was wrong.
He slept. 10 hours straight.
Those 10 hours never happened again.
There’s the actual responsibility of caring for someone and then the additional responsibility of entertaining them. And that is how I found myself making a special trip to the outlet mall to buy…finger puppets.
When did life become this way?
Finger puppets are at least 5 minutes straight of entertainment. At this entertainment venue, anything is fair game. Silly voices, funny faces, tickles, baby talk and song. Anything can become song. There’s the Give-me-5-more-minutes song and the Do-you-really-need-to-be-crying-right-now ballad. Funny, I spent years teaching children and singing children’s songs. I can’t remember a damn thing. Except Skip To My Lou. And only the first verse. If you are having a baby, start rehearsing your songs now. You’ll need them.
I’ve put blankets on my head, done puppetry through my dog (he was not pleased), blown bubbles with my own spit and when all else falls started to laugh for no reason at all (when he’s crying, it helps to start laughing, it’s contagious). Max is moody, at best. In seconds he swings from tears to giggles. And back again.
As a parent, you ride through each wave. It’s like swimming in rough open water. You relax in the chop and breathe before the next wave. You look for a rhythm because no matter how turbulent the water is, there always is rhythm. I spend the day looking for Max’s rhythm, when he best sleeps, what the different cries mean, how to interpret his body language. I know that when he’s inconsolably fussy he needs to be swaddled and put on the activity mat. I know the difference between the I need you cry and the I am fighting my sleep. I know the poopy face and the happy face. He is like a little ocean of feelings and needs. Makes me appreciate that I know how to swim.
Day after day I realize how complicated it is to make a person. Look at yourself where you are today. Do you know how many fingerplays, shaking rattles and moving your legs like a bicycle it took to get you to that point? That’s obviously not all it takes but in those first few weeks, months, it sure takes a lot of those little things that seem inconsequential but add up to form a safe bond, to develop social skills and make you feel loved.
All of those are very important things.
It makes you appreciate your parents more. You think to yourself – how did they do this? Not just for me but for my siblings? My brother warned me of this. You’ll have new appreciation for how mom did this, and wonder how she did it on her own with two kids.
Point taken. Many times.
The other evening, Max spent 30 minutes in the exersaucer. I assumed he was exersaucing but when I looked closely I realized he was engaged in a very intense conversation with Sophie the giraffe.
First he made eye contact. Then he stared her down. She matched his gaze. He started some empty threats by moving his arms and kicking his legs even though he can't really move anywhere in the exersaucer. Next he started vocalizing. The vocalizations got louder, escalating until he had a case of the full blown I’m overstimulated hiccups. No sooner did he explode into tears and demand to be taken out of the exersaucer. I’m not sure what was said between him and the giraffe but she obviously hurt his feelings.
But that is his work. He explores the world, becomes fixated on a window, a hanging toy, interacts with it to the point of where he gets overwhelmed. It is work he does all day. The same cycle of exploration and exhaustion. Learning about the world is the hardest training you'll ever do. You just don't remember it.
Right now Max is on nap number two for the day. It’s only 11 am. I look at him and cannot believe how much he has grown. This morning I was teaching him how to prop himself up on his elbows and lift his head. In five years it will be how to ride a bicycle. In fifteen years it will be how to drive a car. In twenty-five years. Crap. I’ll be 60 years old!
He’s wearing his lion onesie today and I’m about to experience the post-nap roar. I’ve still got some work to do before the weekend. But for now it waits. It can be done, as I’ve found, at 4 am as well as it can be done at 11 am. But one thing that cannot wait is this child. Every minute he takes in one more thing about his surroundings. So, excuse me while I go put a puppet on my finger, shake a rattle and be a parent for awhile. IThere's a little person waiting to learn about the world.
And more likely a squeaky giraffe waiting for the showdown that will take place at some point today.