A number of tasks I used to take for granted have experienced a time warp. I recall with a warm heart full of snuggles and fondness a time when I could do simple things like washing dishes or going to the grocery store in just the time it took to wash the dishes and go to the grocery store. But kids, man…
Friday is my big chore day. Joshua is a homebody FOR SERIOUS, and his favorite day is PJ Day, the one day a week when we let him wear his PJs all day and just chill at home. Since I’m
trapped blessed to be at home all day with the boys, I make PJ Day my big chore day as well. Friday works well because I can get all of the chores done before Jen gets home for the weekend so she can just relax and not have to fret, at least not about laundry and such.
Doing chores with a toddler and a pre-schooler is a Test of Integrity. It tries a man’s soul in creative and unexpected ways. For starters, the task, let’s say washing dishes, is compounded in difficulty by the multi-tasking required. We have a dishwasher, and a nice one, at that. It’s extra quiet and, fortunately, comes with a lock so tiny fingers can’t change the settings mid-cycle and give my crusty pots and pans the light rinse they so badly need. But for the oddly-shaped and over-sized dishes, my knives, cutting board, etc., that’s some quality time at the sink with a sponge. And that’s all fine. Neither loading the dishwasher nor cleaning a handful of dishes in the sink is especially taxing. But the soundtrack is what does it. Close your eyes and imagine. Ok, don’t actually close your eyes, because you won’t be able to read. Just imagine with your eyes open, I guess, as I relate three true stories from the last few weeks.
[Dad is washing dishes at the sink. His children scurry about doing Who Knows What]
Joshua: Dad, can I have some chocolate milk?
Dad: You forgot to say please.
Jack: [indecipherable babbling]
Jack: [more insistent babbling]
Dad: Ok, Joshua. Just let me finish washing this baking sheet and I’ll get it for you.
Joshua: But I’m thirsty!
Dad: I know, but in the time it takes me to clean my hands and pour your milk, I could just as easily —
[Jack walks forehead-first into the kitchen island and cries about his poor navigation skills]
Joshua: Dad, Jack’s crying!
Dad: Thank you, Joshua.
[end scene 1]
And let us consider now that trip to the grocery store. This is a task I used to enjoy. I would leisurely walk up and down the aisles, looking for inspiration for my burgeoning cooking skills. I’d stop to look at the different cuts of meat, to see what fresh fish sat cooling on the ice, to breathe deeply the warm olfactory pleasures wafting out of the bakery. Now, it is a different scene. Now there are pre-people in tow, and pre-people Want Things. In fact, that is their default state — wanting. They want this or that, they want attention, they want for independence. So, the trip to the grocery store becomes a lesson in tempering wants, a balancing of needs and budget, and guessing how long you have until your pre-people spool out of control and begin crying, knocking things over, or both.
[Dad carries Jack into the grocery store with one arm while holding Joshua’s hand with the other]
Jack: [excited and unintelligible exclamation while pointing in the general vicinity of many colorful items]
Dad: Those are groceries, Jack. Ok, Joshua, climb into the car, please.
[Dad selects a grocery cart with a child-size car on the front in which Joshua can ride. Dad places Jack into the upper portion of the cart to avoid Confrontations.]
Joshua: Don’t go yet!
Dad: Why not?
Joshua: I’m not buckled in! We can’t go if I’m not buckled in. It’s not safe!
Dad: You’re eight inches off the ground and traveling at two miles per hour. I think you’ll live.
Joshua: But I could get hurt!
[Dad buckles Joshua into the car while Jack inexplicably bends over and begins chewing on the handle of the shopping cart.]
Dad: All set?
Joshua: Can we get a free cookie?
Dad: Yes, when we get to the bakery.
[Dad pushes the cart to the bakery, conveniently located near the door.]
Joshua: I will pick which cookie.
Dad: There’s no picking to it, Joshua, they’re all the same.
[Dad points to a bowl of cookie fragments placed next to the counter. All are sugar cookies.]
Joshua: But I want to pick!
[Joshua unbuckles himself and gets out.]
Dad: You can unbuckle yourself to get out but you can’t buckle yourself in?
Joshua: I can do both.
[Joshua picks a cookie fragment underneath many others, touching at least half a dozen cookies that he will not eat. He climbs back into the car. Dad gives a cookie fragment to Jack.]
Joshua: Can we get some goldfish?
Dad: When we get to that aisle, yes.
[Dad pushes the cart through the store. Both children are quiet while they eat their cookies. Thank you, Kroger.]
Dad: Ok, Joshua, what kind of goldfish crackers would you like?
Joshua: I will pick!
Dad: Please do.
[Joshua studiously compares two identical bags of crackers before choosing one and dropping it into the cart.]
Dad: Please put the other bag back on the shelf.
[Joshua puts the other bag on the shelf and knocks over several other bags adjacent to it. He laughs. More bags fall over as he rights the first bags. More laughter.]
[end scene 2]
And then there’s actual house cleaning. Or, if you’ve seen our house, thoughts about house cleaning. I know people who have pre-people of their own, and they somehow keep their homes both inviting and presentable. Our house, on the other hand, is the bastard child of a construction zone and 1990s Sarajevo. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I concede that while Jen and I both prefer a clean, spartan home, we never achieved such during our pre-pre-people days. So there’s context. The following scene (the last, I promise) took place last week as I attempted to excavate the dining room table.
[Dad sweats furiously and breathes heavily as he attempts to confirm the presence of a table in the dining room. Joshua colors with markers, and Jack is tearing the pages out of a magazine.]
Dad: Joshua, will you take the books on that chair back to your room?
Joshua: What books?
Dad: The books on the chair. Where I’m pointing. Right next to you.
Joshua: But it will take a long time!
Dad: No, it won’t. Just pick them up as one stack and carry them to your room.
[Jack toddles over with a glass bottle of marinade that he found in the Reading Nook. Dad takes it from him because he doesn’t want Jack marinated or cut with glass or both. Jack cries. Dad picks him up.]
Joshua: But they’re too heavy. My arms will fall off!
Dad: Your arms will not fall off.
Joshua: Yes, they will! I don’t want to break, and if I carry all the books, they will break me.
Dad: You’re not Rocky, and they’re not Drago. Just make a couple of trips, if you’re that worried about it.
[Jack has finally stopped crying. Dad puts him down.]
Joshua: But it will take a long time!
[Jack now bangs on the refrigerator door for milk. Dad walks to the kitchen to help.]
Dad: You’ve been on about this longer than it would have taken you to just carry the books to your room like I asked. I’m not talking about this any more. Take the books back to your room or get a time-out for not listening. I’ve asked you more than once.
[Joshua sullenly picks a single book from the top of the pile and carries it as if it were made of iron. Dad pours Jack’s milk and hands it to him before returning to the dig site. Joshua returns, unburdened, from his room.]
Joshua: Dad, is it snack time yet?
Dad: No. And you still haven’t taken the rest of the books to your room.
Joshua: But I’m hungry!
Dad: By the time you take the books back to your room, it will be snack time. Go.
Joshua: I’m too hungry to carry the books.
[A loud crash comes from the kitchen. Dad turns to see that Jack has pulled a saute pan off the island, knocking a pan lid to the floor in the process.]
Dad: And I’m too sober to deal with this. I’ll get your snack for you when the books are in your room. That’s the best deal you’re getting.
Joshua: Okay, okay.
[end scene 3]