If talking about your new baby has you mired in quotidian chitchat, Griff suggests a way to liven up the dialogue.
... is blithering idiocy.
Most of Robert’s natatorial experience has been on the beach, always sandy and sure-footed. So when we started swim lessons in a pool with a uniform four-foot depth, he demanded to swim by himself. I let him go, and he sank like a stone. After that, he spent a lot of time clinging to me like a barnacle.
During lesson two, I stood in the pool and beckoned him over, and when he got within arm’s reach I grabbed him and pulled him in with me. From there, he learned to avoid me like a doorknob on a public toilet. So on our third lesson, I corralled him, lowered ourselves into the pool, crammed the noodle under his armpits, and began blowing raspberries, spitting water, making faces, and acting deranged until the shrieking stopped. Soon he was too amused to be scared, and he swam for about 10 terror-free minutes.
On our fourth lesson, he spent the entire half hour in the pool, and he swam—OK, he propelled himself forward, looking a lot like he was pedaling an underwater bike—for eight laps, ladder to ladder. The
bored college kid “aquatic professional” said the pool is 33 yards long, so that means Robert water-pedaled for more than 1/7 of a mile.
It appears that obsessiveness is hereditary.
We would feed this obsession and swim there more often, but when the swim lessons are over, the pool reverts to its ordinary status as a chlorinated gulag. The rules at this place! Nothing on the pool deck but flip-flops (no street shoes) and a towel (which they make you unfurl when you arrive). No noodles. No diving. No jumping. No kidding. One of the kids even made me take my green T-shirt off “because of the dyes.” Kinda highfalutin talk from a facility whose men’s locker room looks like it was hit with a urine bomb.
1. Robert walks up to the couch and sees a wet stain on the cushion, the result of a recent cleanup effort:
“Mama, what’s that?”
“That’s where you were eating yogurt and you spilled it on the couch.”
“Why did I do that?”
2. Daddy calls over to Robert, who has begun stripping off his overalls:
“Robert, are you about ready to go to bed?”
“I want to take a shower right now.”
“If you take a very quick shower, will you put on your pajamas?”
“No. I have to towel off first.”
3. Robert addresses Mama:
“I want you to change. I’m gonna get some hair and glue it on you, and you’ll become Daddy.”
“You want to put hair on my head?”
“No. On your arms.”
The secret to survival in an NYC apartment, as you might imagine, is Negative Crap Flow. If you bring in a quantity of new crap, make sure you pitch a greater quantity of old crap. (By volume, not weight.) This becomes exponentially more important when your twosome becomes a threesome, and that third family member is outgrowing clothes as if he’s been exposed to plutonium.
Since I am much more motivated when there is structure in my life, I have been using my “weekends” to jettison crap. The ladder I borrowed to paint the kitchen? Returned. The pile of old clothes that has waited for months to be taken to Goodwill? Shipped out. Small household appliances unopened since our wedding because we have 27 inches of counter space? Status pending ...
Stuyvesant Town normally has a Fall Flea Market, where over-crapified households like ours can offload our crap onto crapoholics less discriminating than ourselves. (It’s also a great training ground for aspiring craphoarders who are just starting out.) Sadly, this year’s market, which would have been held this weekend, was cancelled due to “security reasons.” That’s right, America. New York can host the Republican National Convention, but a free exchange of mismatched glassware and warped Blue Öyster Cult LPs is just too damned risky.
All of this means I’m doomed to spend the winter navigating a larger surfeit of crap than I anticipated. Which means the terrorists have already won.
In keeping with his aforementioned pizza lust (much of which is reproduced here), Robert is now the owner of a wooden pizza set, which comes with six wedges of deep-dish, a cutter, a spatula, and a bunch of topping discs that attach to the pie with Velcro. I'm already envisioning our first poker tutorial.
I’ve been setting an alarm, groping for ties in my overjammed closet, and sneaking out the door before the family wakes up for a couple of weeks now, and I can finally say I’m officially richer for the experience. (Hello, Mr. Fifteenth of the Month—a pleasure to see you again.) The honeymoon phase, while on the wane, still makes the job delightful—when I’m not inundated with New Things To Know. We’re down to bidness now, and every day is an education.
Many of my co-workers are a lot like me (nutty enough to devote themselves utterly to this type of work) and yet not like me (single and/or childless, and thus bursting with the extra time I’d sell a kidney for). So I relate and I don’t. Luckily, there’s no time to think of that or anything else, because I’m mostly still buried in paperwork (except that it’s mostly Web-based, so you could call it Webberwork, I suppose). It’s a maelstrom of expectations and protocols, so I’m spending a lot of time asking questions and playing up New-Guy Ignorance for all it’s worth.
I am also getting used to the rapturous joys of my first uptown commute on the 6, which is clogged and slow and redolent with cologne, newspapers, and coffee farts.
All of this is more than offset by the new pleasure of putting my key in the lock and hearing “Daddy’s home!” before I can even put my bag down. Robert thud-thud-thuds to the front door, hugs my knees, and pulls me into the living room to regale me of the day’s events. Like yesterday, when he asserted that, “My shoes are beds for my socks!” So, really, there ain’t much to complain about.
Is there such a thing as the Fixated Behavior stage? Has someone unearthed a biological imperative for toddlers to latch onto a behavior and decide it must be performed over and over for days at a time? Of course there probably is, and it’s called FBS, and some pharmaceutical conglomerate is cracking the whip in R&D trying to come up with the drugs to counteract it. (And what a great idea that can be!)
FBS takes many forms. Over the weekend, one of Robert’s friends kept repeating “I can’t stop crying! I need something to feel better!” and eliciting awkward shrugs from Mommy. For Robert, the obsession is making imaginary pizzas. The little chef pulls on his apron—which is really both handles of a cloth totebag pulled over his head—and stands at the couch, which doubles as the prep area and oven (“Don’t sit there right now! It’s hot!”). The parent is the sous-chef, who retrieves the dough (“I’m rolling it flat in a circle!”), the sauce (“Pouring, pouring!”), and all the toppings, which have ranged from pepperoni to spinach to Puffins. Then comes the very careful business of sliding nothing onto his pizza paddle (a wooden spatula) and carefully balancing it before sliding it onto the sofa cushion/oven, which he freely admits he is not allowed to touch because “it’s dangerous and very hot.”
Today was Day 4 of this little playlet, which usually goes on for 45 minutes before the parent finally tires of eat-miming and notices that the “fridge” is empty. We have to get more pizza fixins! That’s when he yells “I’ll go with you!” and sprints for the door.