Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We hope we haven't scared you out of having kids.

We got a thank-you card in the mail the other night. One of the things it said was, "We hope we haven't scared you out of having kids."

This made me laugh out loud.

It was from Jane and Walker and their son Avery, who is two. They came to visit a couple weekends ago.

Jane kept asking if we were sure about them bringing Avery. And we kept saying of course, please bring him! We like him!

We had a great time. It was so great to all be together. We did all kinds of fun things.

But it did scare me a little.

I think the thing that scared me was how tired I was. And nothing bad happened, nothing at all. No screaming or crying, no accidents, no bad behavior. It was just normal life.

And Nick and I were very, very tired at the end of the weekend. And Avery? Is an incredibly nice, happy little boy. He is sweet and giggly and bright and kind. He's an easy kid.

He's also funny. If you have any inclination for kid videos, watch this one, in which Avery sums up what they're going to to in Washington. He's a boy after my own heart.

So we? Are not even the parents. How could that make us so tired?

They got here Saturday afternoon, and we took them up to Rustico for lunch. Avery had the mac and cheese, which I'd never tried. And he loves to share, so we all got to taste it.

Avery will be eating something and then turn and ask you if you want a bite. Strawberry? Sausage? Melon? Handful of peanut butter? Smooshed cracker? No discriminating, and very generous and share-y. I suppose if you get all twitchy about germs, it might be really hard, but I like it.

We got home just before an astounding thunderstorm, which Avery slept straight through. It was amazing. They were all, "It's almost nap time. He'll sleep for two hours."

And they walked him around the house in the stroller for a bit, and he crashed. For two hours. Which turned out to be the exact length of the storm.

The sun came out, and we headed off to walk around Del Ray, which is an area I don't know at all. We visited, among other places, the charmingly named Cheesetique, which made both Nick and Walker extremely happy.

On the way home we stopped at the marina by National Airport (which I staunchly refuse to call Reagan). Which turns out to be an amazing place to take a kid. Airplanes! Boats! Ducks!

Avery was kind of wound up that night. He likes us and we like him, and bedtime came fast. And he was not in the mood for it. Because he is so very social. And he knew for a fact that he might miss something.

Nick took him in the living room to try to get him to chill out on the couch and thus trick him into falling asleep. The three of us were wondering if this might work. And then we checked and the two of them were watching The Simpsons.

Which, if you're wondering, is not remotely soporific. No recommendations for Simpsons as sleep strategy.

The late bedtime somehow, inexplicably, meant Avery got up even earlier the next morning. And by earlier, I mean 5:30. They were prepared for this to happen. Not having any experience with kids, it makes no sense to me, but apparently this is often how it works.

This scares me for sure.

I hadn't been able to sleep, so didn't get up early. The four of them went out on a morning outing to the grocery store and the airport.

This is a complete tangent, but do any of you listen to This American Life? There was a show years ago with people recounting stories of embarrassing boyfriends. And this one woman was talking about her ex-boyfriend, who was a Hare Krishna.

I am simplifying greatly, but after going through the details of their relationship, she talked about how she finally realized they weren't right for each other. She had just gotten accepted to law school.

The plan was the following. They'd move to San Francisco together. And she'd go to law school at Berkeley. And he would go to the airport.

I love that show.

So anyway, back to Nick and Jane and Walker and Avery. They spent the early morning hours watching planes at the airport. And then Nick had work to do, and the rest of us headed off to poke around U Street.

During the weekend I learned a number of things.

You need to be able to keep to a schedule: Nap time is very, very important. And you see the tired just appear seemingly out of nowhere, like sudden grey clouds before a summer storm. And there's no, oh, just nap later. When it's nap time, it's nap time. Sound asleep.

You need to be vigilant: You hear the most surprising things. It never occurs to you that you might hear, from the living room, "No, sweetie, don't put a strawberry in Lisa's book. She doesn't like that." Which leaves you to wonder if at some point, when it's your own kid, you get really tired and are just like, oh, go ahead, put the strawberry in the book.

You do a lot of following and chasing: Kids are endlessly curious and never seem to stop moving. And here's what I wonder. Is it chemical? As we age do we just get more tired and so we move less? Or is moving less learned behavior? Or is it that the world gets less interesting? We've seen a million bugs, so we feel no need to go investigate. Same with cars. And plants. And strangers.

You have to be strong: I figured out why mothers have such great arms. Because carrying a little human who weighs 35 pounds? Is a fantastic workout.

And you have to be organized and carry lots of stuff: Mom's bags are deceptively enormous. Seriously. They are endless and full of magic, much like the closet to Narnia. Jane at one point or another pulled out: four diapers, a box of dried strawberries, a camera, toys, clothing, fruit roll-ups, cheerios. . .honestly, if she'd reached in and produced a snowball, I wouldn't have been surprised.

You can tell that they have so much fun with Avery. And they're both really patient, willing to stop and look at things he's interested in, willing to explain, willing to name things over and over and over.

Can I be that organized? That vigilant? That patient and kind? That able to constantly put someone else's needs first? I mean, for an extended period, one lasting somewhere around many many manymany years? And not get resentful?

These are all things that the weekend made me ask myself. I don't really know.

We had a wonderful time, and we'd be so delighted if they'd visit again soon.


Yes, OK, yes. But really only a little.


  1. Ah you are so right on all accounts. And you've just described my last few days!

    Seriously though, naps are sacred. But you'd be surprised at how many people don't believe that. And will voice their displeasure at you scheduling everything around your child's naps.

    Whatever dude, you don't have to deal with an overtired child.

    Anyway, you'll do great. Kids suck the energy out of you but they are so worth it. But it sounds like you already know that from your great weekend!

  2. you would be a wonderful mother lisa. so quirky and charming and smart! so so so smart.

    But that being said, I feel you. I don't think I am cut out for the vigilance. Or the patience.

  3. Can't speak to the kid thing but I love Cheesetique! Fantastic cheeses. You can sample but then you're hooked!! Plus, they will keep track of what you bought so when you come back and say "It was a nutty cheese but I just can't remember the name..." they have it listed for you!

  4. mrsmac - Yah, I think the nap thing was the biggest surprise. You need to work everything around the nap. But you wind up with a happy, rested kid. Which makes you happier and resteder as well.

    Slightly Disorganized - Thank you, sweetie. I hope so. As for you, you've got a dog, which is great practice in case you change your mind down the road.

    lacochran - You are so right! Fantastic cheeses! I'd had no idea!

  5. I loved that episode- especially how she would iron his dodi- how she wanted it to be perfect.
    I'm pretty sure I'll let the kid put the strawberry in the book after a certain time. I figure as long as I don't say they aren't supposed to earlier and then back down later, I won't be setting any bad precidence. That little guy sounds like me as a child- and now- I hate to go to bed- might miss something:)

  6. I know - that episode was so hilarious! I would love to hear it again and haven't found it.

    I'm sure eventually I'll be OK with the strawberry in the book too. And I was (and still tend to be) the exact same way - hate to miss out on something!

  7. MathMan and I think that your fears are well founded.

  8. I think as long as you have a good babysitter on call (for those much needed breaks) you'll be fine.

    And I was watching (and crying over) This American Life last night on Showtime. So good. I'll have to look up the podcast of the embarrassing boyfriend show.

  9. I hit publish too soon!

    oh, go ahead, put the strawberry in the book.

    Oh, yes, yes, and yes. Go ahead with the strawberry, go ahead with the paint on the white sofa, go ahead with the Barbie hot tub in the toilet. It all happens because at some point, the 100% vigilance is boiled down to:
    1) No blood
    2) No fire
    3) No sharp objects
    4) Not near mommy's laptop
    5) Just don't tell daddy

    And, finally, the patience, enjoying the kid thing? Much easier to pull off with the first. All others after that? Well, they're sharing that good part of you with another kid and that good part of you has already oohed and aaahed the bugs and the planes and the smooshed cracker.

    Just sayin. (You can verify with The Actor and Cupcake and The Dancer who got all the special attention, but who would be loathe to admit that she ever had it better than the other two.)

  10. Yes, other people's kids, no matter how cute are exhausting 'cause you haven't built up parental stamina yet. Also, the way it usually works is that nature has cleverly fixed it so than you begin parenthood with hours of exhausting and painful labor. Then without resting and healing for the month minimum that would be needed, you are launched straight into a gruelling schedule of feeding, soothing and changing diapers every 2-4 hours around the clock. When you begin that way, everything that follows just seems easier and easier. That fact that you are also madly in love with that little person also helps tremendously. I probably haven't done much to alleviate your fears huh?

  11. It is scary. And tiring. But so, so much fun. You and Nick will be great at it.

  12. I have absolutely no doubt that you'll be a spectacular mom.

    I'm scared for the same reasons, but am also very excited. :)

  13. You're going to be a great mom.

    Also, This American Life has podcasts of their episodes available here:

    I couldn't find the episode you're writing about... but then I didn't look too carefully.

  14. DCup - Those sound like totally do-able guidelines. And the Barbie hot tub in the toilet made me laugh out loud. I NEVER thought of that one...but I think I didn't know what hot tubs were till I was an adult.

    FreckledK - I am hoping my parents will be thrilled about the babysitting idea. And I have had NO luck finding that episode. Grr.

    Benji's Mom - Um, no. But you always tell it like it is. And it does make sense that if it starts out tremendously hard, everything else seems easier and easier as time goes on...

    Wendy - I have such a good time checking in on the life of Zeke and his parents. You all seem like you do so well together, tired or no.:)

    Nicole - I hope so, I do! I will have more time; he will have more patience. I am much more likely to lose my shit on any given occasion. Hopefully together it will work.

    VVK - Thank you! I looked! Maybe I'm using the wrong search words, but I just can't find it.

  15. The best part about your post is that I am reading it at 5 am in our birthing suite at the hospital, while my wife sleeps, waiting for our son to be born.

    As I always tell you, you will be a very fun mom....but don't fret...the first thing I saw when I looked in the mirror about an hour ago (other than the fact that I need a haircut and some sleep) was that "scared shitless" look that I am sure every parent has had.

    You will be great...and my boy could always use some cool friends.


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