I have completed my first year of being a Stay at Home Parent, or SAHP as we in the "biz" like to call it (that statement could only be cooler if I said it out loud and put air quotes around "biz"--for anyone out there who has trouble detecting sarcasm, like my wife for example, that was sarcasm). I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I feel like I am getting a handle on this thing. I mean, just the other day, I had everything under control. The girls woke up needy and whining, but after I enacted the no smiling policy (an SAHP classic), they happily picked out their own clothes (they actually did, I'm not just making an excuse for mismatched outfits), and we headed downstairs for breakfast. The girls had a nice breakfast of cereal and milk and after that we headed back upstairs for the brushing of teeth and hair, and washing of faces. They played in their room while I got myself ready and before long, and without drama, we were in the van and headed to the gym.
The girls sang along to the radio all the way, and held my hand willingly in the parking lot. Our gym provides two hours of childcare, which provides me with an extra incentive to go. ML had picked out her new jellies to wear and they were loud on the tile floor. For those who don't know what jellies are, they are clear plastic shoes that are usually tinted pink or purple. ML charmed me into buying them for her on an unrelated trip to Old Navy. If she wears them without socks, they give her blisters, and her feet sweat in them so badly that the sweat actually condenses on the inside of the shoe and they smelled after the first day. I find it disturbing that, at two years old, she is already willing to sacrifice the health of her feet for the sake of fashion. She has to wear socks to the childcare center in the gym anyway, so her feet were protected that day. At this point, I was feeling pretty confident, basking in the glow of my cute little girls running down the halls to happily submit themselves to the care of someone besides me. I was also basking in reflected happiness that ML was experiencing. She was running down the hallway, slapping her plastic shoes on the tile floor and loving the fact that everyone she passed was looking down at her and smiling at her cuteness. I was about ten feet behind her and feeling proud and happy that the morning went so well, listening to the slap slap of her little feet and watching her run in the cute bouncy way that only toddlers can right before they aren't toddlers anymore. I was jarred from my reverie by a man reaching for ML. By the time I realized what was happening, ML ran full speed into a water fountain.
She fell flat on her back and already had a welt growing at her hairline when I got to her. I will never forget how loud the bang was when she collided with the metal of the water fountain, nor will I forget the shame of not paying close enough attention. ML didn't cry, in fact, she seemed to enjoy the extra attention from the ladies in the childcare center. She even managed to put on a contented frown as they put the ice pack to her forehead.
Later that day, our neighbor invited us to Monkey Joe's for his son's birthday. It wasn't the official birthday party, which will also be at Monkey Joe's, but it was the actual day of his birtday, so it was just the birthday boy, his younger sister, and my two girls. Monkey Joe's is a kid's dream--a massive room full of massive inflatable bounce castles, slides, and pirate ships. The kids run around like they have completely lost their minds and jump and slide and knock their heads together and cry and jump some more until they are completely worn out, which makes it a parent's dream as well. My neighbor and I sat down while the kids played, and once again I was feeling proud of myself. I was letting the girls play and I wasn't following them around and making sure everyone was okay. ML was doing great and following her sister around and being a big girl.
"Do you have any extra clothes in the car?" My neighbor asked.
"No, why, did something happen?" I asked, looking around for my girls.
"No, but I should have told you to put pants or shorts on ML." He pointed to ML lifting up her dress to dig her underwear out of her butt. And, once again, the gazillion year old universe was reminding me that a year doesn't make anyone an expert at anything, especially parenting. Every time ML would slide down one of the massive inflatable slides she would run to the next with her hand tugging at the wedgie that inevitably occured. So please indulge me while I release some frustration from that day.
To the Mom obsessively cleaning her kids' hands with Purell at Monkey Joe's:
"I see you looking at me--and yes, that is my daughter with her hand in her butt crack. I'm sorry, I have never been here before, and my princess of a daughter refuses to wear anything but pretty and dancily dresses. I see you looking at me while you force your boys to stop having fun and submit to their third round of disinfection. Why not stare at the mom of the kid who keeps sticking his finger up his nose? What about the little girl who looks like there is something radioactive travelling from her nostrils to her eager tongue? Why not make their moms uncomfortable? Did you see the kid who keeps keeps sticking his hand in his pants and scratching himself? Did you know that jock itch is a fungus? I got the message, you can stop looking at me and shaking your head. We aren't going anywhere. I paid my fifteen bucks and we are going to stay until I get the fifteen bucks worth of exhaustion that I paid for."