little domesticities (checking in)

7 12 2010

living with a 3-year-old (even half time) causes frequent instances of me rolling my eyes at wolf_majas behind Caleb’s back and saying “oh my gawd, the whining.” every time i do this, wolf_majas gets this guilty look, as if he’s personally responsible for the whining just because he’s biologically responsible for the child. this is silly, i’ve said and said, because he only caused conception: he didn’t create Caleb’s tendency to whine, or the simple reality that that’s what 3-year-olds are like (they’re not born knowing better–if we want him not to do it, we have to teach him what to do instead), and he certainly didn’t choose for me that i would want to live with and love him and his son. we’re all people who get to make our own choices and take responsibility for our own actions: i chose to be here, and Caleb chooses to whine. sometimes, but certainly not always.

fortunately, living with a 3-year-old also comes with a whole charming array of family-oriented activities that i didn’t know i couldn’t wait for until suddenly they were happening all around me (and/or entirely at my instigation), much to my delight. these are things i’ve gotten to do with the wee one in the past few months that have been freaking awesome and would totally make up for any whining even if it needed to be made up for:

paint pumpkins, paint each other with the paint supposedly for the pumpkins, make pumpkin pies from whole (post-paint-scrubbing) pumpkins, snuggle in blankets by the fire, share homemade hot chocolate (with a kid who doesn’t like hot things), play with wooden trains in every room in our apartment except the bathroom (so far), play with squirty-fish bath toys and dinosaurs in the bathroom, make up stories about ants climbing the walls, kitten-monsters from the imaginary island where the trains live, and the boy himself from the future, color in coloring books, practice letters on his whiteboard, read the books i’ve been collecting to read with children since i was in high school, see the polar express at the imax, play in the snow, make and share snow ice-cream, drive the trains around the track wound around the christmas tree, dance to christmas music, sing with his daddy playing guitar, share eggnog (& explain the concept of “virgin” drinks), make pizzas, run around indoor bounce-n-play set-ups snarling like dinosaurs, play hide-and-seek in blanket forts in his room, pretend to be a wide, wide variety of people and creatures (this morning i was a shark), watch (and later review the warrior-lessons of) how to train your dragon, have dinner-table conversations about definitions & concepts (far-away countries, relatives’ names & connections to each other, the relation of humidity to coughing), make paper jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and hand-turkeys (snowflakes and paper chains will wait until he’s strong enough to cut several folds of paper at once & until we have better glue!), hang out at B&N while one of us (usually me) works in the cafe with periodic visits from the others, who spend most of their time at the table in the kids’ section of (guess what) wooden trains, giggle at fantastic mr. fox and at his dad’s impressions of mr. fox’s whistle (& the cute noise that’s nothing like a whistle that Caleb makes when trying to imitate it), try on and occasionally photograph each other in a variety of hats (plastic fireperson hat, pointy newspaper hat, jingle-bell mardi gras hat, pajama bottoms worn as a hat)… listing doesn’t do justice to any of the pretty little scenes involved, but it does give at least a sense of the density and variety of goodness i’m managing to wedge between the management (& grading mountains) of five writing classes!

and he’s not always here–that’s just the wedging-in of the with-child gems. on our Caleb-free days, while we admittedly do a lot more work (because it’s certainly not going to happen while he’s around), wolf_majas & i are likely to do any of the following: collaborate over food-creation in our awkward little kitchen, host study halls and pour tea into our friends, take walks around the neighborhood in all kinds of weather to covet the pretty houses, plot out futures in late-night whispers, practice the choreography of multi-directional mornings, see folks for the occasional celebratory gathering, tell stories about childhoods and other lifetimes, ponder universal truths, make & continually refine travel plans, argue & make up again, share dishes and sweeping and laundry (& now snow shoveling), chase the kitten, mock the kitten, bemoan the biting of the kitten, snuggle the kitten, snuggle each other, trade back-and-foot rubs, shop when necessary, listen to lots of music, make occasional take-out dinners or diner-breakfasts into treats and conversation-centers, decorate the tiny tree, hammer in nails for lights and wreaths (making christmas!) and every once in a blue moon curl up side-by-side somewhere warm to read just a little (often shared or recommended-by-each-other) fiction. and the work is often good too–we work by the fire in snuggly piles of pillows and blankets (and cats), we work side-by-side bed in the blue laptop glow, we work in smushy chairs at Starbucks over overpriced foofy drinks… it’s an awful lot of crazy, what we got ourselves into this semester, but we make it work.

& best of all is how they love me, these boys (ok, technically, boy and man) i love: they hug me and they kiss me (the small one tends to aim for the knees) and they curl into my arms for books or glowy-media-screens and they tell me, over and over, in all sorts of ways.

of course, this life also involves occasional 4-am wake-ups with wet small-boy pajamas sheets that need changing, arguments over completely irrational things (with both each other and the child), cat barf, dog barf, a continual war with the cleanliness potential of the awkward kitchen, intermittent sleep deprivation, chores nobody wants to do, a stove that refuses to work at completely random intervals, and far too many rounds of the (more and less severe) sniffles, but all in all…

it’s really good.

so next semester’s challenge is for me to balance all of the above with being better in touch with other humans (a task that should be helped by how i’ve surrendered to the voice(s) of reason (& pneumonia) & admitted that teaching 18 credit hours of writing classes with a 10+-hour-a-week commute is too much to do) both electronically and IRL… now that we’ve figured out how to put up the fortress walls & keep it warm inside, we get to open up the doors and venture out (and invite others in).

but first… the many Christmases, the lots of family (and sequences of families) and food and big-and-little surprises, the early-Santa-visit to Syracuse to coordinate, and we’re going to England! 😀

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