This week has been another doozy. I keep thinking that we’re going to catch a break. One child has hand, foot, and mouth disease. The other has a broken finger and a dozen itchy ant bites from a weekend party that ended up being anything but. I tried to get to an exercise class this morning to relieve a little stress. The studio was closed. Then the school called to say that Eleanor had ants in her lunch.
The final straw came at the grocery store. A few weeks ago, they quit carrying the kids’ yogurt that we always bought for Eleanor. So we started feeding her the baby yogurt that we bought for Henry. We figured that the baby whole-milk yogurt was better for her anyway. Greg and I are not big believers in the fat-free craze. Today, the baby yogurt was gone. All of it has been replaced by yogurt that squirts.
I understand why people like the squirting food containers. It is much easier to carry around a squirter (Yup, that’s what I’m calling them.) than a cup of yogurt and a spoon. Let’s not talk about my past attempts to carry a snack of peach or pear in my purse. Yes, pouches of fruit are easier.
Here’s my problem: I want my children to eat most of their food while sitting at a table. Also, I want them to learn to use utensils. Sitting down at a table for a meal or even a snack is more enjoyable than sucking down food in the car. Eating slowly also gives us a chance to recognize whether we are full. I know that I can give my children the standard adult cups of yogurt, but the serving size is too large.
We have the occasional snack at the park or in the car, just as everyone does. I’m not going to delve into the sports fanaticism and over-scheduled childhoods that we tend to have in this country. I just want back my little cups of children’s yogurt. It is a sad statement about our food habits when pouches of goo are no longer just an option but instead the default.
When Greg and I first became parents, we had strong ideals. I think we still do, but those ideals have been tempered by the reality of parenthood. We would not expose our daughter to Disney princesses and Barbie dolls. For a long time we didn’t, but it turns out that we can’t control what other children expose her to. We now own “Frozen,” and Eleanor has watched it more times than I can count. But she also loves Peter Pan and Charlotte’s Web, so I can at least console myself with the idea that she has balance in her life.
One of those ideals from long ago was that we would not take our children to the Disney theme parks. Such blatant commercialism! We much preferred to visit national parks or cities with museums and performing arts. We wanted our kids to see something authentic and educational.
Then I completely broke our pact. In the months after Genevieve died, I became obsessed with taking Eleanor to Disney World. I started to care much less about our ideals and much more about enjoying her childhood. Greg and I both went as kids, and though I was older when I went, I loved it. I worried that if I skipped it, I would someday wish that I had taken my young, wide-eyed child. There’s no rewinding.
We decided we would go after we had our next baby. Then it took us forever to have a baby. We talked about going shortly after Henry was born, but we wanted a suite in a hotel so that Eleanor would have some chance of getting sleep when Henry was up in the middle of the night. The only way to get a suite near Disney is to be an actual prince or princess. Those rooms are not for the commoners.
Disney is one of those places that inspires strong feelings. People love it or hate it. As an adult, I am not in the love camp. Still, I am tentatively planning to take Eleanor — just her and I — during one of her school breaks this year. (Shhh, she doesn’t know.) The commercialism still bothers me, the prices even more. My goodness! I could take her to Europe instead. I know that in the grand scheme, this is a small thing. Her life would not be ruined by missing Disney. But I think that my life, and hers too, could be improved if we took ourselves a bit less seriously sometimes. And in my obsessing and hyper-analyzing, this is the best place I came up with for fun.
Today you turned 10 months old. You have become downright difficult to live with. For one thing, you are obsessed with walking, which is to say, it is the only thing you want to do. Ever. When I try to set you down, you won’t allow your body to bend. So I put you next to a piece of furniture that you can hold, and then I wiggle my finger loose from your determined grasp. You immediately begin to cry. Occasionally, I put you in an open space, let go, and hope that you fall on your tush rather than your face. I don’t like to do it. But I have to use the bathroom sometimes or pull the smoldering remnants of our dinner from the oven.
When I’m not in the bathroom or burning our dinner, I’m holding your little hands and guiding you, step by slow step, in circles around the house. The dog holds particular interest for you. So does the dog food. And doors. Why do they open? Why do they close? Your dad and I are both a lot more hunch-backed than we used to be.
I’m sorry to say that the walking isn’t the only difficulty. You have also become loud. I have this notion of who you are — mellow, sweet Henry — but your talking is challenging that notion. You are a baby of passion and convictions. And you will tell us about those convictions in restaurants and in the car and whenever your sister is trying to say something important. She is stuck repeating herself endlessly while you shout “Ba! Ba! Bawww!” over her. I think most of your passions still swirl around food as much of this talking happens either when you are hungry or when you are still hungry.
Eleanor continues to be your favorite person, and your eyes follow her everywhere. When she gets out of kindergarten for the day, she runs over to greet you as though she hasn’t seen you in months. But with her in school much of the time, you have had to find new interests. One of those is your little wooden hammer. Listen to the amazing sound it makes when hit against the wall. Or the table. Or Mommy’s knee. What a great toy!
Most parents talk about how having a second baby is so much easier because they have parenting experience and worry a lot less. Well, you are our third baby. I am certain that I have worried more about you than I did about Eleanor because life seems much more fragile than it once did. And as far as parenting experience, I feel as though I am learning all over again how to take care of a baby. I had forgotten how babies slip and slide in the bathtub, how they stuff every speck of dirt on the floor into their mouths, how they think it’s perfectly acceptable to crawl away without a diaper. And all I can think is: How lucky am I to be your mom? Very.