Monday, December 15, 2008

Explaining Parental Activity Trauma, Plus Some Saved-Up Randomness

We finally all seem to be getting over our marathon illness that spanned most of October and November. It didn't seem as severe as flu I've had in the past, but cold viruses don't last longer than 10 days, right? Anyway, it really put a damper on our lives and we were all bloody well sick of it (metaphorically speaking) by the time it was over.

I think all the time in blogoform, but rarely actually sit down to execute it. I forget that in pre-motherhood days I would not have known or possibly even believed how many parts of my life would be restricted or curtailed by having a little person around, including just sending emails or blogging.

A long time ago (but possibly just this past year) I was reminded of this by an exchange I had with a child-free relative who had posted some interesting things online. I hope that person will forgive me for using this email publicly (but it's not like it's something terrible). It's just such a good opportunity to explain this phenomenon.

ME: I want to see them both [interesting items], but can't do it at work and it's very hard to do so at home (mainly for Limelet reasons, of course)

CHILDFREE RELATIVE: Perhaps you should put "headphones" on your Amazon Christmas wish list this year!

ME: Oh [Childfree Relative]. If only it were that simple. I have headphones; it's that I can't be on the computer at ALL if Limelet is awake. And he sleeps precious little other than when we're also asleep. By the time he finally goes to sleep, we're both exhausted and I still have to shower and pack my lunch for the next day. When I do steal some computer time, it's usually doing something I can only do from the home computer (like uploading the obligatory birthday pix).

CF: Obviously I am ignorant about the whole havin' a kid thing. The phrase "I can't be on the computer at ALL if Limelet is awake" baffles me, quite honestly.

So, perhaps you are as baffled as CF was. And as I said I think it would have baffled me, too. But perhaps a thought experiment will help, at least it will if you're from a large family.

Okay, imagine the sibling you had who was most annoyingly clingy* and who just had to do everything you did, usually a younger sibling ("Jimmy" or "Janie"). Now imagine yourself as you are now, sitting down at your computer. Imagine that sibling standing right next to you, trying the entire time to grab the mouse, hit the keyboard, and begging loudly (okay then, shouting!) to view his or her favorite sites instead of your Gmail or Youtube or bank account.

Now in the old days, when you were fed up with this kind of thing, eventually you might shout "Mo-o-o-mmmm! Jimmy or Janie won't let me check my email!" and Mom might come in and take the now-crying Jimmy or Janie away. Depending on your mom. At any rate, there was probably some point of time in your day during which you were away from Jimmy or Janie.

But today, you're the grown-up. You are Mom! Allow the ramifications of this to sink in. No one will come to take Jimmy or Janie away no matter what he or she does. In fact, unless you have something arranged with someone else, you may not have any time that is not Jimmy or Janie-filled, at least if Jimmy or Janie sleeps as little as Limelet does.

Forget those ads you've seen (at least I've seen them) in which a nicely dressed woman sits at her easel painting in a spotless home while her baby sits on the carpet near her playing with blocks. I still laugh about that ad. The baby would play with those blocks for about 20 seconds, given Mama's super-intriguing activity so close at hand. That kid isn't even trying to eat her paints, let alone smear her canvas! Also, how on earth did she get a shower that early in the day, and have time to do her hair and makeup? Who cleaned her house?

This morning I washed my face and brushed my teeth and put on my pants as hurriedly as possible with the bathroom door open, while Limelet cried and shrieked horribly and writhed in TheLimey's arms nearby, because he wanted me to hold him, not Daddy. I daily put my lipstick on and brush my hair at work for more or less that reason.

So I hope the non-computer time thing makes more sense now. In fact, I am writing this on my work computer at lunchtime, though I usually go home just to get out of the (garden-level) office.


Today it is spring for some reason, but we did have snow the week before Thanksgiving. And it turns out that Pennsylvanians do the same thing that Michiganians do, which is to criticize one another's snow driving as soon as snow threatens. Naturally, the criticism is for opposite types of driving. It starts like this: "Around here, as soon as the first snow falls, there will be a bunch of accidents, because every year people forget how to drive in snow."

So far, this sounds sort of reasonable: a social observation of some kind. But it turns out that it actually means one of two completely opposite things. One is that the criticizer is someone who does not modify the way they drive for weather changes of any kind, and they believe that since others do, they must have "forgotten" how to drive. The other is a criticizer who is petrified of snow-related accidents and is upset when others do not modify their driving for weather, so the criticizer believes that those people have "forgotten" how to modify their driving for snow since the previous year.

Now, I probably fall more closely into the latter group. However, I don't really believe that people "forget" how to drive in snow each year, I just think they have that illusory sense of safety that comes from being in a large vehicle with anti-skid brakes and airbags and so forth. (Studies show that people drive to the limits of the safety of their specific vehicle, whatever that may be). I've experienced way too many events in which someone overestimated their traction or their brakes and got into some kind of collision, to have that illusion myself. I've also tended to have teeny tiny cars that didn't have automatic anything, so I could feel all the slithering and sliding all too clearly. (Plus I've researched driving attitudes.)

So, just for the record, stop telling yourself (and others) that others have forgotten how to drive in snow. Either they have a tiny car that can't drive fast in snow like yours can (or so you think! Ha!), or they have a big vehicle that makes them think they don't have to change their driving habits for snowy roads. Nobody's forgotten anything.

We actually have holly bushes in the front yard, so we have built-in decorations (as long as I keep it up high, since it's poisonous). There's also a huge holly tree next to my work building. I didn't even know holly became a tree when left to its devices, but there it is. Huge and shiny and bright with berries.

Okay, pie. I love pumpkin pie**, and tend to eat it for breakfast the week after Thanksgiving. At least the kind that I make, which is heavy on the eggs and spices, especially cloves. After all, it's squash, eggs, and milk. Sounds like a healthy breakfast to me! Originally TheLimey did not like pumpkin pie at all (nor peanut butter for that matter). But he's gradually begun to like it more each year, so now when I make pies they don't last nearly as long as they used to. This last batch disappeared almost instantly! (And we can't keep peanut butter in, either). And, oddly, I've started liking apple pie because he likes it. Well, I didn't dislike it before, I just found it kind of non-exceptional. But since I was making it each year, I started experimenting with the recipe (with some help from America's Test Kitchen, of course) and ended up with something that I can't restrain myself from gobbling down. The ingredient that makes the biggest difference is the zest of one lemon, as insignificant as that sounds. It's well worth the hassle of zesting that dang lemon, which is always a pain.

And finally, something that's almost a swear, but is a real place, apparently. Zesus Chrest !

*That sounded terrible. I don't mean that Limelet is annoyingly clingy. He's appropriately interactive and dependent for his age. But in the example, I'm picturing how a slightly older child might react instead of how a parent might react. (When in fact I'm a much older child.) This is not to say I'm never annoyed, but it's not because he's being anything other than he should.
**I noticed for the first time this year that my cheesy Classic Christmas Songs CD contains not one, not two, but three references to pumpkin pie. It appears in Sleigh Ride, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, and There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays. Was pumpkin pie originally a Christmas staple that migrated to Thanksgiving, or what?


Eph Zero said...

Well, obviously, he needs his own computer.

liz said...

That theory makes intuitive sense and has been applied to other items--but it works only temporarily. The important aspect of "Mama's computer" is apparently not "computer" but "Mama's". He just wants to join whatever you're doin'!

Karen the Californian said...

Sometime in the next few years you'll finally be able to get a precious few minutes on the computer while Limelet occupies himself with something else. Of course, when the house is quiet enough for you to sit at the computer for more than two minutes, it usually means trouble...

At least, it does in *our* house.