The Resistance

The boys go to daycare twice a week. They get to socialize, pick up new germs, and begin to learn how to conform in a play society of pre-schoolers and toddlers which is ruled by 18 year-old girls/classroom teachers. Most, if not all, of my piddly paycheck goes to pay for this opportunity which also gives me a break, even if the break is spent working.  

I do not ask much out of the staff, aside from how was the boys’ day and do they need another set of play clothes or diapers/wipes? In return, the staff only shares the essentials, such as, “Yes they had a good day. They had a nap and a bowel movement.” Or “No, they did not have a good day. There was an incident and….” Fill in the blank with any number of ways that a toddler can fall off a table or collide with another child that results in blood shed and head injuries.

I did not complain when the front office staff changed over seven times in the past ten months, or when the teachers mysteriously disappeared to be replaced by the latest female crew from America’s Most Wanted. When the center shut down for two weeks due to Covid, and then for another two weeks, I patiently waited for things to return to normal. As the boys have been sick every other week from what I suspect is a lack of sanitizing, again, I expressed understanding for the Daycare Experience and let it go.

However, when I received a group email from the director that parents were spending too much time talking to staff, my head exploded in a puff of electric purple. Effective immediately, all concerns and communication needed to be routed through the front desk to be relayed to the classroom teachers to reduce the distractions for the teachers and the delay in drop off and pick-ups.

Regardless of my anger, I decided to respect their request and dropped the boys off without the usual few words to check-in about the weekend, changes in health or having the right weather-related clothes. Baby Brother was greeted by his usual sweet, smiling teacher who took him into the room in her arms. The problem was the fresh set of adult faces in Little Legs’ classroom who appeared already exhausted and overrun by the whirling dervishes.

One woman approached Little Legs and said, “What’s your name?”

Little Legs shook his head and backed up towards the door, refusing to give up his identity.

“Come on little boy, show me where your cubicle is,” she requested.

I popped back in and said, “This is Little Legs,” struggling to control the tight pulling of irritation in my face and chest.

From there I marched down the hall to the front desk where I would like to say I eloquently expressed my concerns and desire for change. Instead, it is no exaggeration to write that I lost my sh*t about the dangers in limiting communication between parents and classroom teachers in addition to constantly changing staff.

The director stepped out of her office and apologized for the misunderstanding and that the email was meant for the parents who were spending half an hour talking to the classroom teachers.   

“You can talk to them for 15 minutes if you want,” she said graciously.  

“Thanks, but no thanks, I just need a few minutes.”

I left feeling drained and surprised at the power of my own emotions. I am ready for the next daycare showdown. My voice is my weapon, even though my throat is starting to get suspiciously sore.

I am Mama, hear me roar. Sort of.

11 Cents

Little Legs sat on the couch in full cartoon-zombieboy-mode. His eyes were transfixed on a big, red dog that galloped across the screen. And although Little Legs didn’t have any Goldfish or animal crackers, he flipped something back and forth with his tongue. A flash of silver caught my eye.

“What is in your mouth, Little Legs?”

He extended his tongue to reveal a shiny dime which he then retracted like a lizard that had just caught a fly.  

“Show me again,” I said.

At first, he shook his head.

“Please,” I asked.

He grinned and stuck his red tongue out with the dime still perfectly balanced at the end of it. With the lightening bolt speed of maternal reflex, I grabbed the dime before he swallowed it, accidentally or not.

“My dime,” he said with a whine.

He held his hand out expecting the return of his treasure.

This time, I shook my head in refusal.

“Do you have any more change?” I asked.

“What’s change?” Little Legs asked.  

“Change is what you just had in your mouth. Do you have any other coins?”

I had to work fast to find out if we needed a metal detector or a trip to the ER.

“Just a penny,” he said with a laugh.

“Where is it now?”

“I swallowed it,” he said.  

“Did you really?”

“No, I was just joking,” he said.

“That’s not a very funny joke. I thought you swallowed a penny.”

“I did,” he said.

“Did you really?”  

“No,” he said.

“Where did you get the penny from?”

“From Da-da,” he said.  

Of course, I thought. The coins came from the same place as his sense of humor, his father.

Daddy Longlegs.

Cowboy Dentist

Little Legs watched Minnie Mouse on the screen on the wall, while reclined on a green, plastic covered chair with a paper towel clipped to his shirt.  He was quite pleased with the situation. He had just eaten all the pink, cake flavored toothpaste from the dental hygienist’s silver toothpaste nub and was watching cartoons before noon.

Life was pretty good.

I corralled Baby Brother in the corner and watched the patient revel in his excellent fortune. He smacked his lips and turned around in search of more toothpaste.  

“Ok, Doctor Too Tall is going to take a quick peek in your mouth,” the hygienist explained.

“Where is Doctor X?” I asked.

“She got a job offer that she couldn’t refuse,” she whispered.  

“Howdy, partner,” Doctor Too Tall (and loud) swaggered into the cubical.

The cowboy-dentist wore jeans with a crease down the center of each leg, white from being re-ironed after every wash. I imagined he was the kind of man who also insisted that his underwear was ironed, folded, and shelved, instead of tossed into a pile and shoved into a drawer.

Doctor Too Tall leaned down and pulled Little Legs’ mouth out to one side. He poked at his teeth with a shiny, mirrored instrument until Little Legs clamped his jaws shut with a “humph” of finality. As far as Little Legs was concerned, the peek-show was over.

“How do his back teeth look, Doc?” I asked, distracting Baby Brother with a sample toothbrush.

On a nightly basis, we wrangled with the boy to brush his teeth. It was logical that a few were missed in the wrestling match, especially the hard-to-reach ones. Out of sight, out of mind.  

“Well, it is hard to tell which is why he should be with a pediatric dentist.”

I felt like the words were knocked out of my mouth, I was temporarily speechless.

“We like coming here because its only a few minutes from our house,” I ventured weakly, trying to make peace.

 “And that’s the difference between doing the easy thing and the right thing.”

With that, he breezed out.

Not another word was mentioned.

He was off to rope a horse and some bedside manner.   

Finder of Lost Things

Little Legs raced through the house, streaked would be more accurate, as he flashed a full moon along the way.

It was rest time and, clearly, he was not resting.

“Poop,” he yelled as he traveled from his room to the bathroom.

I assumed he was on his way to do his business and felt no rush to jump up.

Our potty-training efforts were finally paying off. Diapers were dry in the morning, and he made it to the bathroom during the day almost every time. I laughed at how much easier life was with one in underwear and thought of Baby Brother’s remaining time in diapers. I considered starting him earlier than his brother, perhaps only by a year or so, if only to save the landfill from another 8,000 diapers.

Little Legs pitter-pattered out to me, interrupting my ruminations, curious why I was not in the bathroom with him.

“Mama, come see,” he encouraged.

First, he led me to the bathroom which was conspicuously free of the fruits of his labor which he was usually so proud to show off.

Interesting.

“Did you flush already?”

“No,” he said.

Very interesting.

He then led me to his room.

“Little potty. Me peed there.”  

“Wow, that is great,” I exclaimed in surprise as he had previously refused to use a potty that he considered “for baby.”

The only problem was the missing turd.

“Pooped in ‘Mater,” he explained.

He pointed to a crumpled pair of underwear covered in characters from the Cars movie and filled with what I could only assume.

Using my xray mama-vision, I knew that all lost things were now found. And that we were definitely still potty-training.   

Sticks and Stones

Jagged, ragged sobs come from the next room.

Little Legs is on the floor, sleep-crying, after the last thirty minutes of yelling, screaming, begging and pleading for release from naptime.

“You don’t have to sleep, but you have to rest in your room,” Daddy Longlegs explained minutes earlier, gently leading him back to his room for the fourth time.

“Hate naps. Hate sleep. Hate Dada,” Little Legs said.

Daddy Longlegs said, “You don’t have to like it, but you have to have quiet time.”

He let the stinging blow of his son’s words glance off his cheek.

If only Little Legs understood the power of words, he would know the pain and joy they can give.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never (not) hurt me.

I hear a rustling from his room, a moan and another cry. The moan is from me, there will be no napping today, for anyone except Baby Brother. Little Legs is back up and well-rested enough to change tactics.

“Need Mama,” he says.

I jump up and my heart swells, ready to rescue him from his room, until it hits me.

Not only does he understand the power of words, he is using it to crush his parents, each one in a unique and specially tailored way.

Toddler 1: Parents 0

Tub Club

“First rule of tub club, don’t…”  

Daddy Longlegs did not get to explain the importance of sitting, not standing in the tub.

The great splashy thud informed me that words were not needed.  

Rule one of tub club made itself quite clear, with the imprint of a matchbox car on the backside of Little Legs as proof.

Day of Reckoning

Sunday afternoon, we settled into the playroom for a bit of pushing trucks, rolling balls and learning to share between brothers. There remains a steep learning curve for the two of them, even after almost a year of co-existing.

The usual squabbling died down as they focused on their own playthings; Little Legs loaded up random toys into the back of a dump truck that was really too big to be inside and Baby Brother wrestled with a squishy Dalmatian dog doll.

A sense of peace replaced my usual anxiety. I leaned back in my chair and flipped through the National Geographic that had been on the counter for two weeks, patiently waiting to be read.

There are some moments in life when time does funny things, sometimes it slows down just enough so that a careful observer may become temporarily clairvoyant and able to divine events in the immediate future. Not to intervene or change the outcome, just to know what is about to happen.

This was one such moment.

I looked up over a page about glass sea sculptures as Little Legs stood behind the fully loaded dump truck and directed it at his unassuming brother. He pulled it back and pushed it forward with an assertive vroom…vroom… that indicated only one thing. The vehicle was about to roll, monster truck style, over the only possible pedestrian in its path.

“Little Legs,” I growled. “Do not run over your brother!”

He was already racing forward, pulled by an imaginary force. He tried to stop at my request, digging his heels in as he shouted, “Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!” and swerved to the side of his brother at the last possible instant.

“What did Little Legs just say?” Daddy Longlegs called from the next room.

This was my day of reckoning, I reckoned it was time to clean up my language because there was a pair of ears that let nothing pass, except requests to eat vegetables.

Definition of day of reckoning

a time when the consequences of a course of mistakes or misdeeds are felt

Daycare Cruddies

Finally, we beat the brain-rattling cough from daycare only to be informed of a potential (definite) exposure to RSV, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, and all the possible flus. It is almost laughable at the number of different germs fighting to infect Little Legs and Baby Brother. Almost, but not quite funny, especially considering the toll that each sickness takes on their bodies.

They lose weight, hours of sleep and their general sense of well-being. They bite and push one another, like little savages outside of their cave. At least the older one can grunt, “Me no feel good.” While his wordless brother is left with shrieks, squawks and other animal noises to express the same sentiment.

We understand, all the same. The thermometer helps to confirm what the back of my hand already tells me. A fever feels so much hotter on either one of their foreheads than mine has ever felt. Tylenol and Motrin are in regular rotation as we fight the fires burning within them.

Firefighting is exhausting work, but we must persevere.

This ongoing daycare nightmare started in the middle of March and it is now June. I question whether working is worth the constant stream of snot or the sudden vomiting or the development of a strange skin rash. I am not even including the shocking new words and phrases, such as shut up, that have tagged along to home with the toddler in my list of pros versus cons of daycare and working. Thankfully, the baby is too young to pick up anything, aside from every passing germ and most recently, picking his nose, which does not improve our chances for a healthy summer.

My brother said to expect six months of this and then it should be easy. Ha, I laugh, as easy as living with a tribe of tiny, irrational Neanderthals might be expected.

Yet, to quit now would be to throw all that time building up their immune systems away, only to restart in a few years with pre-k and kindergarten. In spite of our “progress” if it can be called that, I struggle with if it continues to make sense to expose them to other people, adults and children alike, in a quest to generate income, stay current with employment and to socialize them more than I could ever do at home?

I try not to dwell too long on these thoughts, but the questions repeat, the guilt weighs on me, and the sicknesses remind me of the physical cost to the time we spend apart. Germs and jobs make life hard and they don’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

Sleep Fight

“Do you want me to sing you a song?”

I laughed softly at Daddy Longlegs’ tenderness in the ongoing struggle to get Little Legs to sleep.

Every night, the boy tries new tricks to stay up.

“Two more stories?” he requests after the 17th book lands on a pile next to him.

“Wa-wa?” he smacks his lips with thirst while holding a cup of water.

“Poo-poo diap-ee,” he announces, certain that someone will assist, with a suspicious glee.

We should feel flattered our company is so desirable that this young person wants to spend even five more minutes together. Instead, we are exhausted, exasperated and did I mention, tired?  

I remind myself that this is yet another phase, one that we will look back on with an aching sense of loss. Someday in the future, he will be knobbly-kneed boy, and then a teenager who has no time and no interest in snuggling up next to us.

So tonight when he fakes a cough and yells out, “Cough med-cine” or “Need Mama”, I will breathe in energy and breathe out grace and compassion for the toddler down the hall who keeps us in a constant state of motion.

Little Peskies

I stepped out of the shower, prepared for anything.

Little Legs had been there for five minutes, which was enough time for so much toddlerfied, crazy-world activity. I tried to minimize the potential trouble by turning on a video about dump trucks and setting him up in a pint-sized rocking chair. What could go wrong, I thought.  

As I stepped into the steaming hot water, I said over my shoulder, “Be good.”

He did not respond. His attention was completely focused on the loading of a dump truck at a construction site. I assumed that meant he was agreeable to the terms of our shower arrangement. He would sit in his rocker like a baby zombie, glued to the screen, while I rinsed off and tried to wake up for the day. It was win/win.

Water streamed down my face and over my shoulders, it was refreshing after another night of broken sleep. I decided on another cup of coffee afterwards and peered out the shower door on a whim. I wiped the water from my eyes and squinted at the space where I had just left my son.

It was empty. The baby zombie was gone, zombified no longer. The sing-song voice of a narrator still explained the way that rocks were broken down into smaller bits that got smaller and smaller in a gravel pit and a screen still glowed with what I assume were rocks getting smashed, but no Little Legs.

“Buddy,” I yelled out, rinsing the last of the conditioner from my hair.

I turned off the water and turned up my sixth sense, the mama sense, keenly aware that he was up to something.

“What are you doing?”

I thought the sound of my voice might be enough to guide him to better decision making. I grabbed my towel from the wall and gingerly stepped out onto the rug.

“Ow, ow, ow.”

Little Legs had indeed abandoned his post on the chair. He was standing on a stool in front of the lighted mirror, wearing my watch on his wrist and my glasses on his face, while holding a pair of tweezers.

“What were you doing, guy?”

 He stabbed his cheek with the tweezer and let out another cry of pain.

 Monkey see, monkey do.   

He was going after the little peskies, yet to sprout.