I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot; I don’t want to draw a line in sand separating the people with children from the people without children. I am in no way attempting to say that either group is any way better than the other. Neither am I attempting to ostracize those who have chosen to not have children (or perhaps are unable to). I don’t want to be part of a clique; nor do I want want to judge. But I do feel that there are a few things that I need to share/point out/mention/underscore.
What follows is an informal, disorganized list of points to consider when dealing with either children or people with children. Berate these points, ignore them, embrace them – I don’t care. But here they are:
A.) Toddlers are not pets.
I’ve owned cats. Cats are wonderful. Feed ‘em twice a day, make sure their water bowl is always full, give them an overpriced plastic box to pee in and some furniture to shed on and they’ll be your best friend. But even if they don’t, you can have them put down without going to jail.
I’ve also owned dogs. They entail a little more responsibility than cats – principally due to the fact that for some unknown reason having a big plastic box in your house for your dog to pee in is considered “uncouth.” (The temptation to make a joke here about FOX News is almost overpowering.) Dogs need to be walked. And that requires some scheduling. Depending on the size of the dog’s bladder, maybe it’s a couple of times a day. Maybe it’s a few times a day. Whatever it is, it’s considerably easier than the constant twenty-four hour responsibility of taking care of a toddler.
“Twenty four hours?” you say, maybe just a wee bit snidely. “Don’t they sleep?”
Sure. When they’re not waking up at three A.M. to vomit on you. And themselves. And the floor. And that pile of overpriced toys manufactured in China.
So if you’re trying to make plans with somebody who has a toddler it’s likely they’re going to say something like this:
“We’d be happy to meet you for dinner but we can only from 5 to 6 because I need to have [insert toddler’s name here] home by 6:30 for his bath so that I have time to get him into his pajamas, read to him and have him in bed by 8 because I need to be in bed by 8:30 because he’s gonna be up at 5.”
Don’t react as if they’ve just told you they collect teeth. Don’t judge. Just roll with it, savoring the fact that you’re probably not going to find food in the laundry.
Toddlers live and breathe by their schedules like the state of California lives and breathes by its taxes. (And beaches. But mostly taxes.) To make plans with somebody who has a toddler is to completely and freely give oneself up to their toddler’s schedule. If this idea bothers you and you need to pretend you’re in control of your life, I’m going to suggest waiting until [insert toddler’s name here] is in college before attempting to spend any time with [insert toddler’s name here]’s parents. The good news is that by that time, the parents of [insert toddler’s name here] will be so worn down from raising him or her that they’ll be completely beaten down (translation: malleable); thus, subjugating them to your iron will should be a snap.
To be continued … (More letters to come … )
James C. Ferguson lives in Los Angeles with his wife, daughter and two cats. James’ novel, Context Clues, is available onAmazon.com. And his film, Happy Holidays, is available atiTunes, Indiepix, Cinemanow, CaachiandEyesoda. Additional information can be found on the Happy HolidaysMySpaceandFacebookweb sites.
We’re getting ready for the new baby. I’m losing my office but gaining a son. I’ve been putting off going through my office because I didn’t want to face the fact that I’d be moving it into the garage. My office was my personal space. I didn’t want to lose it.
But July 15 is right around the corner. It’s going to be a C-Section, so it’s scheduled for July 15. Unless it rains, then it will be the 16th or 17th. So I stared at the Herculean task before me. Going through the closet.
See, the closet was basically a nostalgia and pop-culture themed oubliette for me. Anything I didn’t want to get rid of I threw in the closet and then forgot about it. It was a “walk in” closet, but hasn’t been for a very long time. More of a “walk away from” closet.
I found all sorts of things in the closet. I found an MP3 player that had no memory. I found a Sony Discman. It could play one whole compact disc at a time! I found old video games. I tried to load one on my computer and it didn’t work. I found old photos. Old letters. Old video tapes with things I can’t even explain on them. Why did I keep a documentary on farming in China?
As I was going through the boxes I found some of my old short film movie props. I was going through them and Bella was enjoying them as well. My wife looked at them and asked if I was going to keep them. “Are you kidding? You’ll never know when you’ll need a rubber chicken, a bicycle horn or a Leprechaun hat.” She looked at me like I was being funny. The thing is, I meant it. I’m keeping everything from the street cleaner costumes to the giant novelty sunglasses. I’m just moving them into the garage.
We’ve talked about moving into the garage for a while, and it’s almost ready. Soon it became a running gag. “Is it okay if my friends from back east visit for a week after the baby is born?” my wife asked. “I don’t care, I’ll be in the garage.” “…You’re not going to be living out there. Are you?”
So while I’m saddened that I have to give up a space that meant a lot to me over the years, I’m looking forward to the garage and making it into my own new space. It will be my new personal “man-cave” that I can mold again from the ground up. In the meantime I’m also looking forward to giving my new son his own space as well. We’re guys. Space is important to us.
On Sunday my wife wanted to get her car washed. And she’s pregnant. Needless to say she was going to get her car washed. So that left me with our three year old daughter, Isabella. She wanted to go to the park. Fine.
We decided we would walk there, just the two of us. As we walked she was looking at her surroundings with wonder in her eyes. I stopped and noticed this. Remember when everything was big and new? It was so long ago. I tried to remember walks with my parents and how everything looked so absolutely huge, endless, and full of wonder.
As we walked Isabella looked at every car and compared them to Mommy and Daddy’s car. She then compared my car to a Mercury Grand Marquis and I had to correct her. A Volkswagen Passat is NOT the same. Never too early to learn the difference. Plus, the Grand Marquis was up on blocks.
We continued walking. We saw two outdoor cats. They came over to say hi and we petted them. Bella got a real kick out of this. She looked at both of them, petted one of them and started talking about them.
We kept walking and she talked about the cats, the spider webs she saw in the hedges, and the swing at the park. This was her day. Her world. Me, I was thinking about work, bills, and how I could trick my wife into letting be buy a Playstation 3 even though we’re supposed to be saving up for the new baby. But then I made myself stop. I looked around and thought about it. I looked at the trees. Although we live in LA we are fortunate enough to have trees in our neighborhood. It’s Paper. Our lives are ruled by paper. Paper that was once trees. Sometimes you really have to stop and look at the trees. And then feel guilty about using so much paper.
We continued walking. Only a block or two now. So when does the “Brazil”-like avalanche of paperwork begin? It already has. Grandmom bought our daughter Disney stock one year as a gift, and it cracks me up every year when Isabella gets her shareholders proxy voting material in the mail. I give it to her anyway. If she wants to draw on it, tear it up, or fill in a vote for the board of directors that’s her business.
So we made it to the park. Bella went on the swings and the slides. She didn’t want to leave but it was getting really crowded. Sadly, overpopulation in the parks as well. There are kids who are far too big for the structures on them because they have nowhere else to go. But one complaint at a time. Bella never cares how crowded something is as long as she gets her turn. After 10 “this is the last time’s on the slide we were finally able to leave.
I didn’t want to walk back so I had Mommy pick us up on her way back from the car wash. She couldn’t find a parking spot. So she parked in the handicapped spot. She is pregnant, so that’s not really that far from the truth. On a side note, I still let her do a lot of the housework because I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable that I’m treating her differently just because she’s pregnant. That wouldn’t be right.
But I digress. It was MAYBE four seconds into the car when my wife said “Now Bella leave your shoes on because I just got the car washed and I don’t want sand—“ Too late. How so much sand can fit in such tiny shoes is a complete mystery. It’s like the footwear equivalent of a toddler clown car.
So in the three minute drive back to our house I thought about our walk to the park. Sometimes when it gets to be too much, too big and too stressful, change your perspective. Just take a walk to the park. But do it in your toddler’s tiny shoes. You’ll be smiling before you know it.