Saturday, May 17, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

It's one of the biggest paradoxes of parenthood. Of course you love and adore your baby. Can't get enough of her. After a hard week of work, where you try and steal a memorable moment or two in the morning and the evening, you enjoy every waking minute you spend with your child, but you also simply cannot - let me repeat it in caps - CANNOT wait until she goes to sleep.

I remember playing youth soccer when I was 6 or 7 years old, before I got fat and inevitably switched to football. You know what the best part of playing soccer was? Halftime. Orange slices and Gatorade. Hooray for halftime! Well, Penelope's nap time is the orange slices and Gatorade of parenthood. It can't come soon enough.

Now that she is walking, life in our condo has become a non-stop track meet. There's an event in every corner, each room a different venue for a separate discipline. High jump in the bedroom. Discus in the den. The 400 meter relay in the living room, with baton passing from parent to pet back to parent. Who will she chase next? Who will chase her next? And now that our place is on the market and we've cleared out all kinds of furniture for 'staging,' we hold the 100 meter dash in the entryway.

You find yourself sweating, gasping for breath, reaching for water. But then, eventually, she starts to falter. And there is hope. Call it the two-minute warning, but just like in football, it takes a lot more than two minutes for halftime to come. Instead of time outs and commercials, we are delayed by snacks and songs.

Penelope will start to get clumsy. That's when I call three strikes and you're out. Or rather, three 'falls' and it's bed time. If she falls three times - on her own accord - she's tired enough for a nap. I find myself rooting for her to stumble. And occasionally, I must admit, I 'help' her along every now and then. If I see her off-balance, I may give her a little nudge, just to get us one step closer to halftime. Technically, those shouldn't count. And if she trips over something she would normally trip over, that doesn't count either.

At some point, there's no fighting it anymore... she needs to take a nap. And when she goes down, so do we. One glimpse of our home and you would have thought a Volkswagen full of clowns just tore through. Toys, books, dolls, litter every inch of the floor. Sippy Cups, Cheerios dust, and mystery liquids are smeared on the table tops, as if we had just thrown a raging Wall Street party in the 1980's. That's when we are faced with the conundrum: work or rest?

As easily as Penelope manages to trash our place, we actually clean up quicker than the Cat in the Hat at the end of the Dr. Suess classic.

Now it's grown-up time. Two hours. That's a long time, right? Not so much. It is amazing how two hours pass in a blur. A blink. That's just enough time to take the dog for nice walk, eat breakfast, and maybe watch an hour of television.

Just when you thought you were settling in, recharging your batteries, the credits roll, and like clockwork, it's game on once again. The whistle blows, and the clock is reset. Penelope is awake, and we're off. Diaper change, lunch, playtime. The track meet resumes... until her afternoon nap. Keep one eye on the ball, the other on the clock. I'm going to have a blast while she's up, but I'm looking so forward to halftime again.

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