Monday, January 5, 2009

And What Have You Done?

"If you're not ready to get your heart broken, then you're not ready to be a parent." - Rob Lowe's character in Brothers & Sisters. And yes, that's the 2nd time I've quoted that show.

Before I attempt to promise more blog entries in 2009, a resolution I would hope to keep but can't guarantee that I will, let me just say right off the bat that I completely underestimated the time, effort, and energy it takes to raise a toddler. Not a baby. Babies are easy. All they do is eat, sleep, and crap. I trained for and ran a half-marathon with a baby. Toddlers, on the other hand, are a never-ending triathlon. You're always running and driving with them, all the while getting wet in the process. And the liquid varies. Sometimes it's delicious. Other times it's disgusting. But almost always, it's a surprise.

It takes a big man to admit he was wrong. Yes, when my wife and I were a childless couple spending money freely on booze and travel, we used to secretly (now it's not a secret) criticize our child-rearing friends and cousins because they were no longer attending our parties. The only invitations from them were for first or second birthday parties. LAME!!!

Since then we have moved to the suburbs. What used to qualify as the "late bus" home was the 2AM to Hoboken. Now it's the 9:30PM to Montclair. The list of choice nightspots for an evening of social imbibing has been replaced by a list of teenage babysitters we use to gain a few hours of peace to go to a movie or to go shopping. And that "slush fund" that formerly went towards indiscriminate and whimsical purchases is now null and void. That money now pays for child care, with the rest going towards college.

I'm not complaining. Just pointing out how times have changed. How we have changed. How Penelope has changed us, for the better. And I now provide a few examples of why life outside the big city, with a wild, unpredictable, miniature person, is very very good:

-SAY ANYTHING: Penelope repeats more than bad Chinese food. If you speak it, she will too. She now shouts "Go, go, go!" at any football game on the television. She'll pick up any phone, blackberry, remote, or baby monitor, hold it up to her ear, and sing "Hell-oooooo" And she now routinely says "No, Lunie" whenever the dog comes remotely anywhere near her vicinity when she has a snack. Yes, she now, like her parents, calls Luna "Lunie." The other day, she was pushing some of our guests' children, and taking toys out of their hands. I intervened, bending down to address my daughter, holding out my arms, palms up, and said, "Penelope, what's happening?" As in, 'what the hell is your problem, devil child?' She now responds with her own "Whu happen-ning?" every time I ask her a question.

-JUST AN OPINION: Here's a precursor of things to come. This child is extremely opinionated. And stubborn. If only I know where she got THAT from. Will wonders never cease?When we dress her, we give her options because if we pick something out without consulting her, she will throw a fit that makes reeling in a marlin feel less stressful on the mind and body. Socks, shoes, pajamas, sippy cups. It's ladies' choice at the roller rink! But this routine has spawned one of our favorite Penelope lines. Whenever we pick out a favorable outfit, she will say "I like that" with a smile. And THAT is worth the price of admission, sports fans. On the flip side, less than favorable options get an "I don't like that."

-RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: One of my daughter's more consistent phrases is "No, daddy!" But the 'daddy' is pronounced "dad-deee," as if Penelope has a Jamaican accent. I move in for a hug or a kiss: "No, daddy!" I attempt to wipe her face after a meal or change her diaper: "No, daddy!" I do something silly in an effort to make her laugh, and as a result, make her like me: "No, daddy!" But I have turned the tables. I have successfully transformed"No, daddy" into a game. "No, daddy" just makes daddy do it more. And tickling then ensues, and more "No, daddy," but now with laughter. And more kissing and hugging and rough-housing. And the "No, daddy" stops.

-NOTHING IS ROUTINE: What was once mundane is now an adventure. Or rather, a task.
Penelope has mastered the art of procrastination. This effects my wife more than it does me, since she's the one who gets her ready in the morning. Everything comes with a question. And if Penelope falls in love with a word, she will say it over and over and over and over again until you repeat it, confirm it, and use it in a sentence. "Yes, that toy is broken, sweetheart." "You're right, Luna can NOT have raisins." "Yes, daddy has a cough because YOU have a cough." The words/phrases she was saying in the examples above were: "Broken," "No, Luna," and "Daddy Cough."

-BEFORE YOU GO: We have officially entered the phase of reading several books and getting a drink before she goes to bed at night. How can I resist when she asks me to read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by saying "Santa?"Only a heartless miser like Old Man Potter could resist her charms. But when she's ready for bed, she'll tell you. Once everything is in order, the proper books are read, the proper songs are sung, the correct trinkets and toys are collected to join her in the crib, she'll point to her musical turtle for you to turn it on, then she'll say "bye-bye." And she's done.

-NEW AND EXCITING: Penelope loves to hold hands and say grace before meals. She'll have her food in front of her, and while we're still getting things ready for ourselves she will tell us to "sit," and extend her arms like a priest giving a blessing to the whole congregation. Then we say grace, and she smiles. She also sings her ABC's. I don't know if that's early or late or whatever for her to be doing that, but it makes her at the same time adorable and brillant in my book. And one of my favorite things in the world is watching her walk up the stairs. Climbing one-by-one, like a weebling-wobbling slinky, making it look effortless as it probably takes all the effort in the world.

She's growing up so fast! Just like her parents.

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