Toddlerstilsken

It’s after midnight and I’m wiping down the dining room table for the third time today. At three, Boo has mastered the skills necessary for fine dining but remains less interested in demonstrating said table manners than in performing creative food experiments.

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Boo pretends she’s laundry
to get my attention.

Tonight, I find that she’s somehow julienned a cucumber slice into a strong glue, adhering remnants of cheese and crumb to the table, the seat and legs of the chair, and the rug. The virtues of the eat-in kitchen (which we don’t have) over the dining room (which we do) have never been more clear.

All this time, I’m trying to calm my inner chore voice. It’s not a proper voice so much as an alarm system: when I perceive an undone task I feel an involuntary ping! against my skull, a little like I imagine dogs must feel who’ve been fitted with those horrible bark-discouraging electroshock collars.

  •    That tree on the patio needs to be repotted or else binned. Zap!
  •    The garbage is starting to smell vaguely reptilian. Oooof!
  •    Hello Kitty ice pack, infant ball, three pairs shoes, tray from high chair – just a random sample of what remains strewn about the floor. Pow! Ker-plop! Flrbbbb!

Conventional wisdom dictates that I should let the chores go undone and pay attention to my kids, my family. “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” trumpet the parenting magazines, written I’m sure by people who don’t have kids under 5 at home any more. I suspect that forgetting one’s days as parent to an infant and young kid is a natural human defense mechanism against insanity.

Besides, it doesn’t work. The small stuff becomes the big stuff if you let it pile up too long. You tell me that now is the time to play with my kids — well, now’s also the time to decide what kind of environment I want them growing up in and try, and mostly fail, to engineer that environment.

So it’s back to the chore board. But I can’t help wishing that an art-organizing, puzzle-piece collecting, food-residue scrubbing elf would suddenly appear.

Or maybe, I think as I wipe toothpaste-and-spittle spray off the bathroom mirror, just maybe he has.