Friday, April 11, 2008

At Wit’s End…AKA Friday

I love my kids, but by God they bug me sometimes. It seems to be an escalating scale as the week goes by: On Monday, I’m perfectly happy doing whatever it is they want to do, from building a fort out of the couch cushions to setting up Little People armies and conquering vast swaths of territory in the upstairs bonus room. When they argue and bicker with each other—which seems to happen daily—I calmly separate them and pass out fair and apt judgment after hearing and understanding both sides of the story.

As the week goes by, the likelihood of me wanting to build a salon for the various stuff animals and their mothers to enjoy a pedicure or a good thorough washing or rearranging the furniture so an impromptu store could more efficiently sell its wares begins to decline.

By Friday, my tolerance for complaining, bickering, squabbling and tattle-taling (sp?) hovers near nil. When Natalie runs into the room shrieking that Matthew is not sharing or that he is going to bite her or some such nonsense, it elicits hardly the response she hopes for. “What would you like me to do about it?” I ask, and I’m not sure she’s ever prepared to answer that question. Or when Matthew beings to cry crocodile tears for some perceived injustice (usually smited down by Natalie), I don’t run to his side and comfort him. Instead, I threaten to put him in his room if he doesn’t stop crying. He usually does, which tells me that he was crying for attention…which is the worst kind of crying, ever. Or when he asks for something he should know I’m not going to let him have—sugary fruit snacks or a juice box 20 minutes before lunch (or 20 minutes after he hardly ate any lunch at all)—and he either bursts into tears because I’m not being fair (he actually says, “no fair” to me, something he picked up from his big sister) or he’ll ask me and ask me and ask me again. I get to the point where I won’t let him have anything, even the healthy alternatives… if you’re going to screw up your appetite, at least do it with healthy foods, but he has a singular mind when it comes to what he wants.

“Mommy-Daddy, can I have fruit snacks?”
“No, how about a cracker?”
“No cracker. I want fruit snacks.”
“No fruit snacks. How about an apple?”
“I don’t want an apple. I want fruit snacks. Can I have fruit snacks?”
It goes like that for a few minutes until finally I say, “How about nothing and if I hear one more thing from you about it, you’ll go to your room. Do you understand? Do you want to go to your room?”
“No,” is the reply I always get from him even though I hardly ever realize I ask him two questions which require opposite answers….
“Daddy, can I have fruit snacks.”

But if I’m not in the kitchen, I’ll hear him sliding the chair towards the cupboard, and when I catch him in the act of stealing his own fruit snacks, he becomes a politician.
“What are you doing, Matthew?”
“Moving the chair.”
“What for?”
“Really? Where are you taking the chair.”
“To the cupboard.”
“What for?”
“What are you going to get?”
"Fruit snacks…”

A few minutes ago, the kids were playing well together until Matthew started to do something that Natalie didn’t like (he was putting his stuffed animals with hers inside an upside-down bookshelf that is now a stuffed animal shelter. Natalie came to be screaming and crying that Matthew was doing something that he shouldn’t be doing, and instead of correcting Matthew and telling him to stop it, like Natalie wanted me to do, she’s the one that got barked at for not sharing the space with her brother. After all, I explained, it’s my bookshelf, and if neither one of you can play nice with each other, then I can simply close the office door and let nobody in.

And the messes… Over last weekend, I spent much of the day time purging the kids’ rooms of some of the things they no longer need, old toys, bulky furniture items and other things they won’t miss. Now, I’m intent on keeping it that way, as this house can turn from being on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens to being on the back page of White Trash Weekly in about two to three days, by my observations. The key, as I’ve discovered, is to make sure the kids pick up their toys as they flit from one thing to the next. Matthew loves to dump out bins of stuff and then run off to do something completely different. So now, I’ve got to lord over them to make sure they put the stuff back into the old bin before dumping out a new one.

On Fridays, I usually spend the afternoon searching for a quiet place to hide, where I can avoid the trials and tribulations that usually befall the natives. Invariably, one will do something the other doesn’t like and then I have to hear about it in octaves and decibels reserved for breaking glass or calling dogs. That gets on a guy’s nerves after a couple of hours and the way to avoid it is to avoid being found while staying close enough to intervene when it becomes necessary. Matthew’s already spent some time in his room today for pulling hair…and I hate to admit it but I enjoy when he gets into trouble in the afternoons because it means that he will lay down on his bed, sulk a little bit for getting caught and then fall asleep. Yesterday, they both took afternoon naps—Natalie the easy way by volunteering and Matthew the hard way by getting tossed into his cell for writing in a book after I told him to “draw on paper only” (he thought Harold and the Purple Crayon needed a little more purple crayon).

One thing that always takes up massive amounts of energy is to become involved in Natalie’s very involved projects. Usually, it involves making little presents for Kara…and we all must make little offerings to the Grand Mommy. That involves wrapping paper and tape and drawing pictures and making presents… did I mention that we all must make presents. A couple of weeks after Christmas, I think we had nearly a dozen rolls of Scotch tape…good luck in finding one now. Natalie was playing her educational computer games ( and she told me that I must go and make presents for the dogs—her stuffed dogs, not Elsa—and the way she said it made me laugh out loud, because I don’t know how many bosses I’ve had in my life that ordered me to do something without taking their eyes away from the computer screen, but merely half turning their head to speak.

Natalie comes up with some grand plans as well. For example, today she wants me to help her plant seeds in broken eggs. I don’t get it either, so she drew me a picture…which I didn’t get. Basically, I think we empty out an egg and put a flower seed in it, for whatever reason. Being a rational adult, I suggested that we use one of the 538 plastic Easter eggs that were left over from many Easters past… but wherever she heard of this egg-plant project, you must use a real egg. Maybe the protein in the egg shell is good for the flowers.

That would have been a great Monday project…but today, I told her that Mommy would be disappointed if we didn’t wait for her.

This week has been especially tough for me, considering that I haven’t yet had a break from this weekend when I was Daddy 24/7 for nearly six days. Sure, the parenting part was easy, as I do it every day during the week, but I had to add on dinner, bath time and bedtime to the mix as well. They’re up at 7:30 and in bed by 8:30, 13 hours of yearning for entertainment. Like I said, that wasn’t the bad part, as it is only four or five hours more than I’m used to, but the part that was especially bad was the fact that I also had to work last weekend. There was a big project due on Monday…at least I had to provide the perception that I was done (even though I still had some stragglers to clean up come Monday morning)… so I was burning the midnight oil after the kids went to sleep.

Thanks to that, I haven’t been to sleep before two in the morning all week, which puts me in one heck of a pleasant mood when 7am rolls around. My sleep on Tuesday or Wednesday night lasted all of about three seconds; as soon as I fell asleep, I had to wake up, perceiving no time whatsoever in between. It was so bad, I didn’t believe the clock when I saw it, thinking that my hand may have flopped out of bed soon after slumber and inadvertently hit the hour button, advancing it five hours…triggering the sun to pour into the room.

And Kara complains that she’s tired from her vacation… in Hawaii… from lounging on the beach with umbrellas in her frothy drinks and going to luaus and shopping.

So, I look forward to tomorrow. It’s my birthday. I’m going to sleep in, and God help anyone who disturbs me. Is that too much to ask on a man’s birthday, a little peace and quiet?

I’ve been looking for it all week, but for now, I’ve got to go. Natalie has assigned me to shopkeeper duty while we play store.

“Do you have any money?” I ask.
“No,” she responds, but stops to think for a second. “Everything will just have to be free then.”

Ah, to be a kid again.

That reminds me, I need to do the bills.


Yard Sale Princess said...

Oh Ryan, I feel your pain. This week The Bella pooped on the kitchen floor and The Professor exclaimed, "It looks like a volcano. How did she poop a volcano out her butt!". Then it just got MESSY from there. I have to tell you, my quiet hiding place is in the pantry, they can't open the door, it has a childproof handle on it. Oh, and as for Matthew drawing in the book, well the pages are paper. He may need more explicit Enjoy your slumber tomorrow! Happy Birthday from our family.

Ryan or Kara said...

You should really count your blessings. There was a time when you worked Monday through Friday and didn't return home to around seven. It's not every dad that gets to spend so much time with their children. I am certainly envious of your lifestyle.

Clint said...

Whew! I have to give it to you bro. I must admit, however, that your excerpts about the various antics remind me of life around here and they made me laugh out loud. Happy birthday. I hope its a restful one.

Ryan or Kara said...

Now I feel guilty. Nobody pooped on the floor (at least today, that is) but I'm not stuck in the office at work like the old days of my early career. There's a grey area here, I'm sure, and I'm somewhere stuck in the middle of it balancing full-time fatherhood against full-time working. I'm happy having both and I'm glad I don't have to choose again. Abandoning your kids at daycare is heart-wrenching.


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