When the kids leave for daycare now, the house is empty. If you are not taking them there, you are alone in it. Your own home, quiet, and all to yourself.
Yesterday was Paul’s first day at UT’s Child Development Center. It went fine because of course it did. Like all parents of a second child, we take things for granted with Paul that were major, fret-worthy milestones in Annie’s life.
For the record, though, here are some features:
- Paul started the day by ejecting an entire 8-oz bottle of formula onto the floor. Not sick, never happened before, just, I don’t know, swallowed wrong and started puking. Fortunately, the carpet was getting replaced the next day.
- We all went to school together so Bryan and I could both chat with his teacher, Leah, and see the Bumble Bee classroom. (She’s nice. It’s a crazy heap of baby stuff.)
- He did great but slept only 45 minutes for each nap, which meant he was delirious with exhaustion at the end of the day. Bryan shuffled him straight out of the car and into bed.
This morning he knew the drill and came apart a little bit when I left him in Leah’s arms, but he reportedly had another good day and slept for over an hour at each nap. And I managed to get both kids in and out of the car without Annie running into traffic. By the end of the week, this will be the new normal.
Paul whined when I got up from the breakfast table, but Annie jumped in: “Missa Paul! Mom right back.”
She talks now, that one. Also, shows empathy.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 9 months old.
At 6:30, you wake. Dad scoops you up and takes you downstairs for a warm bottle, then totes you around while he makes coffee. He hands you over when I come down, warm and clean from the shower, and you and I head for the living room. I read snatches of the newspaper while you overturn your bucket of baby toys and see what you can pull off the shelves.
Upstairs, we take your 39-week picture. The sunlight is pouring through the windows, and Dad makes faces to keep you cheerful.
Annie is awake, so we march into the room you share and help her get up and dressed. You perch on the bathroom counter, gnawing thoughtfully on a toothbrush, as I finish getting myself ready; then you pull books off our shelves while I pick out clothes. I shut us in your room for the 45 minutes until Charly arrives. You are fascinated by the clock and try your hardest to break the glass in the framed family photos. You scoot your way to the toilet, pull yourself up, and flush it gleefully until I stop you. By the time she arrives, we’ve pulled every toy into the middle of the room.
You grin at her as I hand you off but follow me out onto the landing and hold the bars of the baby gate, crying, as I say goodbye.
You nap from 9-11:30 and wake to play with BFF Augie, crawling through your green tunnel together and camping out with loot. You nap again from 2:30-5, when Dad and Annie arrive home. I find the three of you with Charly in the living room when I arrive a few minutes later. You’re cruising around the edge of the table and seeing what you can fit in your mouth.
When Annie takes off with her lawnmower, you chase after her, eventually figuring out how to push the little elephant yourself. That challenge met, you climb the entire flight of stairs, with me in close pursuit. I read books with Annie while you play with the dryer door. If I were given to making predictions, I’d put my money on your bright future in the laundry industry.
Dinner is delicious pork chops by Dad. You put away quite a bit of kale, half a bagel, and suck on a bone until you’re covered in grease. I scrape a napkin over your face and hands and load you into the stroller with Annie for a warm evening walk through the park. You’re quiet on walks but seem to enjoy them.
Home at 7:10, we plop you in the bathtub. Dad gives you a scrub and gets you dry, dressed, and fed a final bottle while Annie spends 20 minutes on the little potty, flirting with a tinkle. It’s 7:35 before we manage to start on your goodnight book. Tonight it’s The Little Engine That Could, aka “the train book.” I read it, fast, and Dad and I struggle through the lullaby as you and Annie protest bedtime. We make our exit, and you two spend a few minutes hooting at each other before you drift off.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 1 month old.
Dad and Paul head into your room just before 7:30, Paul stepping slowly while he hangs onto Dad’s fingers for dear life. You’re happy to see them and say so. “Annie happy! Annie is happy!” Dad zips you out of your sleep sack, and you run around while I finish getting ready and Paul tries to climb into the washing machine.
You visit Mr. Paul’s bed (“Annie Missa Paul bed! Chalk!”), raise the window shade, and decorate his walls for him. You sit on the counter in the bathroom and help me pick out my earrings (“Mom need ar-rings. Two arrrings.”) You chew on a toothbrush for a minute and then hand it to Paul to take over. You climb into the chair by the window, where I finally track you down and administer clothes.
We head downstairs for breakfast. I make toast and slice an avocado while you eat a banana and drink a cup of milk. It’s damp and gray outside, so we each take an umbrella and head for the car. We sing the ABCs on the way to school, and you point out all the cranes and instruct them to turn around. As we approach campus, you rehearse what you will tell your teachers about the journey. “Ahn saw crane, Maricela. I saw crane, Maricela.”
I wave bye-bye to you as you sit down at the tiny table for second breakfast. You presumably have a normal day—after their above-and-beyond documentation for your 2-year birthday, I do not have the heart to ask your teachers for notes again. I see you again at 5:15. You are finishing a drawing and bring it over to show me. It’s scribbles.
I drive home while you free-associate in the back seat. “Harper dad.” “Maricela says ‘callate.'” “More crane! Crane. Crane.” “Annie see Daddy.” “Almost home!”
Dad has dinner ready to serve, a second day of chicken and pasta alfredo from Costco, beefed up with broccoli. We used to be cooks, I swear it. When your hunger is satisfied, you start distributing your food. “Mom, noodle for yooooou,” you sing sweetly as you drop one from your fist onto my plate.
It’s a cool-for-May evening, and we’ve got an hour and twenty minutes until bedtime, so we load you and Paul into the stroller and make a wide loop through the neighborhood that includes a stop at Amy’s ice cream. It’s been a year since you’ve had any such thing, so you don’t know what’s coming, but when it arrives, oh my.
No skipping bathtime after that stickiness, so once we’re home, it’s into the tub. Paul conducts his usual thoughtful bath-toy business while you shriek in despair and try to climb out of the tub. Dad scrubs you fast, and I scoop you up to get you dry and dressed.
You spend your last twenty minutes making demands, and yell-crying when they are not met. (During the same stretch last night, you giggled and squealed and bestowed hugs and kisses. You keep us on our toes.) Dad tells you to behave because tonight is going on your permanent record; you are unmoved. At 7:25, we stuff Paul into his sleep sack so that you will demand yours as well, and we settle in for a rendition of
Dragons Dinosaurs Love Tacos. You allow it. Dad and I sing our clumsy lullaby duet as I lay you in your crib and he settles Paul into his, then it’s lights out, and goodnight!
(Bonus encore: Paul has trouble falling asleep and sporadically yelps about it. We watch on the monitor as the two of you pop up and peer over the edges of your cribs at each other every few minutes for the next 45.)
We’ve been a little short on Annie lately, so here she is reading her current favorite book, Dragons Love Tacos. But she’s into dinosaurs right now, so we read “dragons” as “dinosaurs.”
BY MAGGIE SMITH
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Maggie Smith, “Good Bones” from Waxwing. Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Smith.