I no longer have to think up things to do with Edith, because Edith is now old enough to know exactly what she wants to do and to force me to participate. It’s exhausting. Before I had a kid, I used to wonder what was so exhausting about parenting small children. It seemed to me that parents of small children overstated their exhaustion and acted as martyrs to their progeny in a way that could not possibly be supported by the facts. How hard could it be to oversee some little terrors? You didn’t have to participate; you were bigger and stronger and could refuse and simply sit there and let them run around and do whatever.
So now I often think how I would explain the current situation to my younger self, and this is the best explanation I can think of: imagine that you were personally in charge of a day trader who has ADHD, is having a manic episode, and is coked to the absolute gills. Now, imagine that this day trader has recently suffered a catastrophic brain injury, leaving him uncoordinated and physically clumsy and intellectually incapacitated — unable to express himself with more than a handful of words, and unable to read or write or think or do any other adult activities — but just as strong as he ever was. Now imagine that this day trader also has a condition that makes him especially fragile and breakable, like his bones are made of glass or something. Now imagine that you also love him more than your own breath. Because he cannot entertain himself or take care of his own needs or express himself or really do anything much, the only place he can put all that coked up manic irrepressible energy is directly into you. And sure, you might get him to stack objects for a time, or color on the walls with markers, or throw things across the room, but no one activity is going to hold his attention for very long. He is screaming and babbling and pacing the room, he is hanging from a precarious table and climbing onto the kitchen counter, he is shitting himself and he cannot calm down. Take him somewhere? Well, yes, you take him everywhere, and you can imagine how well that goes.
This is what it is like to parent a toddler.
Except also, it’s really fun. Edith is curious and funny and cuddly and charming right now (in between screaming tantrums) and I love hanging out with her, even if it’s destroying me. What do we actually do? It’s hard to recall; at the end of the day, I have a vague exhausted impression of having been run off my feet from one end to the other (pausing briefly for a calm eight-hour stretch of work in my office), but I can’t really put my finger on specifics. We spend a great deal of time walking up and down the hall and all around the neighborhood while pushing a pair of strollers — Edith has a little doll stroller that she wants to push everywhere, and she insists that I follow along behind her pushing the cheap disposable umbrella stroller I bought for our last trip and didn’t use. If you happened to live in our neighborhood, for example, yesterday you might have looked out of your window and seen us pushing these strollers for about an hour in circles around the pool parking lot, and then through the surrounding landscaped beds, and then back around the pool parking lot again. There is nothing in the strollers.
Edith also spends a lot of time talking to me, and reading books to me, but only every fourth word or so is actually understandable. Edith’s vocabulary becomes more impressive every day (and in two languages) but yet communication is as elusive as ever. This is because language acquisition is entirely guided by what seems personally interesting and useful to Edith. For example, here are some new words that Edith has very easily acquired this week and now regularly deploys:
And here are words that despite hours of coaching and prompting simply remain beyond her grasp:
any simple noun or verb whatsoever that might help me understand what she is currently screaming about so that I can address her concern
Hilariously, although Edith can now breezily scale a climbing wall at the playground that five-year-olds need assistance to get up, she STILL has not figured out that she can get out of her pack-and-play at night, so I sleep undisturbed for now. But the longer she has remained confined in her bed-cage, the more companionship she requires to get through the night. Whereas a few short months ago, even her dearest Agatha was unwelcome in the pack-and-play and if she ventured into its confines would be immediately rejected with enough force to hit the opposite wall, now Edith sleeps atop a dragon’s hoard of books, animals, and blankets. Last night, I was not allowed to turn off her light until I had piled around her several Ollie books, Jojo, Agatha, Mama Duck, Daisy, a random baby duck, and Doorknob Bunny.
Speaking of Jojo and Agatha, both of them were finally left behind in the field one time too many, and were not recovered. They both vanished in the same week, and it was a real conundrum. Edith wandered around the house saying, “Where Agatha go? Jojo?” while I choked back sobs. In the end, she accepted both replacements with hardly a pause and no suspicion at all, even though Jojo had apparently had restorative face surgery and Agatha had had butt implants and full head-to-toe cosmetic bleaching. Now that they are back again, they are especially enjoying meals with Edith and when I tucked them into bed last night, I saw that Jojo had been enjoying a ripe strawberry at some point and Agatha had been muzzle-down in some guacamole.
So that’s more or less how we’re spending our time lately as summer descends heavily and wetly over Texas. I predict it will be hot and long.
I was going to ask where Jojo had been during the empty stroller shenanigans.
Maybe one day, a sandpiper will terrorize her and the communication gap will be bridged.
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Strangely, Jojo isn’t allowed to ride in the stroller. Sometimes I’m supposed to drag him along behind, but nothing can go in either stroller — if I try to put something in one, she gets mad and throws it out. And actually usually she wants even the seat stripped off the baby stroller so half the time, I’m following her around as she pushes a tiny metal frame up and down the streets of Kyle.
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I find it especially hilarious that the metaphor involved a day trader. The only image I had in my mind was Leonardo DiCaprio on quaaludes in Wolf of Wall Street.
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This is exactly the vibe!
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