Today marks three months since I arrived in Minneapolis. To say it has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. I don’t think I’ve been so emotionally unstable since puberty, when I once cried for three days straight about not getting to go to a roller skating party.
As we all know, it’s way easier to focus on the hard parts. I will be the first to admit that sometimes (oftentimes) I let the hard parts get the better of me. But it’s not all – or even mostly – bad.
A couple of weeks ago I was wiping down the dining room table when I realized that I’ve already learned lots of small survival techniques. Who says you can’t teach old, previously childless dogs new tricks?
Here are my top five lessons learned:
- Overly hot food is a great excuse for dawdling. While I have seen Claire hoover 10 potstickers in under five minutes, when it comes to mealtime she is a slowpoke. It doesn’t even matter if it’s food she likes. She will drag it out as long as possible, and far past my new-parent patience. Her favorite stalling technique is complaining that food is too hot, so I have started plating her food long before calling her to the table. There are times when it’s probably room temperature before she takes her first bite, but she can no longer use heat as an excuse for pushing noodles around on her plate.
- Open-ended questions are a terrible idea when it comes to kids. For instance. You can never ask Claire what she wants for breakfast on a weekday. She will always ask for chocolate chip pancakes or blueberry muffins or something else requiring mixing bowls and the oven. “Do you want a bagel or cereal?” is totally the way to go. The same rule applies to “What would you like to wear to school tomorrow?” and “What do you want to do later?” Too many choices takes too long, and always ends in a less-than-optimal response.
- It is okay to have alone time. Going from having a kid around a couple of days at a time every six months to having a kid around every couple of days takes some getting used to. There is no shame in wishing for an extra day of quiet or for having a bad day. Sometimes, I just need to excuse myself after dinner and hide out in the tub for an hour. Sometimes I need to use poor Toby as an excuse to spend time alone down in the basement. And when it takes two hours or more for a training run, that’s okay, too. I have had 38 years to get acquainted with my moods, and sometimes there is just no talking myself out of a crabby day, so hiding away is the only option. It’s definitely better than storming away from the dinner table and slamming my bedroom door, which has totally happened.
- There is really no telling what’s going to happen. With a house full of animals and a little kid, anything could go wrong at any moment. (Sometimes it feels like everything has already gone wrong, but that’s just me being dramatic.) I am gradually learning that I cannot control everything, and the harder I try the harder I fail. Claire is going to eat what she’s going to eat. Huck is going to continue to be moody, and Cooper is going to continue to bark at airplanes, and Kitty is going to continue to disapprove of a second cat in the house, and Toby is going to continue to try to attack Huck’s tail whenever the latter walks by the kitchen table.
- There is no right way, only right-for-us ways. My life in Berkeley was very well optimized for a single person. My life was a series of actions, day after day, down to the order in which I washed myself in the shower. (Shampoo, face wash, apply conditioner, body wash, rinse conditioner, brief moment of savoring hot water, and scene.) I arrived in Minneapolis with a pre-conceived notion of how things would go. (I mean, who washes his face before washing his body? Answer: Joel.) When my own personal action plan didn’t jive with Claire and Joel’s, I could hear the proverbial record scratch/car crash over and over in my head. It effected everything from when I get up in the morning – if I sleep past 7AM I am considered a late sleeper, which is nuts, as I’ve always been the early riser amongst friends and family – to the way Joel insists on using the dobie pad to wipe down the kitchen counters instead of a paper towel and Lysol. Changing my old spinster ways, letting go of my routines and building new ones has been the hardest part of this transition. Like Claire and her non-touching foods, I like things the way I like them! But I’m taking baby steps to evolve, and being bullish about things that are important to me, and gradually we’re building a new set of values together.
Next month I will be going back to San Francisco for a conference. I’m very excited to see my friends, but other than that, I’m not over the moon about the trip. San Francisco already feels like a whole lifetime ago, a whole other me ago.
- 2 dogs, 2 cats, 1 kid and the arctic tundra (thebefuddledstepmonster.com)