Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's All In the Timing; or, It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Having a young child, I am discovering the great importance of "The Window of Opportunity". The Window applies at a number of levels, from long-distance planning ("Traveling is most manageable from 4 months to a year"), to the shortest of short-term goals ("He stopped wiggling; tape the diaper NOW!"), and everything in between.

I've learned to delay meals, chores, and phone calls so they coincide with nap time. This isn't as easy as you might think, though, as Ryan has recently become the master of the Fake Out. The Fake Out is especially effective for important phone calls, as they are generally the most difficult to stop in the middle of to tend to a crying child. This morning, for example, I needed to make a call and I knew I would be on hold for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. So this was my dilemma: Do I make the call before Ryan starts his usual nap, risking the I-changed-my-schedule-I'm-not-napping-now Fake Out, in the hope he'll still be sleeping if it takes an hour? Or do I risk the 5-minute-snooze Fake Out and call as soon as he closes his eyes? Would it be better to wait until he's been solidly snoozing for 10 or 15 minutes and therefore safely out of the 5-minute Fake Out Zone and risk him waking up mid-call? It's kind of like playing roulette: so many options on the table and only one is a winner, which means the house almost always wins (and by "the house", I mean "not me"). So naturally Ryan was calm and quiet for the entire 30 minutes I was on hold and even for the first 5 minutes of the phone call, but then burst into loud wails at a rather inopportune moment. Whoops. The house wins again.

Meals are almost as bad. Not only do you need to schedule eating time, but preparation time as well. Admittedly, the preparation part isn't always an issue, since some kinds of meal preparation actually count as playtime. Making a salad, for example, creates endless amusement for a small child in a front pack. No sharp knives or open flames are involved, only lots of walking around the kitchen finding ingredients, including things on high shelves and in low cabinets, which means lots of mommy stretching up on tippy-toe and then stooping to squat. Fun, fun, fun, do it again, mommy! But any kind of cooking that involves actual, you know, cooking, that can be a problem. I have long enough arms that I occasionally dare to cook over a low flame, standing as far from the stove as possible, turning sideways, extending my arm until it's about a millimeter short of dislocating my shoulder, and holding a long-handled spoon with my fingertips. (I'd like to see Rachel Ray try THAT.) But anything that needs to go in the oven, that's just not happening unless the Little Man is either happily in his bouncy chair on the far side of the kitchen or napping upstairs. And if he's happy and/or napping during prep time, guess what that means for actual eating time. Yup, fussy city.

And don't think that finding a set mealtime that coincides with naptime will help. Herb works flexible hours so our dinnertime varies by as much as 3 hours from night to night, but some kind of baby radar wakes Ryan up as soon as we sit down to eat no matter what time it is. We had a dinner party a few weeks ago and Herb actually had to take my plate and cut up my meat so I could eat one-handed while I held the boy. In fact, we've gotten in the habit of starting dinner together, then when Ryan inevitably needs to be held, I take him, and when Herb finishes eating he takes him and I finish eating. We're both getting pretty good at the one-handed eating thing, I must admit. I can even do it left-handed, as long as the food isn't too messy (mashed potatoes is good; mashed potatoes with gravy poses some difficulty). Somehow when your options are either eating oddly and creatively or possibly never eating again, you learn to manage.

Even with eating at odd hours, fitting in showers or laundry at 3pm (or 3am, for that matter), and making phone calls only when there's active snoring coming from the nursery, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Having a baby in my life right now is definitely the best of times.

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