Last night, I walked into my kitchen to find my 22-month-old son standing on a step stool, holding a giant knife, and grinning at me like he was the world’s most adorable serial killer.
My response was as follows:
1. Reflexively screamed “JESUS, NO!”
2. Gently pried the knife from the baby’s gunky little hand and dramatically threw it in the sink
3. Took a deep breath, curious that I’d instinctively barked out the name of the God of my upbringing
4. Sent a silent apology up to the sky, just in case there is, in fact, a divine punishment for blaspheming
5. Apologized aloud to Caleb, because
a) screaming at children when they’re in possession of weapons is generally a fast-track to the nearest trauma center
b) the poor kid looked at me like, “I thought my name was Caleb. You giants are fickle, flippant creatures and when I’m the boss, I’m rewriting the whole damn rule book”
6. Said “where the SHIT is your father,” as I hurled the baby onto my hip and stomped down the hall to find my husband
7. Apologized to Caleb again, this time for swearing
8. That is a lie. So far, I’ve gotten away with my potty mouth until children are around 2, as long as the dirty word is in the middle of a sentence and not strongly emphasized, and why the hell am I explaining myself, didn’t you hear me? THE BABY HAD A KNIFE.
Why is it that sometimes having my husband around makes parenting harder?
That sounds mean, so let me explain: I am the primary care-giver for our unscrupulous little angels, and Sheldon is at work or sleeping for most of their waking hours. When it’s just me in charge, I know what I have to do, how I have to do it, what’s already been done, and that I need to supervise both kids at all times so that they don’t kill themselves with kitchen utensils. When its an odd hour where he’s awake but not yet gone, around but perhaps busy doing something other than interacting with our kids, poor communication leads to ineffective parenting.
I was helping Sadie change clothes and assumed when Caleb wandered out of my sight that Sheldon would be close by to apprehend him. I cannot make this assumption. My kid may believe that he’s the next Gordon Ramsey, but I like all of my digits, and the only way he’s losing one of his is if I nibble it to bits. It’s not that my husband is a distracted or half-assed parent. On the contrary, he’s incredibly present and intuitive with our kids. He hasn’t been wired for vigilance, however, by being constantly responsible for them day-in and day-out, and unless I’ve asked him specifically to tend to one or both of them, he figures I’ve got it under control.
This contributes to the difficulty too, though, from an emotional standpoint. If my husband is around, we’re normally doing stuff together as a family. I expect that we’ll be sharing the joys as well as splitting the work-load. Sometimes, though, he needs to go to the gym. Or make coffee. Or take a poop. And the tantrums and peanut butter fauxhawks and WWE-level toothbrush wrestling that I deal with on the daily suddenly seem insurmountable.
Because I’m not expecting to be doing it by myself.
I let down my guard a little because I know I have back-up, then my back-up has Thai Food Belly and bails, and I don’t know he’s bailed, and next thing I know, our giant-headed miracle is trying to stab me. Which leads to me stomping furiously down the hall ready to spew hot resentment all over my diarrhea-addled life partner.
When we found out we were pregnant with Sadie, we decided soon after that one of us would stay home. We were thoughtful and thorough in the discussions that led to me being “chosen one,” and while Sheldon offers to switch places with me every time I have one of those days that leaves me covered in tears and snot (whose? who knows) and staring a little too wistfully at our closet full of suitcases, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.
Raising our children is my chosen full-time job, and during hours when I’m “on-the-clock,” even if he’s here, it’s not unreasonable for him to assume that I’ll ask him for help, or give him instructions, or say “hey, I can’t see Caleb. Could you grab him?” Preventing a future incident like that with Caleb will require a shift in both perspective and logistics. And better commuication.
And “medium” instead of “authentic” on the curry order.