Call­ing in back-up

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Well, we sur­vived a busi­ness trip. My hus­band’s, that is. Spencer went out-of-town this week, leav­ing me home with the tod­dler, and . . . well, I was dread­ing it. I’m so tired af­ter work that I of­ten fall asleep by the end of “Wheel of For- tune,” and Spence has been do­ing much of the heavy lift­ing — lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cal- ly — with Oliver these last few months. My fears were not un­founded. Though I love be­ing a mother, the trenches of par­ent­hood are no joke. Of course kids are sweet when strangers are around, duck­ing their head against your shoul­der, gig­gling their baby gig­gles and of­fer­ing pic­ture-per­fect grins. Ac­quain- tances will be over­come by all the cute­ness, think­ing of that dim­pled smile for hours. Who knows? It could even sway them into en­ter­ing the sticky, scrib­bled-on world of par­ent- ing, too. How tough could it be? Re­al­ity is wash­ing your son’s blan­kets only to have him im- me­di­ately dump oat­meal on one as it’s fresh from the dryer. Like many kids, one of Ol­lie’s blankies — five of them, sim­i­lar but in dif­fer­ent col­ors — goes with us ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing daily to day­care. I try to grab a blan­ket on my way down­stairs to avoid trekking back up there later.

It’s not that I’m lazy. I mean, I cer­tainly have my mo­ments, and I wouldn’t deny that I’ve made ex­cuses to avoid hav­ing to climb stairs on roughly 1,876 dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions. But I’m preg­nant. I look it, I feel it. Sim­ply walk­ing of­ten re­quires en­ergy I don’t pos­sess, and go­ing up­stairs is a chore that calls for plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion.

Get­ting my­self up­stairs is one thing, but get­ting up­stairs with 30-pound Oliver on my hip? That’s quite an­other. He can’t be left alone for the two min- utes it would take to go up there alone, so he must come along. It’s a pro­cess.

Back down­stairs with clean blankie in hand, I turned around for 10-ish sec­onds to grab a bag from the kitchen. When I re­turned, there was no tell­tale pat­ter of Oliver’s feet on hard­wood. He’d dis­ap­peared from the liv­ing room. That usu­ally means he’s in the li­brary, where he likes to pull hard­cov­ers from the shelves, but it was empty. So was the nearby of­fice. And the foyer.

That’s when I heard it: a splish­ing, a splash­ing. De­light- ed laugh­ing.

When you’re “baby-proof­ing” your house to guard against lit­tle hands get­ting into things they shouldn’t, there are some dan­ger­ous spots you just can’t pre­dict — un­til your child has out­ma­neu­vered you, of course. So it was with the bath­room.

We try to keep it sealed off. My son knows the bath­room is off-lim­its — which, of course, makes it all the more ap­peal- ing. Some­times I re­mem­ber to close the door. On Mon­day, I did not.

I ran in to find Oliver with his sec­ond blan­ket — still bear­ing that fresh-from-the-laun­dry scent — be­ing shoved into the toi­let.

I cried out with the ex­as­per- ation of tired par­ents ev­ery­where, and Ol­lie looked up with round eyes that sud­denly filled with tears. I felt aw­ful that I’d star­tled him from what was ob­vi­ously an awe­some ac­tiv­ity, but . . . yeah. Toi­let wa­ter. Toi­let wa­ter ev­ery­where.

At 7:30 a.m. be­fore caf­feine, I didn’t have the en­ergy to clean up the mess. I shut the door. Look, I’m not proud of it, but we have to know are lim­its. Clean­ing up toi­let wa­ter was mine.

Pulling a kick­ing Oliver from the wreck­age, I put him back on my hip as we strug­gled over the baby gate for the third blan- ket of the morning. I was start- ing to re­gret ever push­ing for a two-story house, day­dream­ing of our old apart­ment and how “cramped” might ac­tu­ally feel like heaven these days.

On Tues­day, our first full night with­out Spencer at home, Ol­lie could see that my fel­low ref­eree was un­avail­able . . . and he was ready. With my de­fenses down, he fought to grab any­thing I was hold­ing — tis­sues, the re­mote, ChapStick — from my hands. His typ­i­cal 8:30 p.m. bed­time was stretched to 9, then 9:30, as he fought sleep and pushed the rope of my pa­tience un­til it snapped.

Gone were my fan­tasies of an early bed­time, quiet house and TV — with its back- log episodes of “This is Us” — all to my­self. Af­ter wrestling that mon­key into bed for the third and fi­nal time, I was too ex­hausted to even think about putting on an hour-long show. Es­pe­cially not one that would have me cry­ing in min­utes.

By Wed­nes­day, I was beg­ging my sis­ter and brother-in-law to stop by for back-up. Ol­lie needed a play­mate who wasn’t ro­tund and out-of-breath and ready to pass out by 7 p.m. They came, and they brought pizza.

When Katie and Eric are soon in the par­ent­ing trenches them­selves, trust me: I won’t for­get that. We’ll pay them back. Love means show­ing up . . . and the purest love usu­ally in­volves cheese.

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