Run, Ollie, run
When I’m on my own with Oliver, we typi-cally stay home. It’s not that I’m a hermit (though I certainly have my moments). I just find it difficult to muster the energy to wrangle a toddler by myself, especially while pregnant, and it’s easier to just run errands when I’m on my own. I can complete a Target run in half the time without little paws reaching for everything in every aisle — a universal truth accepted by par- ents ever ywhere.
Of course, our kids usually come with us because . . . well, they’re our kids. We can’t ex- actly leave without them. But as much as my husband and I can arrange to run errands in- dependently or get tasks com- pleted during the week while Ollie parties with his buddies at daycare, the less likely I am to lose my mind.
I’m seeing now why well-meaning folks told us to “enjoy” the newborn stage. Aside from the sleep depriva- tion, it was actually pretty great to be able to plunk Ollie down like an adorable paperweight and have him stay precisely where we put him. There were no fears about a toddler slipping through the baby gate to ascend a staircase; no piercing terror when I realize it’s been quiet for a whole 60 seconds and Oliver has undoubtedly fled through the front door.
It’s much easier to stay home because we’ve baby-proofed. All two of our priceless family heir- looms are secured out-of-reach, so the downstairs is open terri- tory for a curious 20-month-old. Ollie still gets into mischief, believe me, but it’s mostly of the pull-out-every-pot-and-pan vari- ety. If unwrapping individual tea bags, dismantling a hot pot and throwing paperwork like confetti makes him happy, I tend to go along with it.
I do have some boundaries, though. We all do; we must. They’re constantly being stretched and tested and prov- en obsolete, but hey: I try. My husband is admittedly better at keeping them, but we’re work- ing on it.
I made plans Saturday to meet up with my family at a local Christmas market with Oliver while my husband was at an- other event. I set this up a while ago, without really considering the technical difficulties that would accompany getting Ollie fed, dressed and loaded up to venture to La Plata on my own.
In the year and a half since my son was born, I have never taken him shopping alone. And I’ve rarely — if ever? — taken him to an event independently. Just packing up his stuff was a feat: stroller, diaper bag, food, drinks, blankets, socks and shoes, entertaining books for the road. We were headed a whole 20 minutes south, but I’m nothing if not prepared.
This probably sounds ridic- ulous. I mean, I’m his mother — can I really be that inexperi- enced at this stage in the game? But here’s the truth: I have a teammate. Spencer does the heavy lifting (literally) while I tend to more behind-the-scenes tasks: like making sure we always have clean diapers, wipes and spare plastic bags for the road. And Oliver’s favorite blanket. And more snacks, ’cause “too many toddler snacks” is not a thing.
Wrestling Oliver into his socks, shoes and jacket are not my typical duties. Even during the week, as I get us both ready for work and daycare, I tend to avoid tackling the shoe/sock combo until I have him safely strapped in his carseat. He’s tough to secure.
At the Kris Kringle Market in La Plata on Saturday, I met up with my parents, sister and brother-in-law to shop and graze from the many food vendors. It was the coldest day we’ve experienced yet, I think, and I had Ollie bundled: think Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story,” wedged in a stroller and unable to move his arms. I knew my parents would approve.
You see, if left to my own devices, I’m the fool walking around with no coat in 30-degree weather. I’m easily overheated, and getting overheated means getting irritated — especially while pregnant. I wrong- fully assume other people are hot when they are, in fact, freez- ing. I try not to extend this to my son.
Oliver lasted in the stroller for about a half hour. Since getting his sea legs earlier this fall, there’s no stopping the kid — literally. First he wants out of the stroller for that delicious taste of freedom, and then he’s catapulting from your arms to run as far as his baby legs will take him.
A few folks called out to me as I ran by, hearing me shout “Oliver! Oliver!” often enough to gain the attention of a ware- house full of people. He was dodging, he was weaving, he was cackling like a monkey: anything to gain some traction and shoot ahead of us, the scamp.
I had help, of course. My brother-in-law is a strapping guy who carries him with ease — something a rotund, petite woman like me doesn’t quite manage. When Oliver is trying to get away from me, I look like I’m fighting a bobcat . . . and the bobcat is winning. Eric ran interference, grabbing Ollie as he attempted to rip power cords from outlets or dash into employees-only side rooms, while I huffed behind them. Always watching from a distance.
So I was on my own, but not on my own. Not at all. And this was a blessing, for sure, considering we all went for lunch at a sit-down place afterward — something Spencer and I don’t attempt on even our bravest days.
Five adults to handle one toddler.
Sounds about right.