Pop goes my san­ity

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

In an ef­fort to pre­serve our nerves, Spencer and I have started mov­ing cer­tain “in­ter­est­ing” (read: an­noy­ing) toys where our two-year-old can’t find them. Stashes of loud giz­mos could be found in sev­eral hid­ing spots, but we were fi­nally dis­cov­ered.

Guess it was bound to hap­pen even­tu­ally.

I could blame the baby for want­ing quiet, but that’s not strictly true. Hadley han­dles most sounds — es­pe­cially her brother’s shouts — just fine. Some of the best ad­vice I re­ceived as a new par­ent was not to sti­fle nor­mal house­hold noise like the dish­washer, tele­vi­sion and vac­uum. If an in­fant needs si­lence in or­der to rest, you’re set­ting your­self up for dis­as­ter. Es­pe­cially given how much they sleep.

We might have been able to keep it quiet for our first child, but def­i­nitely not with the sec­ond. Have you tried to des­per­ately shush a tod­dler? Like an­i­mals, they will sense your fear — and ex­ploit it. As soon as Oliver re­al­izes how badly I want him to turn down the vol­ume, he be­comes a one-man march­ing band. Table­tops are drums. Cups be­come cym­bals. He be­gins to tap dance in his sneak­ers, clap­ping along to what­ever tune he’s loudly singing that day (songs from “The Lo­rax” of late).

This star­tles Hadley, of course. Usu­ally when I’ve just spent for­ever sooth­ing her to sleep — a long, tax­ing hour in which I’ve beaten a path pac­ing through my liv­ing room. Right when I’m start­ing to lose hope, she’ll fi­nally nod off. Then I must com­plete the dif­fi­cult arms-to-bassinet trans­fer without wak­ing her.

If I do man­age all that, the waves of re­lief I’m re­leas­ing will alert my son to get the pop­per — a kid-pow­ered push toy so many of us have “en­joyed” over the years. My par­ents showed up with it when Oliver was just learn­ing to walk, rem­i­nisc­ing about how much I loved my own pop­per in the ’80s.

So Mom and Dad got their re­venge. As any­one who has spent time with a child wield­ing the pop­per can at­test, it’s an­noy­ing. Very an­noy­ing. And loud. I’m not usu­ally both­ered by noise (es­pe­cially lately), but its ag­gres­sive, aw­ful pop­ping sounds make me want to light it on fire.

My par­ents had to know this, of course. They were laugh­ing as we cringed, which made Oliver run even faster with the pop­per. For a time, Ol­lie didn’t want to push it him­self; he wanted us to chase him. So in ad­di­tion to hav­ing a headache, my back would kill me from hunch­ing over to push a toy de­signed for tod­dler hands.

I’ll cop to be­ing a lit­tle miffed at my par­ents, even try­ing to re­verse fate by of­fer­ing to “let the pop­per live at Nana and Grandpa’s” (they de­clined). Ob­vi­ously they knew they’d started a reign of ter­ror. But I can’t re­ally blame them, ei­ther. Deal­ing with ir­ri­tat­ing chil­dren’s toys? It’s a rite of pas­sage. Just like hid­ing them. If Oliver looked closely, he might no­tice many items “miss­ing” from his toy box. He’s a for­tu­nate lit­tle guy with no shortage of giz­mos — most gifted or passed along from fam­ily — to play with. Where he once fa­vored books, we’re al­ready los­ing him to the lure of screens and flash­ing lights. It is true that kids love bright, noisy, mu­si­cal things, and we have plenty of them.

When my hus­band and I can take no more of a singing snow­man, talk­ing chicken or one of many re­mote-con­trolled cars Ol­lie runs over our feet, they have to go “night­night.” Hav­ing re­cently been home with the kids on ma­ter­nity leave, my list of re­ally-have-to-go­night-night toys is longer than the cur­rent wait time at the MVA.

Of course, only a rookie would move a toy out from a kid’s nose in broad day­light. Like my des­per­a­tion for him not to wake the baby, Ol­lie can sense when some­thing is mak­ing me cra­zier than a Min­ion and will refuse to give it up. I’ve tried mov­ing the worst of­fend­ers to his bed­room, where he never plays unat­tended, but he’ll in­evitably grab them on his way back down­stairs and lord them over us un­til bed­time.

Be­gin­ning hours ear­lier, Spencer and I will qui­etly mum­ble about which toys “need to dis­ap­pear” af­ter Oliver goes to sleep. You can’t ac­com­plish this task un­til he’s headed for a solid 10 hours of rest; if you at­tempt to move any­thing dur­ing a short nap, he’ll catch on and act out. Typ­i­cally by ask­ing for said item (“Trac-tor! Trac-tor! Where’d it go? Where’d it go?”) un­til you break down, “find­ing” it just to stop the hol­ler­ing.

Not that I’ve had any ex­pe­ri­ence with that.

Most of the crazy-mak­ing toys do wind up in a pile in the base­ment, where we can bring them back in mea­sured doses — and never all at once. Ol­lie can’t go down there, so the risk of him dis­cov­er­ing that is low.

But, you see, we don’t al­ways fol­low pro­to­col. That’s when mis­takes hap­pen.

When the pop­per was re­ally “both­er­ing the baby” (OK — me), Spencer fi­nally hid it be­hind a book­case dur­ing one of Ol­lie’s naps. Our shelves sit at an an­gle bolted to the wall, which cre­ates a small stor­age space be­hind them. It’s not vis­i­ble un­less you’re stand­ing in a cer­tain place in that room.

That area typ­i­cally col­lects dust, so we de­cided to put it to good use col­lect­ing the bro­ken pieces of my con­cen­tra­tion . . . in the form of pop­pers and danc­ing ro­bots.

Un­til Tues­day, any­way. Oliver was wan­der­ing around when he stopped by the book­case, some­thing in the shad­ows catch­ing his eye. I tried to stay still, betraying noth­ing, but he started point­ing.

Should I play dumb? His arms aren’t long enough to reach the pop­per him­self; should I go for a dis­trac­tion? He’s re­cently dis­cov­ered the awe­some­ness of choco­late (“chock-o”). Let’s not pre­tend I’m above bribery.

In the end, I caved and brought the pop­per back out. Ol­lie hugged it to him, re­united with a lost friend, and ran off with that price­less tod­dler gig­gle.

Guess the pop­per will soon have to join its other pals in the base­ment — our only good hid­ing spot left.

Good thing Ol­lie can’t read.

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