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I’m a big fan of nap time. Now that I’m a father I’m not the one napping anymore, but I’m okay with that.
In the 11 months since my daughter Hazel was born I’ve learned to look forward to her nap time, and in the process I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for time in general.
You might wonder why I’m so keen on sending my baby off to sleep. Don’t I want to spend time with her? Of course I do, but I also have responsibilities to attend to. Have you ever tried getting anything done around the house while looking after a baby who is not napping? Good luck! When she’s awake, my little Hazel is busy enough for both of us — I just follow her around the apartment doing damage control while she dismantles anything she can get her hands on. She helps herself to Cheerios, yanks baskets full of her clothes off the shelf, and flings the contents all around the room, rolls dog-food cans across the floor, and even pries open boxes of pasta to give herself a shower of rigatoni.
As if that’s not enough, Hazel’s obsession with the dogs’ water dish has intensified. Since learning to crawl she has turned into a smiling wind-up toy — only this wind-up toy comes equipped with mystical water-divining technology: if there’s a liquid-bearing vessel anywhere on the apartment floor, she will locate it faster than you can say, “Um, where’s the baby?”
My wife and I are finally remembering to move the water dish to the kitchen counter whenever Hazel is on the loose. (Sorry dogs, the bar’s closed — come back tonight around 9 pm.)
So, just what is it that I do when she is asleep? I eat, of course. A lot. Who knows when I’ll have another chance? In the first few months with Hazel, there were always cold, hard, waffles sitting in the toaster oven, or a bowl of soggy cereal, never touched by a spoon, left hastily atop the coffee maker. Newborns, it turns out, come standard with another sensor — one that causes them to scream for a bottle the instant anyone else in the room tries to eat something. Now at 11 months, she doesn’t need to be fed every 90 seconds, but she’s found other ways of making me go hungry. When I try to make a sandwich she immediately crawls over to me and tugs at my legs until I pick her up. And should I have the gall to continue my food preparation with just my one free hand? Well, then she just kicks that dog-dish full of water off the counter, and it’s back to the life of a scullery maid for me.
In my previous life — the one before the baby — if I had an hour to spare I would put my feet up and turn on the television. Now, when the baby allows me a little time by taking an afternoon nap, I find myself moving in six directions at once. I’ll start chopping vegetables for dinner, but then I’ll realize the dishwasher needs to be emptied, and halfway through that I’ll start putting away laundry, all the while tiptoeing around so as not to disturb the sleeping baby. If she wakes up in the midst of that whirlwind, then I’m really in trouble. Why? Because if I can’t finish everything I started, my wife is going to come home to the biggest mess ever seen — laundry in a pile on the couch, the dishwasher open and half-emptied, food all over the counter. “What have you been doing all day?!” she’ll ask. “This place is a disaster!”
The end result of all of this is that I’m becoming a more efficient person.
Parenting, however, isn’t just about time management, or about chasing a rowdy infant for an hour and frantically folding laundry the next. Throughout this chaotic and demanding time, you are getting to know your baby, even as she’s just getting to know the world around her. Every day, right in front of your eyes, she is developing into a real person who, for some crazy reason, wants to share her newfound joy with you. In those moments, you learn just how valuable your time really is. Everything that requires your attention, from cleaning to career, serves a greater purpose than ever before. With that in mind, attending to household chores isn’t quite so tedious. You might even find yourself happy to tackle them, knowing that after you’re done you can get back to the more important stuff, like helping the baby redecorate the apartment with rigatoni.
On a recent afternoon, Hazel woke up from a nap and started whimpering. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her out to the living room to see if she wanted a bottle. Instead, she leaned her head on my shoulder and went right back to sleep. By that point I’d done as much folding and cleaning as I could handle for one afternoon, so I sat down on the couch (slowly, so as not to disturb the little koala bear clinging to my shoulder), put my feet up on the coffee table, and switched on the TV. Sometimes, there’s no better use of your time than just letting the baby sleep.
Tim Perrins is a part-time, stay-at-home dad who lives with his wife and their brand-new tiny human in Park Slope, Brooklyn. More of his thoughts about babies and other things that confuse him can be found at www.RevoltOfTheImbeciles.blogspot.com.
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