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Friday, September 18, 2009

Fatherhood Friday post: The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour (now with hyperlinks!)

The routine has been good for the past few weeks, but as 4:00 pm approaches each day, a sense of dread comes over me. While I am eager to see and play with my kids and husband, the other life duties get in the way. The time between 4 and 7 pm are indeed insane, as we try to balance what has to be done with what we think should be done. I have become pretty good at whipping up quick and easy dinners and have done pretty good with getting food on the table in a timely manner. But, since we’re trying to eat healthy, the dinner prep involves more than peeling away a plastic film to reveal the brownie. It takes time and someone has to watch the kids. The nights when Tod is at a meeting are insane. Between the cat hollering for her dinner and the two eager kids demanding snacks, I feel more like I am on K.P. than a parent. I have found that Sponge Bob and the high chair can help facilitate dinner prep, but it’s not the best parenting, and I know that. My coworkers got Eli and Anna a great art center, and we set it up in the dinning room and Anna is quite content to tear through and color everything she can get her hands on. Eli however, is a creature of habit, just like the cat. When his hunger alarm goes off, food better be presented before him or ELSE! I have found that by breaking up a snack bar, or handing him one animal cracker at a time keep him occupied and not screaming at the top of his lungs. I hate to placate a kid with food, but this buys me time and helps with the meal prep.
So finally dinner is made, and then we start to eat. I have stopped making three different meals, and have begun incorporating bits and pieces of our dinner into what the kids are eating. Sounds good in theory, but it’s truly amazing how far a 16 month old can fling a plate of green beans that have suddenly become boring to him. He’s more adventuresome than Anna at this point, and will at least try something. I put a tablespoon of gravy on her chicken tonight (at her bequest) and it turned into a 30 minute ordeal to get the gravy off the chicken. I am resisting turning dinner time into short order cooking time, as I know families who have kids who will only eat this or that and the parents end up cooking separate meals for all involved. A friend of ours has a grandchild that would only eat chicken nuggets and little else. I know a bit about the young child’s dietary needs, and according to our physician, they will indeed not starve to death if they pick and peck at their food. I swear that Anna could probably live on yogurt and juice.
But back to the table and dinner: we used to be able to start with a prayer, but once Eli sees the food, it’s over and his caveman grunts and howls become pretty loud while we try to offer a brief thanks. I added to this blessing to our prayer at tonight’s meal as Eli wailed in protest of this spiritual delay: “… and God bless Eli, as he is apparently starving to death.” It was greeted with a grunt and a fist on the table. He must have some Viking in him. I have accepted the fact that those halcyon days of yore when we would listen to music and talk about adult subjects and not have to referee food fights are over for the time being.

Then the bed time rituals start, Eli goes down first and is a dream, so we are lucky with that. He’s out by 7, and sleep through until we go and rouse him in the morning. Anna, however, requires a committee and a UN Peace Keeping Force to get her into the bedroom, let alone getting her to think about sleeping. She is the queen of negotiation, and will twist your words and your patience as she resists settling in for the night. I don’t know what her problem is. She knows when she is tired (“Papa, you know I only pick my nose when I am tired…” as she stands there in front of you picking her nose) and she understands that she feels better after a nap or a good night’s sleep. Plus, she has, in my opinion, a rockin’ room. There are books and tons of toys, plus a really cool (IKEA!) bed. I’d be in heaven if someone told me to go there and stay put. Most nights she goes right to bed, but there are some nights when the banging on the door and the pathetic whines of:

“I’m thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirsty”

“I’m hunnnnnnnnnnnngry”

will go on for hours. Then there are the brain-jolting screams at 3 am for no apparent reason. I guess we are paying the price for having her sleep through the night at an early age.

I remember seeing an article about how parents can make time for themselves, and in typical Parents Magazine style, they presented a bucolic view of these two alleged parent’s evening routine. The highly posed and stylized photo had the tag line: it’s 10 pm, the kids are in bed so Marcia works on updating their children’s scrapbooks while John checks the latest sports scores and stock reports.”

BULL SHIT!

If it’s 10 pm here, my ass is in or near bed and the only thing I am working on updating is my beer consumption. Seriously, as Barney Frank so eloquently asked, “on what planet do you spend most of your time?” By the time the kids are in bed, the kitchen is cleaned up and we have prepped for the next day, it’s usually around 8 or 9. Then there are the work and other emails to check, blogs to quickly read or write (natch) and the occasional DVR’d program to watch.

Scrap booking?

Maybe Eli and Anna will get one when they are in high school. Were it not for one of Tod’s coworkers creating a baby book for Anna, we’d have no physical record of her first year. So yeah, the hobbies are kind of out for now. I have learned to watch and enjoy Top Chef on fast forward (sidebar, I could give a shit about any of the Cheftestants this season) and have begun to skip the interviews on the Daily Show. Our Netflix selections sit patiently on top of the TV in hopes that one day we’ll watch them. I recall my Mom talking about watching this movie of the week or this special on ABC when I was a kid. There would be much hype and discussion and when the big night finally came, it would be Doug, my Dad, and I watching while my Mom slept sitting up on the couch. I now know how she feels.

There are some nights when Tod and I barely speak to each other before we collapse in bed. But then the alarm goes off the next morning, and the day begins again. I used to laugh at the chattiness of my cat in the morning. I would stumble downstairs for coffee and she would trail behind me meowing to me her night’s adventures or screaming for food. I would “talk” with her and at times it felt like we were actually communicating. “How was your night?” I would ask, and a series of meows would follow. But now, after several pushes of the snooze bar and the promise to work out tomorrow, I go with Tod to wake up the kids. Lola, the cat still offers her morning commentary, but it’s quickly drowned out by the “AAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!” coming from Eli’s room when we open the door to his room and wake him up. Apparently we adopted a junior Arthur Fonzarelli. At the reception for his baptism last weekend, there were several young toddler girls in attendance. He was in his high chair, being doted on by the grandmothers, several of the girls walked by to go outside and play. As they passed, each got a “heeeeeeeeeeeeeey!” from our junior Guido.

Once Eli is up and around, Anna will call out from her room to be “waked up” by Eli, as she loves to have him come in and pounce on her bed. The squeals that drive me crazy at dinner time are fun and endearing at the 6 am hour as her little brother beats on the bed to find his big sister.

And then the day begins again.

There are breakfasts to be made, lunches to pack, and Nickelodeon to watch. Would I trade this for anything else? Hell no. These two are the best thing (after Tod) that ever happened to me.