Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cap'n of the household

You tell yourself when you become a new dad that it'll be the biggest thrill of your life. That you'll be Superdad when at all possible, that you'll find ways of parenting never before imagined, and you won't spend your downtime in the kind of annoying introspection that the Baby Boomers perfected, and which resulted in such ipecacs as "thirtysomething". I mean, except for the 'never-imagined-before parenting business', you're hardly the first dad to put his kids pants on backwards.

The outstanding feature writer and columnist for the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach, has been chronicling his attempt to hold down the fort with his wife away for a week and his three kids (including two teenagers) at home. My fort-holding attempts are more modest: My wife’s away at an orchestra rehearsal for around five hours, and I have one – very small child – at home. But hey, you do-- er, chronicle -- what you have to.

It actually has been relatively painless. No one’s taken any headers off the changing table. Sylvi was asleep when my wife left. That lasted a good ten minutes or so – just long enough to think about getting off the couch to fix a bowl of cereal without actually following through. This is actually an improvement over the last babysitting adventure, during which I got through exactly two spoonfuls of Cap’n Crunch before she woke up. It turns out the Cap’n doesn’t like staying wet for very long.

We hung out on the floor – Sylvi standing at her "Busy Park" and attempting to play with all 83 of her toys simultaneously, dad poised to catch her before she falls face first onto the edge of her toy basket – for a good 45 minutes. It was during this time that we also took in the second half of the Ohio State-Michigan State women’s basketball game, and Sylvi learned that if she eats all her vegetables, grows big and strong, practices a lot, and gets much more coordinated with a basketball than her parents, she, too, can have her name mispronounced on national TV.

Lunch. A handful of potato chips for dad (one of many reasons I’m not a college basketball player) and carrots, butternut squash, and barley cereal for Sylvi. At least barley cereal was the plan. After running back into the living room to snare Sylvi before she ate the bag (literally) of chips, I was confronted with the fact that I wasn’t sure I could identify the barley cereal outside of its original box. The unmarked tin contained some form of cereal. The only thing of which I was certain was that it wasn’t Cap’n Crunch. So lunch became carrots, butternut squash and the mystery cereal.

We both survived lunch and settled on the floor for more exciting women’s basketball – the North CarolinaNC State game was on ESPN2’s menu this afternoon. But Sylvi, continuing to pilot her Busy Park, gave the international signal for "I want to watch my Sesame Street video". (That signal, of course, involves an elaborate pantomime simulating a header into the toy basket if something doesn’t change soon.) And frankly, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Frazzle are pretty entertaining in “Monster Hits”.

So that took us to the T-Minus 90 Minutes Until Mom Gets Home point, according to the VCR clock, which I tried to check no more than once every 17 seconds. And an hour and a half, as every new dad learns, is nothing. I’ve done diaper changes that lasted an hour and a half.

But perhaps the clearest indication that the last 90 minutes was going to go well lies in the fact that I’m able to type this. Against overwhelming odds, and after 23,000 verses of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (including some new ones involving the lion and orchestra rehearsal in Sedona), Sylvi gave in and took a nap.

So you’ll have to excuse me now. I have a prior engagement with a Cap’n to get to.

1 comment:

Carol Davidson said...

Hey, this actually sounds rather successful. I'm impressed.