The youngest rules the roost
As a vetted parent, I do not care how many times I have repeated the phrase, “I am in charge of this family,” I was dead wrong. The ruler of the roost is the youngest member of the family, especially if the youngest member is an infant or a precocious toddler.
My youngest offspring turned one year old this February when realized I have not been the one running the show for the last eight years. This somber epiphany enlightened me to a hierarchy I did not notice before. With the birth of each child came a passing of the torch.
Sure, I’ve tried my best to establish a routine with the children. After all, I am a creature of habit myself, and a structured routine makes the day flow smoothly. A solid routine is wonderful when the children are all of school age like three of my four, but add an infant or toddler to the mix and total chaos will surely ensue.
A set wake-up time is the first piece of the routine lost. Mornings are nice. I am a morning person. I like to get stuff done early. I’m up at least a half hour before the kids get up, school or not. I love the stillness in the house, silently sitting in my office with a steaming cup of coffee, and watching the sun erase the night sky. It is my time to think, jot down a few notes for whatever writing project is on my agenda and plan my day.
But the best laid plans, and peaceful mornings are quickly shattered when there is a tiny, hungry, wet infant demanding he or she be tended to immediately. And when said little one wakes, the entire house must wake with them. Thankfully, this does pass as they enter toddler stage. And keeping a good routine will help. I promise, the little one will adapt.
Bedtime offers a whole new challenge. Anyone with a little one knows, when the little one is ready to sleep, it is time to sleep. And there is no guarantee the little one will stay asleep, because all it takes is the drop of a pin to wake them up in a fit of rage. The challenge comes in keeping the rest of the house down to a dull roar, especially when the rest of the brood is fully energized. Let me not forget to mention that sleeping through the night is rare, even with younger school age children. Wet diapers, gas or late night feedings are constant with the infants. With the toddlers and older children there are the accidental bed-wettings, nightmares and insomnia.
Meals are challenging no matter what age the children are. Sure, meal times can be an easy routine to establish, but I can tell you from experience that none of my children have the same pallet. Each has their favorites and more than half the meals I prepare in a week will be frowned upon, poked at, or straight up rejected.
My little man is not like his older sisters when it comes to eating. Where they are selective about what and when they want to eat. The youngest is an on-demand eater. He will eat just about anything as long as you feed him every two hours, and he demands to eat first and immediately. His signal is two fingers to the back of his throat until he pukes. Entering the kitchen is enough to elicit this response, even if we have already eaten. As much as I would like to only have to plan and prepare three meals per day, I always end up taking on the roll of short order cook and my kitchen becomes Mel’s Diner.
Outings can be a whole other animal. Most of the time, the little man either wants to eat or nap right before we are trying to get out the door. Once out, he is usually happy and enjoys escaping from the confines of the house. But there is no guarantee he will remain blissful. God forbid a stranger might stare at him, or talk to him. This is a true deal breaker and demands immediate return to the safety of home.
My favorite is the, “I just pooped” face. This is most likely to happen while in the checkout line, half way though ringing up a few hundred dollars worth of groceries. But, like his siblings before, he saves these special moments for the crowded restaurant with either a broken, or worse, no changing table.
And, of course, working! This is the most challenging part of the day, and a true notification that I do not control shit. A few years ago, I made a life changing decision to leave the restaurant industry to pursue a life long dream of becoming a writer. My health and children were the main reasons for making said decision. In the age of instant global connectivity, I could work right from home.
The fantasy of sitting in my home office at my Mac Book tapping away at the keys and occasionally staring out at the lake for inspiration was stuck in my head. The op reality, especially if you have young children is nothing like the daydream I just described. It is more like an open-handed slap to the face.
It is guaranteed, just like entering the kitchen, that my son will throw an absolute shit fit if my butt hits my office chair and my fingers start clicking the keys. Stories like this one would normally take about two hours to pound out and another hour to edit. Not so with a screaming toddler pulling on your arm or trashing the office around you until surrender is inevitable and you fully submit to his will.
Speaking of which, the ruler of the roost woke from his afternoon slumber, so I must exit because it is time for another round of Daddy’s Duties.