Stupid Me

Dear J-

There’s things that are shockingly easy, like falling off a log or breathing, and then there’s crap like nursing your anger and letting it grow — stoke that particular fire, make sure it doesn’t burn low by finding fault in everything. I know that when I’m tired I make poor decisions and, besides which, every little thing will seem either insurmountable or incomprehensibly irritating. It’s a bad combination, lack of sleep with selfish desires to just get away from it all. There are days full of activity, like yesterday, when I think I’m never going to have a spare moment to myself and yet looking back there were plenty of chances to take time out if I’d just allowed myself to relax.

Jack Black, who is perhaps the last person you’d think to seek parenting advice from, says that you need a lot of energy to be successful; without it you end up watching a lot of TV together instead. And boy, don’t we know how that goes, and how it ends up — more time in front of the tube than we’d like, slack-jawed and mindlessly munching on something sweet. Even if it is a way to keep her busy and give myself some time is that really the right thing to do? There is almost universal acceptance of a little TV at this age, and no doubt we exceed those limits regularly. I sometimes wonder if I’m already too late, if in the pursuit of time for work I’ve sacrificed too much time for us.

We spend evenings together — dinner, then a bath, then the sleep preparations that encompass songs and books, though it’s almost as though our roles have reversed for that last activity: she busies herself with the million objects in her room while we’re kept busy singing or reading. She learns from habit and routine, and when our solutions include a video soporific to buy us time, that’s what we’re really telling her: we’re too busy for you, go amuse yourself while we take care of X, whether that’s the house, the baby, the meals, or our sanity. They tell us that newborns can’t be spoiled by too much holding; I’ve concluded that pushing your three-year-old away is just as impossible, and why would you want to? We have so few years before she’ll be uniformly embarrassed to be seen with us, and want to keep us out of her life. If we refuse the invitation now there’s no sense in mourning our distance later.

Mike

P.S. We should be flattered and not aggravated that she loves us and wants to spend time with us. That means taking the whole package as it is, crazy though it may seem. You may have wondered why there have been so few pictures of Calcifer and part of it is that he spends much of his day strapped to us, often me when I’m around because I’m not around much. The other part is because figgy has proven to be the more interesting subject lately, always in motion and demanding the lion’s share of the attention. Babies are nice, and I love having Calcifer around, but figgy keeps my viewfinder and mind occupied; funny how even when she was a baby you could already tell what craziness lay ahead.

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