Strangers in the night

So much of (mildly successful) co-parenting — of successful cohabitation, really — is about resisting the urge to itemize and compare just how much work each partner does. Because, trust me, little good comes from statements like, “But I changed the last poopy diaper,” or, “How come I always cook?”

According to my research, such statements are likely to unleash an escalating and entirely unsettling volley of stored-up comparisons regarding laundry, bed-making, snow shoveling, lawnmowing, recycling, garbage, Kindermusik attendance and child fetching.

Yes, of course, every household has its imbalances — and those imbalances do occasionally need to be addressed — but I have found that, more often than not, comparisons invite trouble. Because, at least in my household, a LOT of stuff gets done, and when it all shakes down, Rachel and I freely admit that neither of us can recall doing about half of it. When the tallies come in, it’s quite likely that the balance of meals cooked and diapers changed will come out about even, and that, if they don’t, other things will very likely make up for them.

That said, Rachel is being shafted when it comes to sleep.

We’ve been alternating nights in the basement and upstairs. And on my nights upstairs (barring one too-early wake-up on Isaac’s part, fairly easily dealt with), the kids have slept through. Meaning that I’ve had a full week’s-plus of full-night sleeps.

Rachel, not so much. For some reason, on her nights on call, Rowan wakes up with strange neck pains (landing us in emergency) and Isaac’s eyeteeth poke painfully into his gums. Every morning that Isaac and Rowan bound into the basement to wake me and Rachel trudges in behind them, I ask, hopefully, “How was your night?” And she shakes her head.

After about a week of this, I let her have two nights in the basement. I was mildly, selfishly, worried that I had now got myself onto her schedule, but instead I got two nearly full nights in my own bed. And then, last night, a third night in the basement, while Rachel was up, on and off, with Isaac from midnight to about 3:30.

From my perspective at least, Isaac is much improved from his worst. And, aside from the neck thing, Rowan is sleeping like a champion, inspired at least in part by ye olde-fashioned sticker chart, with the promise of a trip to the ice cream store once he amassed seven stickers. (Do you like my artwork, using dried-out markers? Do you think the title is too subtle? We went to DQ on Monday after picking the kids up from the babysitter’s; Rowan had a chocolate-dipped kid’s cone, and we watched him do a couple of full-body shudders as the sugar began its madcap ride through his bloodstream. “We did this to him,” I kept reminding myself as we dealt with a whole bunch of hyper for much of the evening. “This is our fault.”)

From Rachel’s perspective, things still kind of suck. And while I don’t generally condone the constant repetition of, “But why? Why always my nights?”, in this case I can hardly blame her. All I can offer her is sympathy, another night on the futon, and the promise that, almost certainly, my nights will come.

25 random things about my trip to Florida

There’s this meme going around Facebook that asks you to write 25 random things about yourself. I swore I wouldn’t do it because I overshare enough here already. But I thought I’d borrow the format to account for last week’s adventures down south.

1. Toddlers’ eyes and sunscreen do not mix. On two separate occasions, Isaac spent a couple of miserable hours weeping in his stroller and wailing, “Eye! Eye!” We decided to go with longsleeved shirts and pants rather than exposed skin.

2. Northwest Airlines routinely overbooks its Thunder Bay–Minneapolis route. Arrive early, or risk being bumped — as we were — to the next day. At least we got vouchers.

3. Despite their name, sandwiches do not taste better with sand in them.

4. Global Positioning Systems rock, and I will never drive in an unknown city without one again.

5. Our rental car was “upgraded” to a white Chrysler 300 — which ensured that we fit in well with the geriatric populations of Boca Raton. On the plus side, given that I normally drive my parents’ hand-me-down Buick, I felt right at home.

6. Isaac can sit, perfectly content, for hours at a time on the top step of a swimming pool, playing with a cup.

7. Ice cream cures almost anything that ails you.

8. Rowan asked, as we watched planes take off for two hours in the Thunder Bay airport, “Where’s the hill?” “What hill?” we asked. “The one the planes go up up up up...” he explained.

9. A disposable diaper can hold a vast amount of chlorinated water.

10. I have never been on a beach holiday where I cared less about getting a suntan.

11. Boca Raton is a strange, strange place, filled with gated communities and strip malls.

12. Shopping for bathing suits tests many of my feminist principles.

13. My dad and his wife were extraordinarily gracious and generous hosts.

14. Let Rowan press the buttons on the elevator, EVERY TIME.

15. Although I worried that we might get bashed, I also couldn’t resist asking the car rental guy if Rachel really had to pay for the privilege of being a second driver on the car. My exact phrasing: “Even if we live in the same household?” Once he confirmed that we were indeed “on the same insurance policy,” he put her on for free. So, folks, at Avis, the codes for “same-sex couple” are “same household” and “same insurance policy.” Stick that in your Pride parade.

16. I like the idea of shopping at Target better than actually shopping at Target.

17. No theme park beats making sand castles on the beach.

18. When on holiday with small children at your parents’ place, it is vital (or at least recommended) to commiserate and commune with your friends who are also on holiday with their small children at their parents’ place. Go to the zoo. Get the grandparents to babysit. Have dinner out. Drink lots of wine. Go to bed at midnight and get up at 5:30 with your toddler.

19. Although I have a mild phobia around butterflies, I enjoyed walking through the butterfly garden at Gumbo Limbo nature preserve.

20. Isaac climbed all six flights of stairs to the top of the observatory deck at Gumbo Limbo, and then insisted on bumping down the same six flights of stairs on his bum, followed by a horde of impatient 11-year-olds.

21. You never know what will end up on your camera when you hand it to a four-year-old.

22. Isaac is now big enough to go on a carousel horse on the merry-go-round, just like his brother.

23. The best thing about parenting principles is letting so many of them go while on holiday.

24. Isaac literally fell asleep as our return flight to Minneapolis taxied to the gate, after three and a half hours of ridiculous in-flight energy.

25. On our flight home to Thunder Bay, Northwest offered us $400 each in vouchers and hotel accommodations for the night if we would volunteer to fly out the next day. We seriously considered it, but decided we were too exhausted. Both kids slept the entire flight home.

Hey! An entire blog entry, and no need to worry about narrative cohesion. Cool.


So I picked up Rowan from his babysitter on Tuesday, quietly buckled him in to the car, and casually started driving in the opposite direction than we usually go.

“Hey!” said Rowan. “Where are we going? Are we going to the barber?”

“Why, yes,” I said. And then, before he could say anything else, I added, “And then we’re going to the ice cream store!”

Still, he protested. But he got out of the car, helped me put money in the meter, and walked into Sam the Barber’s shop — the real deal, a one-room, one-chair establishment complete with stripey pole outside and a wood stove to keep warm in the winter. The chair is so old that it has an ashtray built into it. Things are held together with duct tape. Sam is a nice old Italian man with infinite patience. Rowan saw him and flipped. Tears, kicking, wailing, flailing, snot, running out of the building, the whole bit. “I don’t want to go to the barber,” he repeated. “I don’t want ice cream!”

Still, I managed to wedge him into the chair as Sam turned the TV to Treehouse — and, miracle of miracles, Go Diego, Go! was on. Rowan almost immediately sank into a television-induced coma (complete with drooling), and Sam went to work with the scissors. When he was done, we had to stay and finish watching Diego and his cousin Alicia rescue the pygmy marmosets.

And then we went to the ice cream store, where Rowan got a twisty cone and I got to look at his new hair.

“Hey Rowan,” I said, “that wasn’t too bad, was it?”

“No,” he said, carefully licking his cone, “that was good.”