Along with her brother, my partner, and Game of Thrones, my 2 1/2 year old daughter is the greatest thing that has ever come into my life. Her name, which was picked out years before she was even a glimmer in my eye, means "joy," and I couldn't have hand-selected a more perfect word to encapsulate her essence. She exudes happiness and light. She glows. Yet she has ruined me, maybe irreparably, and I'm not talking about the fact that she was born vaginally at 9 pounds 2 ounces. My toddler ruined my ability to have an adult conversation.
Toddlers require pretty much all of a parent's brain space basically all the time. I find that as a work-from-home parent, the fact that she requires so much of my mental and physical energy in addition to the constant proximity means, in spite of significant and noble efforts, I get sucked into her world in ways that I never planned and that aren't exactly convenient when I have to transition back to the adult world. I feel like it must be how Harry Potter feels going from the Wizarding world to the Muggle world every summer break — it's an adjustment to say the least, and a lot of the time in the adult world I come across as looking like an eccentric weirdo.
It goes without saying that I love my daughter, but she has ruined my chances at carrying on an adult conversation with ease. I have a feeling most parents with toddlers can relate, so at least I have a sense of solidarity going for me. Right?
If I Do Have A Few Minutes, I Want To Enjoy The Silence
My 2-year-old toddler is very social and chatty. When she's not talking to me (infrequent though that is) she's babbling either to herself or her toys. I love this about her because, a) it's adorable and, b) because I am pretty much the exact same way and I enjoy having a clone.
However, because I am constantly surrounded by the tinkling sound of children's laughter (oh, and also the wailing shrieks of children's screams because who the hell even knows — it's like if they don't scream they die or something), I also enjoy pure, unadulterated silence. This means that when I have the chance to get out and away from my children for a bit, I don't always want to take it. Sometimes I just want to sit and read with a cup of tea or, depending on the day, mindlessly scroll through my Twitter feed with a bottle of gin.
It Takes Me A While To Get Back Into Swearing Mode
Some people have no problem letting "four-letter words" fly in front of their little ones. I do not judge them, but I am not among their ranks. This is, I suspect, largely due to the fact that I lived a very sheltered childhood (I didn't even know what "the f-word" was until I was eight) but a very happy one. In many ways I'm basically just trying to recreate the kind of existence I lived for my own kids. (I draw the line, however, at insisting "suck" is on par with "sh*t" and finally got that verbal ban lifted in my house around the time I was in 7th grade via sheer force of will.)
Don't get me wrong: when left to my own devices my language is basically lifted out of a Tarantino movie. I love to swear. I'm a natural swearer. So, it has taken constant Herculean effort on my end, since my kids were born to not swear. When I'm back among adults, those controls are still sort of on. So it's normal for me to be at a bar, do a shot and say ,"Oh my word! Goodness gracious, that is a strong gosh-darn drink!" Basically I turn into Annie Wilkes from Misery.
No one wants to do shots with Annie Wilkes from Misery.
I Reference 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood' Like That's A Normal Thing To Do
It's not normal. First of all, it's not a normal adult show. It's a show for extremely small children. Secondly, not even cartoon tigers dreamed up by the beautiful mind of the late, great Fred Rogers, could be as sanguine and chill as Daniel and his parents. For real, how does Mommy Tiger not lose her sh*t every now and then? How do she and the other adults in the Land of Make Believe always have an impromptu song for every life lesson?
And yet I talk about it the way other people might talk about an interesting tidbit they learned on Dr. Phil or something.
"Yeah, the other day I was so getting really upset at the long line at the bank, but then I was thinking about something I saw on Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood so I was like ♪♫When you feel so mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four!♪♫
Guys, I can't help it: Daniel Tiger, Sofia the First, Sesame Street, and Curious George are all a pretty big part of my life right now. You know what? They give really good advice that I want to discuss.
My Toddler's Inability To Judge Me Has Created A Million Bad Habits In Me That Should Be Judged
My 2-year-old daughter doesn't know that picking your nose is impolite. She doesn't know you're not supposed to openly pick wedgies or to shove a hand down the front of your pants to dislodge a "vedgie" (that's my own personal word for a wedgie that happens in the front — it's short for "vaginal wedgie" and you're welcome). She doesn't know burps and farts should ideally be avoided (or at least muffled) in public. But being home with her I really don't have to worry about those things and, well, I'm not strictly speaking complaining. It's a freeing and beautiful thing, but it's also sort of given me a lot to remember when I'm around other adults.
I'm Not Used To Pants Being A Requirement Anymore
I honestly don't think my child has worn a stitch of clothing inside our home for about three months. And, well, if she's going to run around naked as a jaybird, why am I going to stand on ceremony and wear pants? Honestly, who wears pants when they don't have to? So, have I been known to chill out in my underwear for a full weekend? Yes. Yes I have. Basically my house is like a Renaissance painting with naked chubby Venus and naked-er, chubbier little cherubs all flitting about eating grapes or whatever. So, really, if you think about it, we're not lazy and inappropriate. We're classy and radiantly beautiful.
Yeah, it's inappropriate around other adults, unless of course your friends are down with casual nudity. Mine aren't. Prudes.
I Speak In The Third Person Now And It's Off-Putting
Look, kids need a lot of explanation. And Mommy is the one who has to give it to them. So Mommy's toddler needs to know when Mommy does anything: like when Mommy has to go potty, or when Mommy is cooking, or when Mommy is on the phone and will be with them in a minute.
Good God, what has Mommy become?
I Don't Want To Answer Any More Questions
My toddler hit the "why" stage really early. Like, preternaturally early and around one year old. So, for the last year and a half (longer if you count her 5-year-old brother), I've been answering a million questions a day. Why? What? When? How? Why? Why? What? What? What? Why? Why? When?
As an incredibly curious person myself, I appreciate this in my children and I encourage their questions and questioning. But as a mother who just wants to get out of the damn house at a somewhat reasonable hour in the morning, I just want them to stop questioning every little thing, put on their clothes quickly and quietly, and pile into the car.
So when I'm around adults and they ask me totally reasonable questions, like "How are you?" or, "What are you doing for the long weekend?" I'm just done.
I Am Perpetually Covered In Boogers And Food
The struggle is real, and very schmutzy.
Perpetually. Basically, since my son was born five years ago I've lived one very long day because my sleep is always interrupted by something. A feeding. A nightmare. Another pregnancy. Another baby who needs another feeding. A preschooler who "wants to cuddle" at some horrifically unreasonable in the morning. I expect this will continue for another decade or so before my now toddler finally manages to sleep through the night and wake up at a respectable hour.
Of course, by then I suspect I'll have somehow gotten used to all of this and will be one of those insufferable people who naturally wake up at five a.m. and walk around smugly informing everyone they accomplish more in the morning than other people will all day.
I Haven't Consumed Any New Media Since 2011
In five years I have seen three movies in theaters: Brave, 12 Years A Slave, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That's it.
Music? Oh, I don't get to listen to the radio anymore because everything I want to listen to isn't exactly child-friendly. Thanks to my toddler (and her brother before her, when he was a toddler), I'm basically stuck in a time capsule from 2010. It was a simpler time. Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" topped the charts; Black Swan spoofs reigned supreme; and everyone collectively groaned that the Lost island was, in fact, Purgatory, just like we guessed from the beginning.
So now when my fellow adults are like, "Drake's new song is awesome!" I'm like, "Who? Oh! Isn't that that nice young man from Degrassi: The Next Generation? How lovely that he's trying to branch out into music! I hope he succeeds! Does he do, like, a Michael Bublé kinda thing?"
I Can't Really Be Goofy With Adults And I Find That Restrictive And Boring
It's actually a lot of fun to be a complete goofball with my children. Adults find my funny faces and silly voices far less charming than my toddler.
I Am Usually "In Character"
I honestly don't think I've talked to my toddler as myself more than 20 percent of the time in her two years on earth. In addition to being gregarious and lively she's also incredibly imaginative, which usually means I get to play a character of her choosing. I might get to voice her doll or speak to her as though I were Elmo. And, like, I don't blame her, because if I had a human I could just sort of treat like a big interactive toy who did my bidding I would totally make them talk like Elmo, too because Elmo is awesome. But in being Elmo, "The Princess," and numerous farm animals for 2 1/2 years now, I sort of don't know how to carry on a conversation as myself anymore. It's generally frowned on to start bleating like a sheep in the middle of a discussion about politics.
I'm Seriously Out Of Practice
I just don't get out much these days you guys. That's OK, really, because I'm digging this whole parenting gig right now and it doesn't last forever. I'll be back, at which point I'll have about seven years of backlogged NPR stories I'll want to discuss (maybe in the Elmo voice).