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the longest shortest time

Munchkin’s antics have passed a new threshold of mischievousness. Meanwhile, a few recent developments have led us to do some soul searching about the amount of time we spend with him.

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After mastering walking and a cute running shuffle, Munchkin has begun to experiment, testing the range of all he can do with his legs. First, he started high-stepping, lifting his feet up like a show horse at a dressage competition. And just recently he started rhythmically bending his knees to music, bouncing up and down in an awkward proto-dance. His new trick that causes us the most anxiety is his urge to walk down stairs.  For months, he had largely ignored the staircase, preferring to play with the latch on the baby gate, but now he climbs up one step, turns around and, instead of clambering back down, attempts to walk off the stair into thin air.

He also started using his legs to climb, a marked departure from simply stretching for objects that are out of reach, and one that is sure to cause us plenty of grief in the near future. D had a camera handy and was able to document his first climbing escapade, stifling laughter while Munchkin grunted and squawked in frustration at getting stuck mid-climb, and cheering him on when he overcame the short wall he was attempting to scale.

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Independently of each other, and for slightly different reasons, we have recently succumbed to a fair amount of introspection about the amount of time we spend with Munchkin. In D’s case, these musings were brought on by his recent TDY to Georgia and the 3 weeks he spent apart from the little man. For S, this was more of a recurrent theme in her thoughts, which was given new prominence by her decision to take a job at the Embassy.

As her start date approaches, S frequently finds herself caught between two competing urges. On the one hand, she wants to spend more time with Munchkin — to soak up as much as possible his playful giggles and help spur his learning and exploration. On the other hand, parenting is hard, and since Munchkin still wakes up crying in the middle of the night, taking care of him day and night can be stressful and exhausting.

We have the good fortune to have a part-time nanny for Munchkin, which has enabled S to do a number of things, from tutoring, to consulting part time, to teaching yoga and taking Russian classes. Yet, sometimes — when S is working from home, for example — she experiences a bit of preemptive nostalgia. Watching Munchkin play and laugh with his nanny makes it hard not to think about missing so many unique and indescribable moments once she begins her 9-to-5.

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D’s experience is similar and should be familiar to any working parent. There is nothing better than coming home from work to the excited smile of a young child. D is fortunate to have a position that rarely requires him to stay late at the office. Even so, he only sees Munchkin for a couple of hours each work day before bedtime. And not infrequently, these tend to be the most difficult hours of the day. For example, if Munchkin does not have a good nap, he can be fussy in the evenings, and the last thing D wants to hear after a long day at the office is his cranky screaming.

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And of course, much as we love our child, sometimes we want some alone time — to chat with a friend, watch a hockey game, write a blog post, or get out of the house to do some exercise. So we both oscillate between trying to pass off the parenting duties to each other and wondering whether we’re spending enough time with Munchkin. After all, pretty soon he’ll grow independent, and then we’ll have to coax him to spend time with us.

The inspiration for this title comes from a great podcast hosted by Hillary Frank. The Longest Shortest Time is a bedside companion for parents who want to hear they’re not alone.

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