Last week Angela Zirk gave me a gift, a five-hour frame where she came by to sit and play and entertain—and be entertained by—the boy. She was kind enough to reply to a status update of mine the week before. I posted something about needing to find a new job on Mondays, a job that paid me to work. There was a word or two in the update about my emotional health. It was funny, I think, to people who don’t spend an entire day with a kid who can’t talk. Angela said she would come by and babysit the next Monday. Angela loves me. I knew it before she came last week, before she came a while back even. But if I had any doubt, she clarified that she still cares.
The last time Angela babysat the boy, I started a list of things I’d do if someone did what Angela did, gave me time to get away. So I consulted that list last week. I texted David Swanson when my wife wouldn’t break my tie. I wanted to do some of what I used to do on Mondays. My choices were to either exercise or to go to one of my favorite places to write for a while. When Angela said how long she would be at my home, I was actually able to do both!
I still need to figure out what it means for me to have a small child while, at the same time, having time off. I’m quickly believing that the two don’t consist, but I’m a man of faith. Maybe I can learn how to enjoy Mondays with my kid as opposed to seeing his constant presence as stopping me from something. I’ve spoken about this to people I trust, and I still hit a wall. The kid wakes me up, has his own agenda, and often what he wants is the opposite of what I want. On Mondays or on other days too.
That said, I want to find moments of enjoyment on the day-off with the boy. So here is a short summary of what memorable moments me and the kid had this past Monday. I won’t tell you everything. I can’t make the entire day that interesting. But I’ll start with him waking from his nap. He’s been down to one nap for a couple months now. He takes it around 11am and sleeps until 1pm or so. Generally, he’s ready to be changed when he rises. He’s also pretty close to needing to eat. I had already mapped out an afternoon activity for us. We’d eat and we’d visit one of my favorite places.
We didn’t have any food in the house that a baby could eat, so we went to Ms. Biscuit. I ordered him something I knew he could eat, something he liked. Of course, he wouldn’t eat anything. Anything at all. This is very unique behavior for my son. I offered him my food, which he usually has no problem eating. He took about two spoons of food. I was angry. Nonetheless, I finished my lunch. I told him he’d be hungry later, that I would refuse him food, that I’d laugh as he cried out in exasperation. None of this worked to get him to eat.
After we left the restaurant, I latched the kid in the car, and we drove to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I wanted to introduce him to something beautiful. I love botanical gardens and conservatories. This was the first time I’d been to one since Bryce’s birth, outside a brief visit to a garden in DC. Thankfully he enjoyed the place. Several of the exhibits were closed because of recent hailstorm. But we walked through four areas. We “read” the names of big leafy green things. I watched his eyes bulge when we strolled by a double coconut tree, the largest in the country according to the tag. He squealed and laughed when we walked through sensory garden and fingered a plant that curled when we touched its spines. He ambled about the place. He was afraid of a huge pod looking thing that I figured was a cross between an over-sized coffee bean and an alien. Bryce loved the small waterfall, and though I didn’t put him in it or let him walk through it, I did sprinkle water from his sippy cup on top of his head. He laughed, though he never looked up to see that I was the one tossing the water. We were both surprised at how humid it was. Well, maybe he wasn’t since he didn’t know what to expect. But I used to visit mostly in the winters and couldn’t remember not feeling a difference between August Chicago outside and the atmosphere inside. Anyway…
We left the garden and walked around for a while until I remembered how hot we were, got back to the car, and drove to the produce store before going home. At the store, we played short songs on cantaloupes, and he pointed to the pints of blueberries because he loves blueberries. He sang about bananas, again, his way of affirming his love for the food. When we were on the way home, I tickled his feet at stoplights, and we scanned radio stations, listening to Sade and Michael Jackson and jazz.
When we got home, I assembled his potty. I introduced him to it. I told him that the day was coming soon that he would get really comfortable with the toilet which turns into a step stool. He laughed. What does that mean?
I know that every Monday won’t be as much fun as the other day, but this last one is a good starting place for my remembrances. At least I can look back on more nutty Mondays and stay hopeful for another one like this one.