Two weeks to TERRIBLY TERRIFIC and a Konmarriage of Semi-Convenience

I remember a year ago, I was musing that Chaya was something of a twoddler - not really an infant, but not quite a toddler. 




Things have changed. 




She's pretty much the middle-age of toddlerdom, and fully inhabiting that role. 




I love it. I rue it. I sometimes find myself melting down over some really incidental thing my darling husband has said before wandering straight into a wall and wondering who replaced my usual blood with gunky car-oil. 



She's verbal and opinionated. As feministish parents, we're not going to use the word "bossy" but boy does she have some strong conceptions about what everyone around her should be doing and is ... um... very assertive about expressing these expectations. Mommy and daddy get quite a few commands to cough, yawn, sneeze, feed various animals, feed each other, eat something, wear something, take something off, put Chaya somewhere... It's hard to keep up with the little tyrant, but it's mostly like one long game of Simon Says around here. Only 30% of the commands are things that we sooooooo are not doing right now. 



We're at that stage where I have been describing her as "two" for a month or two. Occasionally appending "almost" or "in August" but less often these days. And possibly that stage where I've idly browsed various preschool options just to get a sense of "oh wow, three hours a day for 3-5 days a week sounds like both A LOT and hardly any time at all." But, dude, Children's Museum has a preschool. I want to go!

It did remind me how little "extra time" preschool really buys and how fortunate a family has to be to afford it and daycare and so on. This in turn makes me grateful that we can afford my hiatus from the working world, while also making me realize that any ambitious career building is not heavily on my agenda in a year's time. 

Staying-at-home-momming is complicated and I feel like the world continues throwing dire warning about losing one's identity, drifting from one's partner and so on and so forth. I mused on this a bit in a Facebook conversation that I'm partially quoting now: Anyone can tie their identity to a single aspect of their lives - parenting/work/dance/sports/working out/following a certain diet/political beliefs or activism - and take it to an unhealthy place. I've never been good at being a "true believer" about pretty much anything in that sense! I guess I'd call myself spiritual but not religious about pretty much everything. I could never be a pinterest mom. Could never be fully embraced by motherhood anymore than Chinese, lawyering, or any of it. There will always be a little pinky toe reserved for an inner chamber in my mind, always saying "wait wait... here I am!" Which is a strange contrast to my generally immersive personality, that also wants to go above and beyond in any venture I choose.

For me, the SAHM gig has been a cool extension of being at work staying myself. Work and study have always provided more of  a language to express parts of myself or a prism through which to cast my inner chromatics than a tailor-made-identity. This current incarnation is not so different.

There's something utterly awe inspiring about making space for a life to become itself. Letting something you love get hurt and try and fail in a safe space. Not wanting to let it happen for surprisingly selfish reasons (holy crap a moody miserable frustrated toddler is a PITA, it throws off anyone's patience and daily plans - and the ER seriously SUCKS).Something massively introspective about (pretend) calmly telling a screaming child that I can see she's feeling ____, and I'm there with her, but knowing and respecting that I cannot fix that as much as give her the support to navigate into and through her emotion. Explaining that negative emotions are important too if we learn how to process them. Letting myself be re-enchanted with the perfunctory. Following and laughing and sometimes just realizing how much there is to my own failures and shortcomings that can be celebrated somehow. For failing and letting down my kiddo repeatedly and thinking that's good, because we reconnect in the repair.

I watch language develop. I watch my barest human instincts play out when there aren't years of cerebral conditioning, cognitive developments, and socialization. I learn so much about myself and this little species of ours every day. I philosophize. And sometimes I take long breaks and rant about politics or feminism or weird artwork and poptarts on the internet. But all in all, it's been a pretty cool extreme experience.
I'm not sure where that leaves the future, but for now there's a certain exhausted contentment in that. And I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband, who has really tried to rise to the 50-50 parenting occasion when he isn't work. I know I've reflected on the mental load of mothering, and that's still an aspect, but we both have heavy loads and take on loads. And it inspires me that we both still try to ease the onus either of us holds. 

And now, I return to our regularly schedule WHOA.... 

We're at the precipice of the craziness of August. It always accelerates around now. We were trying to get as caught up as we could in July, and we did ok, but there are several projects that will never quite get gotten to until next year, or at least mid-fall (before the holidaze kicks in). BBQs, County Fairs. A million little birthday fetes. Relatives from all about the boughs of my family tree. And a big trip to the Woodland Park Zoo for the Ms (W)rights' birthdays. Then September and... the first part of September is always an extension of August.
So, where are we? 

Mt Vernon, duh!!

But I'd say we have the nursery pretty well hacked. We have a few thoughts for the outside areas. And my shower door doesn't really need to work if I just take a bath or two a week with the toddle-waddle. 





And we're maybe mid-Kando. But with all the harder categories to go. Just in time for birthdays!!


I can't review Kondo and have no intention to write yet another beautifully pithy "why I - as a parent - abhor Marie Kondo and all her silliness" type articles. For one, I don't have any strong feelings about her method beyond "maybe there are some interesting ideas to pick from maybe?" For another, well, I have never read her book. Any organizing and purging I'm doing peripherally to Andrew's Konmari experience is largely because I'm a wee bit excited to get some spousal buy-in to my preexisting desire to get the madhouse back into some semblance of manageable before our wee Chaynado amps it up another exponential level or twenty. 




I admit, I am a wee bit disappointed to discover that this new wonder-system (let's trot out a collaborative law trope and go with "paradigm shift" in Andrew's case) isn't actually that purposed for managing toddler wrangling. Or, at least, he is clear that Konmari is premised on the idea that you manage your stuff and do not involve others, or attempt to steer their ownership relationships; he thinks all the comical articles from parents who "HATE MARIE KONDO" just really miss the point. Sure, we can model behavior for our children. Sure we can move their stuff all to the tatami room. But we're not really Konmarying our kiddos in any systematic or wonderful way.  

So, Kondo sounds wonderful for all the single ladies. At least for those who don't already have a pretty functional system in their lives. But for those who have been esrtwhile organized single folks, the majority of stressors and challenges typically come from the collision of your way of keeping things and that of those around you. The more common-space and common-possessions, the less utile the careful and fastitdious curation of one's personalties seems to me. Most of my personal possessions are hidden in closets, minimal, and fairly sorted. When I was a single grown-up, I was quite comfortable with my balance of organized and "creative." I had my areas of chaos and my cultivated quiet space. I never felt particularly buried, and could always find things as needed. I reviewed everything on a regular basis.

I can unclean that clean kitchen with my mind, mommy. 



My material world now consists of (1) common household possessions like kitchenware, cleaning supplies, glasses and mugs, towels, sheets, random baby proofing items that didn't quite work out, etc (2) BABY stuff. My "purse" is a bag that packs full and regurgitates diapers and wipes and snacks and baby drinks and baby medications and baby sunscreen. (3) whatever small personal cups and plates and items that Andrew and I left out that would ordinarily be minimally impactful but which now serve as both tipping points and a toddler-temptations. 

So no Kondo? Maybe to Kondo? 

I have my evolving systems. 

There are some challenges that must be addressed to find a system for toddlerdom and sanity.   

1. Out of sight out of mind. If Chaya sees something - phone, soap, razor ... - she needs it, and typically not for a kid-safe or mother-approved purpose. If it's potentially messy, breakable, or toxic, it needs to be out of sight. Things that trigger associations with other things need to be off sight to avoid a tantrum at certain times. If Chaya sees a toothbrush, she remembers the YouTube toothbrushing video wants to watch videos for the rest of the day. If she sees a shoe, suddenly we must go outside... Etc. There are two rooms Chaya can't go into. Neither of those are useful because they cannot be entered while Chaya is awake. At least not worth the tantrums. Chaya routinely opens and disembowels any storage below mommy-chest-level.This means things typically vie for space on the limited upper-storage space.

2. But then... out of sight out of mind. There are some things I just forget to do if the proper tool isn't right in front of me. Toothpaste, face wash... Sometimes I sit down to dinner having forgotten my food because it was still in the fridge/microwave/wherever. So I kind of need to figure out new ways of returning things to sight. So far this involves a pre-meal staging process. I put everything away after meals (while she's restrained) and superfluous items out of the way while getting ready for meals. But then I take out everything I might need for the toddler tapas that is one bite of cottage cheese and flax and yogurt, two bites of dadda's trail mix, two snap pea crisps dipped in peanutbutter, one tablespoon of ketchup, one teaspoon of ketchup and mustard, a quarter serving of rice krispies mixed with milk and hempseeds, a bite of toast, two slices of momma okra, a small bowl of green beans, a serving of mushrooms, a last minute urgently needed bite of banana, half a rosemary sea salt cracker, and a blend of every cereal in the house served dry so we don't get her stuffed loris puppet all wet...  

Plates come and go from the table back and forth through the staging area as needed. I don't mind hte up and down, because ultimately if there's more than a few nibbles of food in front of her at a time it will end up on the floor or wall (accidentally or on purpose, who cares?)




3. Out of sight, probably out of easy grabbing distance. I know in manufacturing technology there's a logical idea that proper organization focuses more on "ease of putting away" versus "ease of access," but that doesn't always pan out when you have a toddler (a/k/a triage tyrant). Sometimes I need food/wipes/diapers/random-piece-of-shiny-junk-to-distract-from-nefarious-plans-and-tantrums-object right now. If something's behind a latched door, then it is dead to me. It already takes us several hours to get out the door. Now, yes, having piles of things out effectively creates the same chaos that makes it impossible to reach something, but it's hard to anticipate which things will SUDDENLY by needed in a given moment. Which confounds things. There are little triage kits in every room: a few books/magazines, wipes, diapers, and some random junk to offer if an immediate distraction is needed. 



4. And out of sight... Possibly out of existence. Forever. I have no idea what happened to: my toothbrush, my credit card, Chaya's favorite farmer/cow/sheep/horse figurines, several books, scads of socks... at least 75% of my prior vocabulary... In fairness, I just found my electric toothbrush at Sebastian's house, so that's a win! Hey, my electric toothbrush was at Sebastian's house in his toybox, and the sippy cup full of milk... we eventually found that! I now keep my most needed possessions in various containers nearby on top shelves. I can take them out quickly then return them quickly when the beast is distracted with mischief. 


So, yeah, if I had one more kid or a job, I'd surrender to my junk pile sweet junk pile (rats make great pets, right?), but I'm still fighting the fight. Returning things routinely. Sometimes Chaya enjoys participating. Trash throwing and putting things in boxes is a fun one for her. 


Now if I can just kondo my calendar to have a nice bit of joy-sparking down-time and a few moments alone in a shower with a closing door (hey this weekend, I got a plunge in the uncomfortable bathtub alone while the kiddo played at the park with daddy!)? 


Happy almost-August. Let us all age beautifully together and find our toothbrushes when we most need them... probably about five minutes before mommy really needs to leave and it suddenly sparks less joy and more of a need to WATCH WATCH WATCH a half hour of videos about toothbrushing 





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