Divide and conquer or fall asleep trying…

WARNING: This article may contain content you feel does not relate to you as a parent. If that is the case then please read the last sentence out loud when you get around to it.

But I digress.

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by Sarah Welch, co-founder of Buttoned Up, for an upcoming book titled Pretty Neat (Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection). Her questions got me thinking as well as talking (maybe too much) about how my wife and I get through the day now that we have our very own demolition man (see my previous post on that subject) in our home.

I do marvel how parents, especially single parents, get through the day with even a shred of sanity left and chapeau to all who survive because I barely do.

My wife and I live far from home, so to speak, because we do not have family in New York. So like many other parents we have to go at it alone. Given our Latin culture this is known as “roughing it”. Many of our friends and relatives living in Italy with children have free access to babysitters, nannies, live in nurses, cooks, chauffeurs, cleaning ladies, butlers etc. No, not because of Socialism (although, and I can just see my inbox flooding with hate mail, that helps), but rather thanks to relatives, especially grandmothers, who are available 24/7. These are the same parents that complain they are so tired and then tell you that grandma just arrived and they are off to their weekly dinner and a movie or taking off for a weekend of fun – just the two of them.

Am I jealous? What do you think?

The last time I went to the movies with my wife was during her third trimester and we gave up because the bathroom breaks were so frequent that, really, what was the point of staying through the end? So now we wait for the rare visits from relatives and get our night out which consists of falling asleep in our plates at a nearby restaurant.

We cannot complain, though, we get cable and stuff. To even dream, though, of watching something together is all about learning to divide and conquer. The need for organization becomes primal. It is the only way to survive and now that we have a kid you failure is not an option. Putting off anything means getting your ass kicked by the very same thing you put off the following day or worse, the day after next (and when that happens is sucks – big time).

So, as the great Bill Cosby would say: “The same thing happens every night.”

After work and after picking up my son from day care (no not the free kind), my wife prepares dinner and starts to feed the demolition man shortly before I (usually) get home. Since he will kill himself if left unsupervised while preparing dinner (and really any other second of the day) it means pots and pans and plates are waiting for me the moment I walk in the door. I am pretty OCD so I literally put my bag down, roll up my sleeves and get into it with the dishes. This must be done or no TV.

While feeding demolition man my wife feeds me and herself (imagine a female Shiva). Then rocks scissors papers for play time and bath time with demolition man while the other parent finishes hosing down the entire house to erase my son’s daily activities. This must be done or no TV.

Then we tag team on getting him to stop running around the house naked (and potentially peeing on things) and wrangling him into his PJs and a straight jacket (just kidding, unfortunately it’s only a sleep sack). This must me done or no TV.

Once demolition man joins the sugar plum fairies, or whomever he is talking to in his sleep, we sadly pull out our laptops and finish whatever work has been left unattended. This must be done or no TV.

And if we are still conscious we watch TV. Rarely getting very far.

And this is an easy night if you don’t factor in laundry and other household chores. So divide and conquer is our MO and our only means of retaining some sanity once the day is over.

As I said, we are lucky, we have each other and we split tasks. I marvel at those who can pull this off on their own – true parenting superheroes.

For those parents who do not have a clue what I am talking about after reading this, what can I say, you suck.

The Demolition Man…

Hollywood endings, as we all know, are limited to the movies and by our willingness to suspend our disbelief – almost never in real life. For this reason, actors, or I should say the best actors, are able to immerse themselves convincingly into various roles and personas so that we are tricked into thinking they really are who they are pretending to be. Keeping this in mind let me say that there is nothing more exciting as a parent than watching your child explore and interact with the world around them. This includes their face lighting up at a new discovery. Beaming with pride when they learn to stack the Legos so high they can’t reach the top of the stack. Learning new words and shouting them to anyone and everyone they meet on the street. Basically, accomplishing anything and everything that draws the “ooos” and “awws” from the parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents. This feat-enhancing form of parental flattering is augmented by the presence of the aforementioned audience and creates even greater performances – until the camera (or Skype video chat) stops rolling.

That is when my son’s alter ego – the Demolition Man – comes out to play and takes over from the Bob The Builder version of my son who just exited stage-left.

This newest cast member is a mix of Curious George and The Incredible Hulk with a good dose of MacGyver ingenuity sprinkled in.

The Demolition Man’s appearances all start with an eerie silence followed by a rapid succession and crescendo of audible cues such as crackling, thumping, bumping, crashing, splintering, banging etc. Long pause. Gleeful and delighted cackle. Grand finale noise combination (in no particular order) of “Whoop!” “Thump!” “Bash!” “Crack!”. Silence. More gleeful cackling. Jazz hands (OK so that is a visual cue, but I swear I can hear it!).

My wife and I exchange a sidelong glance and do a best-of-three rock-paper-scissor session before one of heads of to investigate. It doesn’t take long to get to the scene of the crime (remember we live in one of those closet apartments that are rampant throughout New York) and as it swings into view your blood starts to boil.

You try the whole “breath and count to 10…” routine, but as you take in the devastation – millions of tiny pieces of (fill-in-the-blank) are scattered, splattered, splintered, smeared across the floor, walls and ceiling – your frayed parenting nerves take a major hit. There is Demolition Man smack dab in the middle of the eye of the storm holding the last surviving piece of the Lego Firefighter House that he just pulverized, babbling away all content and satisfied with his handy work. He looks up at you with that grin, you know the one that could start a war it’s so smug, and just as you are about to have a full fledged conniption, Demolition Man is gone – vanished into thin air.

There in his place is Super Cute and Cuddly Boy and with a twinkle in his eye and that honey drip voice he looks you straight in the eyes and utters the most disarming phrase in parenthood: “Daddy?” The delivery is perfect. Timing, posture, nuance, syllabication – forget the Oscars this is the big leagues. And just like that, I find myself in that classic Hollywood ending as I scoop him up into a hug and toss him high into the air as the sun dips behind the horizon just behind him and he giggles with glee and… Hey, wait a minute!