Thursday, June 23, 2011

Even a Danger Ranger Control Freak Has to Cut the Cord, One Step At a Time!

Since the day Aias was born, we've spent almost every minute with him. I'm not exaggerating this. Here is a complete list of the times we've been apart from Aias:

- Twice my aunt came to the house and we walked to Starbucks for 15 minutes without Aias.  He was 2 months old. 
- Once my aunt came to the house and watched Aias while I went to a volunteer commitment and Morgan did work in the other room (so technically he was still home with Aias). He was 10 months old.
- Once we went skiing and my sister Jessy stayed at the lodge at the bottom of the ski hill with Aias while we skiied (I'm not sure if this even counts, since we went to check on him between each run).  He was 14 months old.
- In December 2010 we went to Morgan's Christmas Party for work for 3 hours and left Aias with my close friend Beth, who is also a pediatric nurse. He was 13 months old.
- My sister and I drove to the dollar store for 30 minutes while her husband (Uncle Shaun) looked after Aias at home.  He was 6 months old.
- We had an important phone call once and our friend Becky took Aias and her son, Elliot, out for a walk around our neighborhood for one hour. He was 15 months old.

I'm fairly certain that covers it; for the duration of his entire life Aias has either been with myself, Morgan, or both of us.  Sometimes I wonder why I even bothered letting them cut his umbilical cord in the first place; surely just having him physically attached to me would be no different, right?  For all intents and purposes the kid is pretty much glued to my side.  When I make plans with people and they ask me if Aias will be coming along, I generally laugh... after all, where the heck else would he go?  We don't have family within an hour of us and the friends we trust to watch him are usually working or taking care of their own kids.  I'd also feel like a jerk asking someone who's been at work all day to come watch my kid at the end of their shift, or to ask someone who already has their own toddler to deal with to watch mine as well.  To top it off we're not super comfortable with leaving him with a stranger, qualified or otherwise, and it's not like we could afford a professional babysitter anyway so that's just how we've rolled.  Whenever people talk about how they can regularly leave their child with their parents or siblings, I feel so envious.  Trust me, if we would, we could!  The amount of strings we have to pull to just schedule an Aias-free dentist appointment or something simple like that is absolutely crazy.  So this is just how it is for us.  We just keep telling ourselves that babydom and toddlerdom are such a short period of time; someday we will be able to have time to ourselves. 

Now I should say, it's not like I have a problem with this or that I'm even complaining.  Even before Aias was born, we decided we would avoid daycare* if we could, even if it meant taking a financial hit on our cushy pre-parent lifestyle of eating out regularly and buying whatever we wanted for ourselves.  I took my year of paid parental leave and when it ran out, I quit my job.  Instead, I stayed home and looked after my friend's darling son for literally 1/4th of the amount of money I had been making at my job.  Has it been worth it? Absolutely.  Sure we will take a hell of a lot longer to pay our student loans off than we would have otherwise, but staying home and witnessing Aias's every movement and milestone is really worthwhile to us.  After all, he's only going to be this young once and it's only a matter of time before he won't even want to hang out with us at all.  At the same time, it's hard sometimes never getting a real break. 

So by now you've either stopped reading, or you are probably like "DUDE GET A BABYSITTER!!!"  I know... I know... it's madness.  In fact, I think one reason why this situation works out best for us, particularly me, is because I'm not only a Danger Ranger and Safety Fetishist, but I'm a card carrying member of the Control Freak Club (if you haven't noticed this yet, I'll assume you are new here).  I'm an overachiever, I get things done, and I work my butt off, all in the name of preserving the illusion that I'm in control of my life.  Part of the reason why it's so hard for me to send Aias off into the hands of someone other than myself or Morgan is that I can't imagine anyone else who is willing to throw themselves in front of a bus to save Aias from harm.  Furthermore, I can't trust anyone to constantly be conducting a mental risk analysis of everything within 100 yards of where Aias stands.  Where some people see a spoon, I see an object capable of impaling my child.  Where some people see a piece of furniture, I see something that could topple over and crush him to death.  You see, I'm always a few steps ahead in my mind, mentally computing all the worst outcomes and how I can step in to prevent these horrible things from happening. Is this normal? Probably not.  Is it healthy? I doubt it.  Will I have to let go at some point? Absolutely.  And trust me, I'm not looking forward to it. 

Of course, as Aias gets older, I'm finding myself having to let go of my need to feel in control.  From time to time even the queen of all Danger Rangers needs a break, and what better time than the present?  A few days ago at the playground a woman was telling me all about a place called the Mount Pleasant Family Centre which just happens to be a few blocks away from where we live.  This afternoon we decided to check it out.  When we arrived, it was far different than the playgroups we are used to. You see, normally we go next door to the Community Centre to participate in their Tot Gym.  During this time, parents are 100% in charge of looking after their kids.   There aren't any volunteers or child care providers around, it's basically just an environment for your kids to play on toys you probably can't fit in your condo but with your supervision.  The Mount Pleasant Family Centre, however, has trained staff that are educated in looking after children under 5.  There are also volunteers present that play with the kids.  When I arrived I was warmly welcomed and given some information on how the family centre worked.  Of course, Aias isn't interested in all that so he took off into another room, so I tore off after him... after all, who else would?  The woman who welcomed me said "oh no, don't worry, [she] has him." A minute later I saw a kindly volunteer holding Aias, bringing him back into the room.  Another person had touched him, and he didn't disintegrate or freak out. What was happening? A few minutes later we went upstairs to play in the amazing toy room that had every type of toy you can even imagine.  It also has a beautiful wooden toddler friendly slide that Aias went up and down about 100 times.  After about 15 minutes of myself playing with him, a volunteer came over and played with him as well.  Aias was so pleased with this that I slowly pulled back and after a few minutes I found myself sitting in a chair across the room just sort of observing him.  One of the staff members then told me that if I wanted I could go downstairs and get a coffee, and that she'd let the volunteer know to look after Aias.  I hesitated for only a second, but the lure of coffee is something I can't often resist.  I felt very comfortable leaving him with the staff and volunteers, even though we had only just met.  It was a strange feeling.  With that, I opened the door to go downstairs, stepped through the door, and shut it behind me.  I listened for Aias... nothing.  I walked down the stairs, stopped at the bottom, and listened for Aias... nothing. No one was running back to get me to report that my child was freaking out that I had left.  I walked to the end of the hall, got a coffee, read some pamphlets, and had a chat with the parents and staff downstairs.  The whole time I was half expecting someone to come down carrying Aias to let me know that he had realized I was gone and was upset; but it never happened!  About 10 minutes later I'd had my coffee and walked back upstairs.  I opened the door to see across the room that Aias was happily playing with two volunteers and a few other kids. He hadn't even noticed I'd left. I thought for sure it was only because he hadn't seen me, but he looked over at me, smiled, and continued playing.

I know it sounds like such a total non-event and maybe it will generate some eyerolls, but for someone who has been glued to another human for so long, it's actually pretty big. So that's that; baby steps.

*Before anyone gets defensive, I should add, I'm not at all against daycare.  In fact, if I'd have been making more money at my pre-Aias job in the first place, he'd likely have been in daycare since my parental leave ended.  It just so happens that if Aias had gone to daycare, I'd literally have been paying a daycare provider more money than I would have been taking home, and that would have driven me nuts to even think about.  

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