On two occasions yesterday, things took strange turns with Lily.
But at this point, it shouldn’t be strange anymore, since by now, I’ve learned that in parenting, things turn on a dime.
Because we just turned back the clocks because of daylight savings, Lily woke up shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Monday. I’d been struggling with a cold, so I was still loopy on Nyquil, and Joe was heading into the office early, making this a pretty hardcore “oof” moment for me.
Ever hopeful, I left the lights off and brought Lily back to my bed, snuggling with her next to me, tucking her into our blankets. Joe kissed us goodbye as she was still squirming and flopping around on me, and since the daycare center doesn’t open until 7 a.m., I feared having to go down and play outside in the dark. (Lily’s obsessed with playing outside – she hands us her coat to put on her, her hat, and her mittens, brings our shoes to us, and stands at the door saying, “Side!”) But after a while, she dozed off, as I did, and we slept for more than an hour that way, snuggled together. She was a bit confused when she woke up, but it was a wonderful stolen nap together.
After work, I went to pick her up from daycare and learned that because the playground was wet, they hadn’t gone out to play that day (see the note about Lily’s “Side!” obsession above). Consequently, Lily tried to lead me to the playground, but I had to pick her up and lead her away, which set her off kicking and screaming.
More kicking and screaming ensued, across the three blocks where I struggled to carry her home. (You know. The kind of outdoor tantrum that inspires people to pull back their curtains and watch.) Oh, God. It’s going to be one of those nights, I thought. But after basically having to hold her sideways while unlocking the front door, I got her inside and tried to sit with her in the living room. She did the her collapsible-toddler routine, buckling her body down onto the floor. But after a few minutes, I picked her up again and pointed at her table with paper and crayons (coloring is another, relatively new obsession). She gathered herself and walked toward the table, ready, suddenly, to stop fussing and start coloring. Rock on.
She was still sensitive for a while, of course – her happiness, like her anger, is often fleeting and fragile – and it seems that since Joe was gone to Germany last week, she wants us both with her every minute she’s home. This made making dinner tricky – Joe was rushing out to the grill to throw on a couple of burgers while this yelled exchange kept occurring: “Daddy! Daddy!” “Lily!” “Daddy!” “Lily!” – and though Lily was saying “up” and trying to climb out of her seat before we had OUR dinner ready, we got her coloring again. The problem is, she always wants us to color with her, so we frantically tried to color while gulping down our food.
I’d hoped to go to band rehearsal that night – I was already running late – so I tried to pack my horn in my gig bag and pull on my coat without making a fuss, but Lily saw the coat and got very weepy. Joe said, “You’ve got a choice, here, Gorgeous. You either stay with us, or you let her cry.” And for whatever reason, last night, even though I knew she’d get over it, I chose the former.
And the night ended with the three of us playing on the living room floor. We’d been giving Lily raspberries on her tummy, making her giggle, and she started trying to the same to me and Joe, which cracked us up until we were crying. We read some books to her, and she sought out our belly buttons again, and sang along with the ABC song and a fish song she learned at the library. There was absolute joy in these moments, making me realize that I’d made the right choice about skipping my band rehearsal.
Not that I would have EVER guessed, based on the screaming fit that kicked off the early evening, that it would be such a nice night. But that’s why parenthood is a nightmare and a tonic for us control freaks. You can never anticipate, from one moment to another, what’s coming at you.
That means things can turn ugly really quickly. But it also means that when things look awful, better moments could be just around the corner.