So we have this baby gate. No, we’re not embroiled in some shocking political controversy involving a baby (Babygate, coming soon to theaters near you!), it’s an actual gate for babies.
Like all baby gates, it’s used to prevent babies (and toddlers) from getting places they shouldn’t, particularly staircases (and the Oval Office!). Having exclusively lived in urban apartments, we haven’t had that much need for it, because an apartment with stairs is not an apartment we can afford. However, for the past few months, Detective Munch has been in Grandma and Pop-pop’s house, and Grandma and Pop-pop’s house has stairs. So the baby gate was put back to work.
Except not really. Because I never close it. Because I’m a terrible father.
The irony is, I’m the nervous one.
I’m the anxious, clingy, paranoid parent who hesitates to let his toddler climb up the slide’s ladder by himself. I’m the worry-wart who constantly tells his three-year-old to be careful at the park. I’m the overprotective adult who’s creating a timid, tentative little boy by constantly questioning his safety. All this despite the fact that I’m the man and Mom and Buried is the woman! It’s like Freaky Friday or Switch or Chaz Bono’s entire life.
But not this time. This time, Mom and Buried is the nervous one. And for once she’s calling on me to be more vigilant and to be less cavalier about our kid’s safety and to close the damn baby-gate!
Before you accuse me of not caring for my son or of being a negligent parent, know this: Detective Munch dominates stairs. He scales stairs like it’s his job. He may enjoy fondling elevators but stairways are his JAM. In the past two years I’ve probably lost a good 10-20 hours waiting for him to sloooooowly navigate his way up and down stairways, just because he loves it and I’m nothing if not an indulgent parent. He doesn’t care that his legs are too short or that I have places (bars) to be. The stairs are his Everest and I am his sherpa and there are mountains everywhere and my quads hurt just typing this.
He’s good at stairs. But there’s a difference between being good at stairs in the middle of the day when Mommy and Daddy are nearby, and being good at stairs in the middle of the night in a dark hallway after half-waking up and wandering out of your bedroom to find Mommy and Daddy somewhere across the house. And that’s why Mom and Buried yelled at me about not closing the baby-gate. And she’s right. He’s still only three! So what’s my problem?
I think I’ve settled into this whole parenting thing. I’m used to it, especially now that my son is firmly ensconced as a toddler. His development is so much more gradual these days, so much more incremental. Gone is the excitement of the first step or the first word. We’ve hit a plateau, and as such, it’s lulled me to sleep. Nothing new is happening these days; the kid learned to handle stairs years ago. I guess I’m a little bored.
What happened to all the milestones?
I’m not making excuses; I’m trying to wake myself up. Again, Detective Munch is still only three. As capable as he is of climbing stairs and holding conversations and being a huge asshole, he’s still got a long way to go before he’ll be an expert at any of that. (It took me decades to perfect my assholism!) And as “used to” his toddler-dom as I may be, that doesn’t mean I get to stop parenting. Because I’ve barely even started.
The stuff I’m complaining about? This “boring” stuff? This is the real shit. This is the day-to-day.This is parenting. And guess what? Parenting is boring. Until it’s not.
Parenting isn’t a hobby, and it sure as hell ain’t entertainment. We’re not here just to capture the highlights or to fast-forward to the home-runs. We have to sit there and watch every pitch, endure every error, wait through every rain delay, be on watch at all times. You can’t DVR your way through parenthood (although you can DVR your way through “Parenthood,” if you want to skip the tear-jerker parts and be left with nothing but the opening credits and Dax Shepard) and you can’t stop doing it just because you get a little bored. Nor should you want to.
I’ve written about my desire to see what my son will be like when he gets older. And soon enough, my son is going to get bullied at school, and fail a test, and become a teenager and kiss a girl (or a boy) and get his learner’s permit and be accepted into college, and I’m going to remember when I was bored and I’m going to wish I could have that so-called boredom back.
Being a good parent means parenting 24/7/365. Through the milestones and the meltdowns and – and this is most of it – the mundane. Otherwise you might miss something, like an open baby gate.
And things will stop being boring in a hurry.