Wish You Were Here: Please, Don’t Leave Me!

photo: David Straight/Unsplash

Sometimes it’s okay to ask for help, like with a soon-to-be 3-year-old who spends most of his waking hours catapulting himself off the couch onto a large pile of cushions or leaving trails of Goldfish crumbs across the living room floor for his little vehicles to “vroom over” and the mouse population to enjoy at a later date.

And yes, I’m aware this is all oddly specific but there’s a seemingly ridiculous explanation as always, I promise.

What happened was, the other day I was relaxing on the beach, enjoying an ice-cold frozen rosé while someone swarthy and sun-kissed with the hands of a Greek God rubbed a generous amount of oil on my… Okay, so that isn’t really what happened.

What really happened was, the other day I was sitting on the floor drinking my morning coffee, scrolling through Facebook while my son contented himself with one of the 400 matchbox cars I’ve purchased for him from Wilton Hardware (because the word “no” is obviously not in my vocabulary), when I made the mistake of telling him we were going to the Maritime Aquarium to meet some friends … at 2 p.m, and yes, I have a big IDIOT sign stamped on my forehead.

He immediately ran to get his shoes, my purse, my keys, my shoes, the cat. “Hold on there, buddy… not now. We’re going later… later.

This means nothing, by the way, to an almost 3-year-old. You might as well be speaking Greek or talking to the cat because he was already out the door, shoes on the wrong feet, sporting a soggy diaper and a sideways grin, my little man with a plan — six hours ahead of schedule.

Who could blame him? Truly, the Aquarium’s an exciting place, especially in the height of summer with those additional camp groups and 200-300 other mothers, fathers and nannies chasing after their almost 3-year-olds, yelling like fishwives for them to stop, “for the love of god… before the elevator door… closes!”

It’s my biggest fear, that he’ll race ahead of me and get into the elevator and never want to get out because do you have any idea how entertaining buttons are at that age? I still have no clue how to get the Arabic subtitles off our Netflix.

But nothing compares to the overwhelming anxiety any good parent naturally experiences that their child will fall face first into the stingray enclosure, which (true story), I witnessed once happen to another soggy diapered child with a sideways grin.

My son banged his fists on the car door, yelling and carrying on and I realized I did this to myself; that had I not mentioned anything about anything, the likelihood was high he’d still be busying himself with his green car, blue car, red car, yellow car, orange car, every color of the rainbow car, vroom-ing them across the floor, allowing me to indulge myself with more mindless (not so social) media. Really, there are so many instances, (too many) that I find myself negotiating with someone who still insists Band-aids are a form of body art and Oreos are a breakfast item.

If you’ve had the pleasure, like I did this summer, of being home with a small person who has a “pooping corner” in your dining room or thinks maybe the wall you just painted in his sister’s bedroom might be improved with some primitive cave drawings in the blackest shade of Sharpie marker, I have three words for you: hire a nanny or enjoy Arabic subtitles.

Sometimes I see these other moms and they’re young and perky and they do things like juice and have “intentions” and I think some choice words about them, eat a hamburger and move on with my day. But you know I’m jealous, that they can chase their kids around because essentially they can still run and don’t feel like they need to be on a ventilator after walking to the mailbox and back or kick soccer balls without accidentally launching one at their child’s head, sending him into a teary tirade and okay fine, there probably was a very good reason I kept the bench warm 1989-91 and then part of 93 because Mrs. Lee was smart and didn’t want to send everyone else on the team home with a concussion.

I’ll come to the point. I broke down and hired a college-aged babysitter this summer and fine, I’m going broke and yes, this is a luxury my husband and I definitely cannot afford but for the couple of hours I get to myself (sometimes daily) because it’s really more addictive than Oreos.

It’s been, in a word: life-changing. Okay, I guess that’s technically two words but either way, I took a shower this week. Huge for me. I mean, I had to get used to not having that eerie feeling like someone was watching me and then look up to see my son writing in Arabic on the shower stall, (not really). Or, the other day when I tried to make an appointment with the OBGYN without someone screaming for me to clean up his poop corner or fetch him more Goldfish to smash.

Surprise, surprise. We never made it to the Aquarium that day — or even past the parking garage of the Aquarium, I should say, because when I went to get him out of his carseat, he was sleeping. Which in hindsight was probably for the best considering I didn’t really feel like playing another round of elevator escapee or stingray submersion or contending with the busloads of campers or the ice cream truck that was waiting outside and so we drove home. And when he finally did wake up (three hours later), he called not for me, not for his father — but for the new love of his life, Babysitter X.

I will cry like I did at the beginning, middle and end of Bohemian Rhapsody when this impressive, helpful young man we’ve come to love this summer says it’s time to give up changing diapers and playing peek-a-boo under a striped beach towel for the four millionth time because he must get back to his Ivy League education.

My son will cry.

The entire house, in fact, will likely be in tears, and not just because I will for sure once again smell like a trucker or have to hide in the bathroom to talk to the gynecologist. We’ll be despondent because, unfortunately, colleges don’t allow almost 3-year-olds and their vast collection of matchbox cars to move into the dorms. (I know because I checked.)

But I suppose like all good things — Oreos for breakfast, tie dye Bandaids on foreheads — this respite too must come to a hiatus until that Ivy League institution’s winter break officially starts on Dec. 18 (we Googled it and circled it in red on the calendar) and we’ll be waiting in Babysitter X’s driveway with the striped beach towel in hand and hopefully without a stockpile of diapers because if Junior’s not potty trained by then, I seriously might caution tape the poop corner and go swimming with the stingrays. Seriously, good help is hard to come by.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.