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Survival mode

July 3rd, 2011 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting

Right after the monkey was born (or possibly just before), our family doctor – who has been Amy’s doctor since she was a kid  – gave Amy a great piece of advice: Just survive.

Amy, as is her way, was worried about all kinds of things. How would we keep the house in order? How would we get meals ready? How would she get the baby weight off? How would she deal with post-partum issues?

Just survive.

The doctor told her there’d be plenty of time to worry about cutting out sugar and everything else. For the first few days as new parents, focus on getting through.

The advice has more legs than we realized. Amy and I try to keep the kid busy, especially on weekends. Amy enrolls her in activities and I try to get her out to the local kid-friendly coffee shop. We take her grocery shopping, we plan errands – all in the name of getting her out of the house while we get things done.

But some days, we revert to survival mode. Cranky toddler tends to bring out the worst in me and Amy and my relationship suffers for it. Amy’s got a knack for finding this zen-like place when the kid’s being a jerk but I tend to get frustrated and it just compounds the stress we’re all feeling. But when cranky toddler tips into DEFCON 1, all hands on deck asshole mode, it’s like a switch flips.

Without really saying anything, we hit survival mode. It’s like a tag team. We see a distant finish line (nap time or bed time) and we figure out how to get there with the least damage possible. You watch her while I grab a shower, then I’ll take her out in the car so you can rest. That sort of thing.

It’s not pretty but it works. We survive.

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The great thing about our relationship is that we tend to know each other’s limits pretty well, though we’ve gotten here through some fights and a lot of talking. Throw a whole new little person into the mix, and one who can’t express herself fully with words yet, and things get a bit rocky.

When I took the baby to the doctor this week, just to make sure that her sleep issues were normal and not something physical we needed to worry about, she reminded me of the truth of parenting – sometimes you just have to make it through.

Yesterday was one of those days, after M took two hours to go to sleep, woke up screaming at midnight and didn’t go back to sleep until 3 am and then woke up for the day at 6:30 am. She was exhausted and cranky, we were exhausted and at a loss as to how to make it through the day. But we did.

She didn’t get to Monkey Rock yesterday, we didn’t get the groceries done and dinner was ‘screw it, let’s get take out,’ but we got through it. I even got a couple of my errands done in the name of driving her around after she fell asleep in the car. And then she went to sleep at 6:30 pm without any problems, and now we’re letting Joe sleep in while we read some library books we got yesterday.

Joe said yesterday that M is very good at doing just the right thing when you’re getting frustrated with her. Just when he’s ready to sell her on the black market, he says, she’ll come over and hug him or do something smart or sweet and you fall in love all over again.

And soon, very soon, she’ll have the words to tell us what’s wrong and life will get a little bit easier, I think.

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