Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Teeter-Totter of Parenting

One day, I'm regretting not having a camera with me at all times to capture all the adorable, milestoney type moments that seem too precious to let slip by.

The next, I'm grateful nobody can hear my frustrated thoughts, hoping that this is not the scene that becomes an indelible childhood memory.

So here was the "teeter" day:  (Teeter is the high side of the apparatus in my book)

Landon and I see a crew of guys putting down new asphalt in a fast food restaurant parking lot.  I pull in and park and we get ourselves front row seats on a grassy part to watch this motherload of fascination: men building a road.  At first, I'm doing it for Landon.  I'm remembering the trucker we met a while back and enjoying another moment to learn something about the world Landon is drawn to like a magnet.  But then, the scene is pretty interesting.  They steam-melt the old surface, rake it up, pour new asphalt to mix with the newly softened patch, rake some more, and then--grand finale--steamroll it.  The steamroller comes so close, Landon shudders in that mix of fear-turned-happiness to be near.  He's grinning so huge and talking a mile a minute, alternating between asking questions and explaining the whole thing to me as though he were the narrator of a documentary we should be filming.

And I'm happy.  Happy just to sit on the grass with him and watch the world get built.  And those guys are happy.  We give each other that little chin-up nod that is acknowledgement without being too gushy.  And they wave and grin at a little boy so completely enthralled with their every move that his mother would let him sit and watch it as long as he wants.  It's hot, hard work.  I tell one of the guys so and he says, "Yeah, and I yove it," and his accent suggests that he is probably working harder than I can guess.

So before we leave, I follow an impulse and buy them all a drink at the drive through and we drop them off before we head on down the road.  And still I'm happy.  Happy all around.  Those guys, my little guy, me.  

But the teeter-totter stays on the move.  And the moment finds its counterpoint today when I try to take a walk with Landon and Bill to the local grocery store. Is it worth detailing all the ways my patience wore thin, my nerves frayed and I finally snapped?  Near the end, I felt like I could not endure one more moment of fussy, whiny, crying, inconsolable behavior.  I'd already said a number of regrettable things; I didn't want to keep adding to the list.  So I begged the house key from Bill and left him to get the trike and tike home, and hightailed it away from them as fast as I could before I had a meltdown as ugly as my toddler's.

I felt like such a meanie.  I tried to make up for it by making our dinner salads especially nice.  Lots of chopping.  By hand.  Folded napkins.  You know, little touches I'm sure would mean the world to a three-year-old and his harried dad.  I wished I could get off that simply.

Instead, we had to chalk it up as "not one of our better days" and hope the bump of these "totter" days doesn't negate the "wheee!" of the teeter ones.

Maybe I need to find a better parenting metaphor.
Thinking about it, this one really stinks. 

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