Being a Dad is Tough

27 05 2006

Today I wanted to give my wife a break from the Kids and give her some time while she worked. Yes, I know, she should probably take that time and rest, but her current line of work allows her to work at home. The advantage of that is she can stay home with the new baby, but that is also the primary disadvantage. Babies require attention, and work and babies don't mix too well most of the time.

The girls and I made our first stop at the Arizona Mills Mall today. This in and of itself was nothing special. There isn't much to do in the desert with a 2 year old and a 4 month old but go to the mall and make sure they don't break something. Hopefully, in the process, they'll become tired and go to bed on time.

Since it was just me with two small kids, I had a lot of loading and unloading to do when it came to getting in and out of the car. My first tactic was to use our three wheeled stroller. It fits both kids right now, even though it's tough to turn, it gets the job done. The wheels on this stroller are inflatable, like those on a bike. They make for a smooth ride for the occupant (that was the idea anyways), and offer better traction over non-paved or non-laminated surfaces. However, there is one huge weakness, just like bike tires, they are prone to go flat. The right rear tire was flat nearly instantly, probably from some previous outing. I didn't want to trek out to the car in the blazing heat again, so I pumped up the tire, not knowing that there was indeed a hole tube (these go flat from time to time even if there is no hole in the tube). After the second flat, I found a thorn and removed it. But now I was faced with a larger problem: how can I keep going around the mall with two kids on a stroller that is nearly impossible to turn?

Oh, the dilemmas us parents face.
I wandered around the mall, trying to go in straight lines as much as possible, with the flat tire. It soon became very difficult to push and turn, so I wandered into a store with some room to sit and I infated the tire again. It lasted for a few minutes. Then I had an idea: the front was ok, why not change the tubes around and make the stroller easier to turn? So, I found a Borders store and sat in the kids section because of the low chair. I used my keychain to pry the tire away from the wheel. I felt very strange doing a tire change in teh middle of a bookstore. But then I thought: this is what a Dad does. That thinking made it through the rest of our trip to the mall. Now, we were off to the next leg of our journey: Fry's Electronics.

The trip to Fry's started with a different kid hauling strategy: I carried the small one in one of those strap on baby carriers, and I would push Eliana in her large, plastic wheeled Dora stroller. This idea backfired almost immediately. As soon as we made it into the store, Eliana wanted to push the stroller herself. That wasn't a bad thing, so I let her, trying to steer her away from people's shins throughout the store. Next came the clincher: Annabelle started to make some serious baby noise. I'm not talking about peeing or pooping, but the dreaded crying. I immediately made a beeline for the "food court" area, which oddly enough was occupied by many Fry's Electronics employees. I grabbed a chair and got down to preparing her formula. This was a very tricky thing to do because she was strapped to my chest. I unloaded almost everything in my pockets onto the table, as well as all the baby stuff needed to get the formula to resemble milk including a bottle, water and powder. After a good shake of the bottle, I fed it to Annabelle hoping she was indeed hungry. No dice. The crying became louder. This meant only one thing: she was sleepy.

I knew the battle I was in for, so I took her out of the carrier and tried to comfort her to sleep. Her typical battle cry makes her sound like I just kicked her across the room.  Needless to say, she was loud, but it was also obvious she was sleepy; her eyes were closed when she cried.  After about 15 minutes of loud crying, she found her fist and started sucking, and made her way to sleep. All was good, except that I wasn't going to walk around the store (I still had some shopping to do) holding a baby and trying make sure the other one doesn't run off or break something. The only way I could get things done was to get her back in the carrier.

Gently I turned her straight and attempted to wrap the baby carrier over her.  I was not precise enough because I woke her up. From there it was a race to get it on as fast as I could and get everything packed up so I could try to rock her back to sleep while I walk around the store. Her bellied cries filled the food court, and were probably heard all over the store.  People would walk by, and I felt guilty for having a baby that cried so loud.  I'm sure I annoyed many of the employees on their breaks, but they didn't say anything.  I think it was obvious I was doing the best I knew how to do with Annabelle.

After I managed to throw the harness over my body and strap in Annabelle securly, I tried my best to hold her as firmly as I could and put her in a sleep type position.  The carrier was helpful in holding some of the weight so I could focus more on rocking her to sleep. I peroused the aisles trying to find the few items that were on my list quickly so I could leave and not annoy more people. Aisle after aisle she kept screaming at the top of her lungs, and into my right ear.  The sound was muffled in my ear which means that her crying has probably started to effect my hearing. That or I really need to clean out my ears. Eventually she found her fist again, and started sucking. After a few minutes, her cries became lower in volume and frequency until she finally fell alseep in my arms as she has done several times before, crying in my ear all the way. 

I was able to browse through the store and figure out the items I needed with some relative peace. I still had a 2 year old to deal with, so it wasn't quite that peaceful, but Eliana was great and would listen kindly to every request I had.  She would say "Ok, Apa" when I asked her to follow where I was going. She would touch things in the aisle, and I asked her to put it back, and she complied. She pushed the stroller into a few people, but I can only ask so much of a toddler.

While I was dealing with Annabelle, with people walking by seeing me struggle to handle a 4 month old baby with a 2 year old toddler looking on, I thought to myself: This is what it means to be a Dad. While this isn't what I do with 100% of my fatherly time, Dads do these things.  They are responsible and know what it takes to get a crying baby to sleep in the middle of an electronics store. Dads are resourceful in the way I managed to keep the stroller usable with one flat tire. Dads keep control of the situation as I was able to with Eliana, even if Annabelle was a little reluctant to follow my lead.  Today, I was a Dad in all sences of the word, and it's not an easy job.  But, sharing time with Eliana today at the food court with a cookie in her mouth was one of the better parts that comes along. 

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