My son is kicking my a$$. And it’s not even close.
He’s 2, bursting with energy. I’m . . . okay, fine, I’m eligible for AARP. It’s not a fair fight.
This was a manageable problem just a few months ago, when, y’know, I had a place to go during the day. What’s the word we used to use for it . . . WORK! Right! And the dynamo I lovingly call EJ was spending the majority of his day at daycare.
Well, neither of those things are true now, for reasons we all know too well. Every single day now, I’m facing the perfect storm: Virtually uninterrupted time with an uncommonly muscular and insistent toddler who has discovered the word “no” – and likes to shout it at me at bedtime while physically keeping me from leaving the room.
Like I said, I’m getting my A$$ kicked.
I suppose it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one. Last night, after I finally getting the boy off to sleepy land, I was watching Stephen Colbert videoconference with Chance The Rapper. Colbert asked Chance who was winning, “Team Adults” (Chance and his wife, Kristen) or “Team Kids.”
“It’s like a full-on, one-on-one or two-on-one . . . all the time,” Chance said. “They are beating us up.”
“I’ve said before,” Colbert chuckled, “they’re small but relentless opponents . . .”
I glanced over at Ester to give her a knowing look, like “Baby, somebody gets it.” But when I looked over, she’s sitting motionless, her eyes closed, possibly snoring. Dead to the world.
I get that too.
It takes me back to my own childhood, back in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Me and the Maxwell brothers, Leroy and David, would be outside shooting hoops in the driveway. Leroy and I were 10; David was seven. My dad? AARP-Eligible and with a mini-keg instead of six-pack in the midsection.
Anyway, my dad knew he’d never compete with us trying to run around with a bunch of fifth-graders. Or, at least that’s what I told myself up until my 50th birthday. Now, I realize the truth: He was just tired. Pretty much all the time. But he played with us anyway.
So instead, he’d post me and the guys up – ain’t no way a skinny 10-year-old gonna push his big ol’ backside off of the block. And as a true student of the game, he’d back us all the way down and hit us with that Kareem-style skyhook. Over and over and over again.
Yet again, my father teaches me lessons in new and unexpected ways. He used his brain to win – even as his body was telling him to go somewhere and sit down.
Likewise, if I am to defeat my child – that is, get him to go to bed at a reasonable hour without too much fuss – I can’t play him straight up. I need a strategy.
Bottom line is, I gotta wear his little behind out. I ain’t talking about hitting him; I’m talking about burning all that energy up. Oh, I should mention that he broke his addiction to midday naps some time ago.
And I gotta be patient with him at the same time. After all, he’s just a 2-year-old bundle of energy just doing what 2-year-olds do.
If I get upset at him for acting like he’s a toddler when he actually is a toddler . . . like I said, patience.
Thus, my quest to get EJ to bed by 8:30 p.m. starts at about 11 a.m. By that point, he’s had breakfast, he’s watched Morphle on YouTube Kids. “Let’s go for a walk, son,” I tease. “Wanna go outside?”
We put on his shoes. In my head, I’ve already mapped out a route that keeps us socially distant and off of main roads with traffic. Lately, I’ve added a street to the route with a very gradual uphill incline. Walking uphill = burning energy.
I simultaneously groan and cheer when he snatches my finger and starts running us both down the sidewalk. Groan, because my knees sound like popcorn sometimes. But cheer, because burning energy!
If I’m lucky, sometimes, I’ll get a chance to lock myself in the home office/studio and focus my brain for a few on work. The reality is, my eyes glaze over as I just try to catch my breath. And it’s always short-lived.
Large chunks of the day are spent with me trying to move my legs with a 35-pound weight attached to my pants leg. Or, he gets clingy and wants to climb up on my shoulder – climbing on my back and neck to keep me from putting him down.
He doesn’t play fair either. I know he’s too young to understand what he’s doing when he charges at me, headbutting me in ways that pretty much ensure I won’t be giving him a sibling. Fellas, feel my pain.
By dinner time, I’m trying to put him in a food coma of sorts, trying to feed him something that’ll accelerate the drowsy. But the boy is mostly a vegetarian, unhampered by metabolism-slowing animal protein. But at least I’m in the homestretch. One more energy burn, bath time and then hopefully, rest for the weary.
But I’m tired, don’t feel like running after this boy. I decide instead to tickle and rassle (that would be “wrestling” to the uneducated) him, noticing he’s just flailing his legs up in the air like he’s riding a bicycle – looks like burning energy to me.
I’m listening for heavy breathing. I’m watching for the eye rub and the yawn. I cross my fingers.
Bath time. Bedtime with a book. It’s not always smooth, but we get there. He settles down and eventually drifts off. Time: 9 p.m. Baba wins the day, but it’s a fleeting victory – after all, the boy will be recharged and ready to wear me down once more when the sun rises.
Don’t mistake all of this as me complaining. Mostly, I just didn’t want to write another somber story about these times we’re living in. Besides these are the moments that make up the memories we cherish about our kids later in life – you know, the ones we’ll use to embarrass them in front of their friends when they’re older.
I’m blessed to be EJ’s dad, and blessed to have these days to spend time with him.
I just wish I was blessed with the energy to keep up with him, too.