Plywood Jungle

As I become increasingly familiar with the special brand of insanity that is toddler behavior, I try my best to abide by a “judge not, lest ye be…” attitude toward others’ parenting styles.  Most of the time.  Okay, some of the time.  Hey, I’m working on it, okay?!  I truly have no room to cast aspersions, given my own proclivity toward hovering like a neurotic basket case, desperate to shield my delicate little flower from anything with sharper edges than a down pillow.  However, there are situations where one simply cannot help but feel like you’re the only one who possesses any measure of sanity; the lone zoo keeper in a cage full of crap-flinging monkeys.  Case in point: the cross section of human behavior that is Ikea on a busy Sunday afternoon.  What is it about modular furniture at low, low prices that brings out the absolute worst in parental behavior?

Though I was there only 45 minutes, I witnessed scads of wayward tots using the sofa section as their own personal moon bounce, flogging each other with assorted bargain priced kitchen utensils, and scaling piles of shag rugs like sugared-up mountain goats.  When I passed the lighting section, I would not have been surprised to find unattended crawling babies gnawing through electrical cords like the Persian cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  In a stunning example of saving the best for last, the absolute horror of all horrors occurred when I was within spitting distance of the checkout lines.  As I weaved through crowds in the self-serve warehouse, I stopped short when an overloaded flatbed cart rolled by me.  Pushed by a frazzled looking mother, the contents of said cart included the following:  no less than ten flat pack furniture items, assorted lamps and throw pillows, three children under the age of five, and teetering on the very top of the pile was a car seat occupied by a dozing newborn.  Wait…what?!  What is Swedish for “Have you lost your fucking mind?  That’s a BABY!”  Doesn’t Ikea issue informative pictorial directions that caution against this?  Surely there must be a drawing explaining that you do not place infant seats atop precariously stacked boxes of furniture?  Or at very least an 800 number you can call if you aren’t sure.  At least chuck him in the ball pit, woman!  The nice Smaland attendants will help you fish him out when you’ve finished picking out a new toothbrush holder.  Not exactly certain how to respond to this game of baby Jenga unfolding before my eyes, I defaulted to sarcasm.  A “gee, THAT seems safe” coupled with the most menacing stink eye I could muster.  I didn’t stick around to see if passive-aggressive conflict resolution 101 had any effect on her; it was time to get the hell out of dodge.  That was the Swedish meatball that broke the camel’s back.  So long Ikea, it’s been real.  I’ll be back the next time I need reassurance I’m not the worst parent around.

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Moby Wrapped

“Do you already have a Moby Wrap?” asked a well-meaning, fellow mom friend.  It was one of our first post-baby social outings with screaming infant in tow.  We’d made the arduous two block journey to our friends’ home, in the car of course (the solitary white cloud in the otherwise clear sky threatened to erupt into sprinkles at any second.)  My husband and I knew had come to know this couple well in our former life.  Due to the sheer frequency of our drunken outings, we had managed to forge quite a solid friendship despite the backdrop of incessant debauchery and dirty rock bars.  They were veteran parents compared to us (they had survived a whole 18 months!) but it was still mildly alarming how quickly the conversation shifted from old topics to poop and colic.  Like instantly.

“A Moby Wrap?”  Having grown all too accustomed to pretending I was well versed in high-end baby paraphernalia, I automatically launched my go-to defense strategy.  “Well, I thought we would wait to see if he seemed like a (insert random gadget here) kind of person.  You know, you really do have to meet them first…”  It was, of course, utter bullshit.  Realizing I was in a safe place, I stopped myself.  “Wait, what the hell is a Moby Wrap?”

That seemingly simple question, launched the most elaborate lesson ever conceived on what could be done with a 3 1/2 yard piece of fabric.  For those not yet familiar, the Moby Wrap is somewhere between a sari and a straightjacket.  When you follow their easy 138-step wrapping instructions, it somehow miraculously becomes an infant carrier.  That’s right, it’s just that easy!  And for a shade under 60 bones, this stunning piece of infant technology can be yours!  A steal, really.  Throughout the tutorial, I stared blankly as I fought mental imagery of a swaddling pop-techno icon, Moby, strapped to my chest like a snuggly little tumor.  A tumor with hipster glasses and vegan footwear.

The reality of the apparatus was infinitely more palatable.  After several attempts that left me looking like a yarn tangled kitten while my newborn, obviously unsympathetic to the Moby Wrap learning curve, wailed impatiently.  When I finally managed a correct wrap, I stuffed him in.  Much to my amazement, he actually seemed to enjoy it.  It was a bit uncomfortable, as “wearing” an infant on an 85 degree day is akin to strapping a piping hot, well-basted pot roast to your chest.  But he was peacefully sleeping and I had two free arms for the first time in weeks.  As I used those newly liberated limbs to tackle long neglected dishes, laundry and cleaning I thought, “Bless you Moby, you beautiful, bald son of a bitch.  Bless you and your magical wrap too.”

Mo Binky, Mo Problems

I recall being just a few short weeks into motherhood and shaking my fists at the gods when my chronically fussy baby refused to love his pacifier.  I’d offer it, he’d go to town on that bad boy for a few seconds, and “POP”, out it would fly.  Then the crying would start again.  I felt like the pacifier was the missing piece.  Like it was the cure-all for my parental woes and I was at a huge disadvantage without it in my bag of tricks.  “Surely he’d sleep in uninterrupted 10 hour intervals if only he’d hang on to that pacifier.”  We tried every size, shape, color, brand of pacifier under the sun.  I think there may have even been a cool ranch flavored one in there…  But sadly, none of them worked.  He was an Olympic level nurser, and he took a bottle so-sweat – but it was no-paci, no-how.

Cut to nearly two years old, and me thanking my lucky stars that we aren’t dealing with pacifier deprogramming.  Talking to other mothers, binky rehab sounds like a toddler version of Trainspotting.  I picture baggy-eyed, twitching baby junkies tottering around, desperate for just one more fix.

One of my favorite mom friends (and all around favorite people) shared her solution with me.  She and her daughter tossed pacifiers off their third floor terrace so the baby squirrels in the surrounding trees might treat themselves to a suckle.  Friggin’ genius!  I defy you to show me a tot who wouldn’t be comforted by the idea of diaper-clad baby squirrels frolicking in the treetops with binkies in their itty bitty mouths.

In a moment of mommy-masochism, I once found myself watching one of those nanny rescue type reality shows.  The latter day Mary Poppins helped a young boy kick the habit by instructing him to pack up his precious in a manila envelope addressed to the “Paci-fairy”.  He then deposited the envelope in the mail box and the next morning found the nymph had replaced his pacifier with candy and gifts.  Like the tooth fairy, but with rubber nipples.  And the little bugger could not have been more thrilled.  Also friggin’ genius!

I often try to imagine how I might be coping with this issue if I had to.  I picture myself telling the little guy that, second only to malaria, pacifier shortage is the most critical issue facing third-world countries today.  I don’t know that he’d really grasp the urgency of the situation, or that I even knew how much postage you need to ship a box of pacifiers to Rwanda.  No, I’m sure I’d have to come up with something better.  But instead I just smile and thank the same gods I cursed nearly two years ago, thankful we dodged the binky bullet.

Hippy Hippy Shake

Every once in a while, the universe gifts you with one of those little moments that makes you realize your former, pre-child life is not as distant a memory as it now seems.  That you’re still closer to the days of gritty rock shows and random boozy after parties than you are to mom jeans and Lifetime movie marathons.  Exhibit A, a recent scene from family breakfast:

(Early morning in a sunlit ((if only slightly dirty)) kitchen finds J rifling through a terrifyingly disorganized cabinet in search of toddler-kibble.  Not what one would describe as a “morning person”, J bristles at what is discovered.)

J:  Why is the new box of granola open?  There is still a bunch left in the old box!   Awesome.  Really.  That’s not wasteful at all.  Hey, by the way, when did you start crapping money?  Hook a girl up, homie, because I need some cash for lunch!

(S, accustomed to such displays of morning-related bitchiness, looks up from his coffee cup and responds calmly)

S:  But I had to open the new one.

J:  Oh, you HAD to, did you?  Well, Rockefeller, pray tell why?

S:  I HAD to open the new one, because the old one was all shake.

J:  (brief pause)  Um….beg your pardon?

S:  You know.  It was all the little broken pieces.  He likes the big nuggets.

J:  Ah yes.  Of course.

(Delighted with the fact that a well applied drug reference was not a forgotten relic of the marital lexicon, J smiles knowingly and resumes breakfast preparations.)

*If you were considering submitting this anecdote for consideration as Inappropriate Parenting Moment of the Year, know the review board is already considering it for recognition in the “Best Practical Application of a Marijuana Reference” category.  Fingers crossed – this feels like our year!