I’m Telling Myself a Story

It’s a 90-minute drive from our house to the Camel Milking Farm that we visited today. What better way to spend a Sunday than watching an amiably spatting couple demonstrate their moody talking parrots and camel-dairy operation, really, even if my own toddler was most interested in the least exotic part of the whole enterprise: the turkeys.

But what made me want to blog is the conversation we had in the car on the way up to the camel dairy. Soph had fallen uncharacteristically silent. I commented on something we were passing — the wild California poppies, or a field of sheared sheep, or an orange orchard, or something I don’t now remember. Soph replied: “Don’t disturb me. I’m telling myself a story.”

This fits well with a note she wrote the other day.

And it makes me so proud. Because it resembles me — especially me about ten years older than Sophie is now.

It’s even better that she pronounces “disturb” as “asturb.” Don’t asturb me. I’m telling myself a story. What a wonderful slogan.

I waited another ten minutes, then asked her if she could tell me the story, too. All she told me (before getting distracted by something else, maybe a herd of cows) was that it involves the Wonder Pets, who are sweet heroic animated animals in a formulaic (in the best sense of that word, patterned) tv show for two-year-olds. A few days ago, Soph informed me that her favorite show right now “is a baby show,” but she doesn’t seem disturbed by this. Soph knows that her babysitter, who is the coolest fourteen-year-old ever, carries an Elmo purse. Soph is already proud of her own taste for nostalgia. She might just become a historian like me.

On that same drive home today, both kiddos fell asleep in the back seat. Evs woke up first and started crying. This is unusual for him; he usually wakes up giggling. I passed him a teething biscuit, sang him a lullaby, and then kept on driving, because we were only 20 minutes from home, and it didn’t seem worth it to stop to check whether he needed a diaper change or what. He kept on crying until, seven minutes later, he suddenly laughed.

I checked the rearview mirror: Soph had woken up, and, without saying a word, had simply picked up a toy and was gently waving it back and forth at Everett.

It turns out that what had been bothering him was that his sister was asleep.

May they always be such good friends.

Unlike our sweet Sunday, I had to spend Saturday at an academic conference another 90-minute drive away, but that was a less bucolic freeway drive. I left the babysitter with five jars of baby food, baby-spoons, bibs, a diaper-bag prepacked with toddler snacks & change of clothes & everything else (including diapers), two car-seats (removed from my car), the garage-door opener (borrowed from Ben’s car, because I couldn’t find a spare key, but the garage-door functions like our front door), three bottlefuls of defrosted breast milk, new art supplies for Soph, and just-heat-and-serve food for both lunch and dinner. Once again, I am floored by how complicated it is to parent. We have our weekday routines down, but several times a year I need to work on a weekend, and I wonder whether launching an army requires any more organization.

Ben has been away for 6 days now, at a bike race in northern California. We’re doing okay, except for Saturday, when every moment at the conference, I was racing to get back home to my kids. Academic conferences are mini-reunions: they’re a time for chatting with old friends and new contacts, encouraging my students, reconnecting with many people who care about the same odd things I do. They’re a time to talk to adults about something other than parenting or teaching. I needed that break, this weekend, and yet it was so hard to take it.

Maybe I should just adopt Soph’s lines as my own. Don’t disturb me. I’m telling myself a story.



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