A Laptop Naptime Mama

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Laptop Naptime Mama by Joanne Rendell

Illustration by Jennifer Burton

Did Benny Fly over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
As parents, we sometimes worry about the choices we make for our kids. We worry about whether allowing two hours of Barney and Big Bird every morning – so we can check emails and drink coffee in peace – will render our children incapable of learning from anything but a big furry creature in years to come. We worry that asking our kids to carry cans of beer from the back closet – so we don’t have to make another trip – will lead to a life of alcoholism, brown bags, and park benches. We worry that dragging them to every shop on Broadway – so we can find the perfect pair of black pants for an upcoming Ladies Night – might make them averse to anything black and thus in danger of being snubbed by the New York art scene. We worry about how blogging their poos in the bath or their sunburnt willies – for the amusement of ourselves and the blog-reading public – will prevent them from ever using a public bathroom or joining a nudist colony. We worry that our worries will make them worriers.

One thing we don’t worry about too often is the sleepwear choices we’ve made for our children. After all, what could be as innocuous as a pair of pajamas?

Well, that’s what I thought until a few nights ago.

With the Fall well and truly upon us and the nights getting nippy, the other day I ran out to buy Benny a new sleep suit. He’s incapable of staying under his covers at night and so those delicious, soft, zip-up, all-in-one suits have always been indispensable. Not only that, they look damn adorable. Fleecy and fuzzy, with teddy bear motifs and cute slipper feet. And last Tuesday, oh yes, I bought a particularly gorgeous one. Benny was going to look like a big, cuddly bumble bee in the black and yellow striped sleep suit which I’d found.

But, the other night, when I produced the “nouveau zoot zoot” things took a turn for the unexpected. Unlike last winter, when Benny would happily and compliantly allow himself to be stuffed and zipped into his old (what he called) “zoot zoot”, this year he decided, most emphatically, he didn’t want to be put into such an item. And as Brad and I poked and pulled his flailing arms and feet into the suit, he cried and hollered, “Nooo!” Of course, we just thought he was being his usual temperamental three-year old self and decided to ignore him. He’d get used to it in the end, we figured.

However, as soon as the “zoot zoot” was zipped up, Benny skulked to bed, teary eyed and forlorn. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t ask for books to be read to him and then, curling up on his bed, he went immediately to sleep.

In the morning, things didn’t get better. As soon as he opened his eyes, he looked down at his bumble bee body, let out a wail, and demanded the sleep suit be removed. Throughout the following day, whenever Benny caught sight of the offending article, he’d say with an indignant furrow of his brows, “Don’t like that. Don’t want that.”

We tried the next night to get the suit on him again, hoping that persistence was the key. Our efforts were in vain. He kicked, fought, and screamed and there was no way in hell Benny was going to be zipped into his sleep suit and so – like all the gifted parents we are – we gave up.

Over the last few days, I have wondered about the sleep suit and how Benny – who used to appear happy as a clam in his “zoot zoot” – now loathed it like a freshly steamed Brussel sprout. It got me wondering whether, in fact, he’d always hated it but never had the words to articulate this abhorrence. Perhaps the “zoot zoot” had always been terrifying for Benny. Perhaps it felt constricting like a straightjacket? Or as debilitating as shot of valium in his diapered butt? In previous winters, was every night zipped in his suit like a rerun of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Was I the unyielding tyrant, Nurse Ratched? Was he the long suffering McMurphy? Was he expecting a lobotomy at any minute? Or a stint in solitary confinement? In short, will I be paying his expensive therapy bills for the rest of my life?

Oh boy, the price of a warm baby and a few good night’s sleep.


Undeterred by the sand grains in my keypad and a very near-miss with the birdpoo, I have continued to take Benny to the keypark this week. Of course, I’ve been keeping my eye on those giggling birds and my laptop has not been allowed to come along (it is back gathering dust on my desk once again). But, in our secluded little park at the heart of the noisy city, we’ve been having a lot of fun

So much fun, in fact, that the other day I invited a friend of mine and her three year old son to join us. I figured, it was time they experienced the wonder of the keypark for themselves.

As usual, everything started out beautifully. The sun was out, a soft breeze flittered and fluttered in the trees above, and my friend and I snagged ourselves one of the park’s prime benches: in the shade with a great view of the whole park (and not one trace of bird poo on its wooden slats). Our boys skipped off to the sandpit and we sat for over an hour chatting about life, the world, our respective writing projects, and whether we’ll be laughed out of mommy-land because our two three-year-old sons stubbornly refuse to have anything to do with potties, toilets, and supposed “big boy” underwear (am I the only one in the world to find the whole “big boy” lingo a little annoying??).

Only on two occasions did we have to pull ourselves to our feet. Once, when food was demanded and the other time, when Benny performed some dangerous stunt involving a large plastic bus and a rather steep slide.

When home time loomed, however, the trouble started. My friend and I were not the only ones enjoying the keypark. Of course, our darling boys were enjoying the park too and when the announcement came that it was time to leave, cries of “no” and “I wanna stay” could be heard from Staten Island to Westchester. My friend and I were determined mamas though and sticking to our guns, amid the wails and flails, we pushed, prodded, and cajoled the boys into their strollers.

As we headed toward the gate, with sweaty brows and sniveling children, I looked around and noticed for the first time that we were the only ones left in the park. As we got closer to the gate, I also noticed that the security guard was gone and his little cubicle bore a heavy lock and a scribbled sign reading, “Gone to lunch.”

Now, if I wasn’t such a recent member of the keypark, this would all have been fine. I would have simply whipped out my key to the gate and let us out. But, as a newly signed up member, all I own in a small slip a paper which I show the security guard who then lets me in or out.

As you can imagine, with the security guard gone, no key, and two unhappy kids in need of an afternoon nap, the future didn’t look to rosy. Trying not to panic, my friend and I considered our options: 1.) wait for the guard to return, 2.) hope that some key-carrying park member shows up 3.) call the fire department 4.) scream at the top of our lungs until someone rescued us, or 5.) climb the fence.

Both of us being “laptop naptime mamas,” who need naptime like frozen yogurt needs chocolate sprinkles, were definitely not up for hanging around in the park wasting precious naptime minutes. However, neither of us had a cell phone, so that ruled out the fire department. And screaming, quite frankly, has never been my forte. I’m too British to make all that kind of fuss.

So we plumped for scaling the fence.

Luckily, two construction workers eating lunch nearby saw my friend, with her legs dangling each side of the six-foot high fence, and rushed over to help. What followed was a not-so-elegant dance which involved hoisting two confused, 40lb three-year-olds up into the air and over the fence. Followed by my friend’s super light MacLaren stroller and my jogging stroller – which I’d always thought was so practical and nimble in the city, until the moment I had to lift it above my head and over a high, rusting fence. Getting myself over proved to be a lot easier, although I was thankful not be wearing my favorite skirt from Brooklyn Industries and a pair of “I Heart Construction Workers” panties.

I’m beginning to wonder if there are menacing forces at work in this seemingly idyllic keypark. Although, I have to admit, something good did emerge from our fence-traversing escapades…The kids stopped sniveling.

For more of Joanne Rendell's mommy blogs - including "Fishing for Poo," "Should Mommy's Wear Thongs?" and "What's that dangly thing between his legs?" then Click Here to visit her at the popular website, Get Crafty. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.

Sand in My Laptop, Bird Poo on My Touchpad (to the tune of “Tears on my Pillow”)

I had a moment of insight the other day; a sudden “light bulb flashing on, ding-ding” moment. It occurred to me that the beauty of a laptop is that, well, it’s small, closeable, and thus exceedingly portable. It doesn’t have to be welded to one’s desk at home, gathering dust around its hinges. A laptop can go out for walks, it can enjoy the sunshine, breathe fresh air. Indeed, as its name suggests, it can sit on its owner’s lap – perhaps on a sun chair, a swing seat on a porch, on the backseat of a Mercedes convertible.

Of course, none of these seating options are available to me in the middle of crammed and rambunctious Manhattan. However, amid my light bulb moment, it did occur to me that perhaps my laptop would like to come on a trip to the playground!

It seemed such a good idea at the time. After all, we’d just become the proud owners of a key to a private playground owned by NYU (where my partner works). This playground, affectionately known as the “key park,” has delightful amounts of shade, lots of benches, a non-rat-infested sandpit, and more toy diggers than a Bob the Builder Fan Club would know what to do with. Not only that, the park has a heavy gate which even the nimblest of little Houdini fingers would not be able to open and thus there’s no danger of little ‘uns running out to play in the New York traffic. In short, it is an idyllic spot where kids can roam free and parents can kick back, lounge on the shady benches, make calls on their cell, or…yes, maybe even, get out their laptops and squeeze in a little extra writing time.

Or so I thought.

Everything went so well at first. When we reached the park, Benny ran immediately to the sandpit and found his favorite back-loader (a digger, for those of you not familiar) to play with. Meanwhile, I pulled out my computer and smiled to myself as it made the familiar booting-up sing-song chimes. As the sun shone, I typed away, only looking up now and again to check on Benny and make sure he wasn’t in some sort of “mine, no mine!!” altercation with another child.

Five hundred words later – yes, five hundred words! – there was a yelp from the sandpit which I instantly knew to be Benny’s. I looked up to see my much-taller-than-your-average-three-year-old Benny in a face off with a grinning and no-bigger-than-Benny’s-knee-one-year-old. It looked like the little whipper-snapper had snapped up the back loader and now Benny’s face had turned five shades of red and tears were popping from his eyes like a cartoon character.

This is where I discovered the first problem of taking a laptop to a playground. You can’t just throw down an 800 dollar piece of hardware like you would a book, magazine, or scarf you might be knitting. After saving your sweated-over document, you must place set the laptop down cautiously, being sure it isn’t placed in a puddle of juice or on top of some half-chewed bagel. And, of course, all this care and precision takes time.

So while I fiffed and faffed with my laptop, Benny’s wails were so loud they were making the windows in neighboring buildings shudder. Luckily, the mother of the other child had stepped in and as I finally and breathlessly reached the scene, she was already doling out the familiar mommy mantra to her son - “Don’t snatch, must share, you’ll get your turn.” Within seconds, the other child found a more interesting toy to play with, the back loader was back in Benny’s hands, and Benny’s sobs had ebbed to the occasional snot-laced sniff.

After thanking the other mommy, I snuck back to the bench and to my carefully perched laptop and resumed writing again. However, the back loader ruckus must have unsettled Benny because just a few minutes later he was at my side demanding my attention.

“Thomas on the ‘puter?” he asked a couple of times.

When I politely told him “no” he couldn’t look at the Thomas the Tank website and suggested he go back to the sandpit, he jabbed at the screen and repeated, “Thomas on the ‘puter.”

Ordinarily, this kind of jabbing at my laptop would make me just mildly annoyed. However, when I caught a glimpse of his sand covered pinkies, I exploded.

“No, Benny,” I wailed, “You’ll get sand…”

But it was already too late. Little grains of sand were already twinkling on my keypad – mostly around the A, S, W, Q area. I quickly upturned the laptop and began to shake. As I did so, I hoped, sweated, and prayed that my computer wouldn’t come to the same sticky end that an old camera of mine came to after I dropped on the beach one time.

Fortunately, when I flipped the laptop back over and prodded at the keys, all seemed to be working fine. Not only that, Benny had clearly got bored of my laptop shenanigans and was headed back into the playground. So, once again, I began tapping away.

This time I only got a few words written when I heard a weird splatting noise very nearby. At first, I thought it might be a first splash of rain and sighed at the thought of having to clear up, chase after Benny, and leave the park. However, the sky, when I looked up, was crystal blue with just a few tiny fluffy clouds dancing above the rooftops.

Then, scanning the bench next to me, to see where the splatting noise had come from, I noticed a sticky white and grey mess only inches away. Bird poo, of course. Big wet bird poo! I looked up again and in the tree above me – the same tree which was giving me all that lovely shade – sat three straggly city birds, their beady eyes looking down at me. I swear to god, they were giggling.

That was the last straw. There was no way I could risk bird poo on my touchpad. I snapped the laptop shut and, as I shuffled it back in its case, I muttered, “No more fieldtrips for you!”

For more of Joanne Rendell's mommy blogs - including "Fishing for Poo," "Should Mommy's Wear Thongs?" and "What's that dangly thing between his legs?" then Click Here to visit her at the popular website, Get Crafty. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.


I wouldn't really consider myself a working mom. I don't own a suit. If I tried to walk in kitten heels, I would find myself on a gurney heading straight to ER. A blackberry, to me, is something you pick from a bush and eat. Having to conduct pay negotiations with a nanny would give me bone-chilling nightmares and, if found in a swishy after-work wine bar, I'd be pestering the bartender for a pint of Fosters. Oh, and a regular pay check, what's that? This mama doesn't even own a cell phone.But, then I wouldn't really consider myself a stay-at-home mom either. I have never baked a cake. Hand-sewing a Thomas the Tank Engine Halloween costume for my three year old son, Benny, would be as unfathomable as quantum physics. And tripping joyfully between toddler-cize classes and mini-Picasso workshops? Please. My energy and time are way too limited.

Okay, I'm generalizing. No one completely falls into either of these categories. Some working moms can stitch kiddie-costumes that would make Yves Saint Laurent weep. And I've known stay-at-home mom's who like to wear mascara and heels to the park (even on the jungle gym) and gladly chug back Sauvignons at fancy wine bars after their days of kid-work.Unsatisfied with the two available "mom" categories, as many moms probably are, I have decided more categories are needed. To start this process, I hereby name myself a "laptop-naptime mama." Now, you may not know too many of these moms. But, believe me, they're out there.

They're lurking behind unmade beds, behind sinks loaded with peanut butter encrusted knives, and piles of unlaundered, mud-splattered, 3T clothing. T hese women, like me, have all the trappings of a stay-at-home-mom, i.e. they stay at home with their children. But, as soon as their little darlings disappear off into the land of nod, these mamas sprint - yes, I mean Carl Lewis sprint - to their laptops and begin to pound at the keys, writing their books, their blogs, their journals, or their screenplays.Being a "laptop-naptime" mama has its downsides.

While other mom's I know leave the park when they please and even go for leisurely coffees or drinks while their kids sleep in strollers, at the first yawn or eye rub from Benny, I must transform into an Army Field General. Orders are barked out, bags have to be packed, the toy Benny's borrowed from another child must be returned, the ensuing tantrum must be dealt with. All in five minutes, tops. Then, I must sprint home - Carl Lewis style once again - and make sure he does not drop off in his stroller (the transition from stroller to bed is a "laptop-naptime" mom's worst nightmare).

And all this, so I can work for a few precious, peaceful hours on my novel or my blog or sometimes, when I feel like returning to my deep-dark academic past, on an article for a literary journal.But, as with any other mommy role, being a "laptop-naptime' mama does have its upsides too. For one, because I'm the world's biggest naptime nazi - I'll stoop to any kind of bribery or threats to get Benny to sleep - Benny still takes deliciously long naps. Other mom's I know are pulling their hair out because their three years olds no longer sleep in the afternoons. Not Benny. You can practically see the big ZZZ's rising from his bed.In all, I enjoy being a "laptop naptime mama." I acknowledge, however, it's a stage. Pretty soon, Benny will join his brethren and stop taking naps. But, when that day comes, I am resolved to be calm and strong and happily rename myself a "suck-it-up-pay-for-a babysitter-and-take-my-laptop-to-a-coffee-shop" mama.

For more of Joanne Rendell's mommy blogs - including "Fishing for Poo," "Should Mommy's Wear Thongs?" and "What's that dangly thing between his legs?" then Click Here to visit her at the popular website, Get Crafty. To return to the Role Mommy home page, Click Here.


At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute story. Excellent writing. Could feel the struggle with the PJs and the frustration of the parents.
All of us have had similar experiences but not the talent to express the feelings in writing.


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