Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another Country

2010_0227_038_boulder_day2Jess and I are in beautiful Boulder, CO for a long weekend, visiting her good friends from when she lived in DC. Carrie & Denis have two adorable boys Alex(4) and Colin (16 months). I actually first met them about three years ago when I helped drive my sister to D.C. to start law school.

We flew in Thursday afternoon and caught up with Denis, who picked us up from the airport. When we got to the house, Alex, who of course remembered neither of us, only played shy for about 2 minutes. Within the hour, he had taken to excitedly calling Jessica over to see his latest bristol block creation or Star Wars action figure.

Carrie put the final touches on some soup, carrying Colin on her hip almost the whole time. She said he was going through his mamma-separation-anxiety phase. She finally was able to put him down for a few minutes, and I took the opportunity to make my move. It’s my habit to scoop up cute babies whenever possible.

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To my surprise, he didn’t freak out, just stared at me with adorable big brown eyes as if he was measuring my soul. I even got in some quick samples of baby cheek, one of my favorite delicacies. Later I got to help with bedtime, working through a short screaming fit (I sympathized—I hated bedtime as a kid too), to put on the nighttime diaper and jammies before handing him over to Carrie for his bedtime scoobie booby snack.

Carrie warned us that they’re early risers, so the pounding of little feet over our heads around 6am the next morning was no surprise. Luckily sleeping is one of my super powers, so I wasn’t bothered. I got to ‘sleep in’ till 8:00 and then it was up for a quick breakfast so we could all pile into the mini van to drop Alex off for a couple of hours of preschool, and Denis at a quick work meeting.

With our party down three adults and one kid, we headed to nearby Chautauqua park in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to hike a little.  Thursday’s dusting of snow gleamed off the fields and the trail while the almost ever-present Colorado sun beamed welcome vitamin D into our skin.

We made it about half a mile with a cranky Colin being carried by his mom before Carrie decided he wasn’t going to calm down. She offered to take him back to the car and hang out, while we hiked on a ways and enjoyed the woods.

The sudden silence was palpable after the half mile of constant crying, which lead to a conversation about parenthood, and how different the lifestyle of parents can be from ours. Of course, everyone does it differently, but Carrie & Denis have a fairly traditional structure in which he works and she mostly stays home with the kids. The night before she had detailed the workings of her mom’s group for us.

The group is has about 150 members, and requires a small fee for yearly dues. They ask each member to contribute on a regular basis, be it helping with events, trading child care or being on the board. Yes, I said the board. Clearly this was not our mother’s mom’s group! Everything is organized electronically, so non tech-savvy mom’s have a hard time unless they’re willing to learn. Carrie told us she gets about thirty Evites per month and sifts through them to decide what events they’ll attend. And the childcare trade? You get a certain number of ‘tokens’ per hour of watching others’ kids, which you can then trade for some kid-free time of your own for a night out.

I tried to imagine such a formal structuring of the ‘takes-a'-village’ concept in Portland and couldn’t really see it happening. Maybe there is something like that and I just don’t know about it—why would I? But I suspect, that Portland culture is a little too laid back for a mommy Board of Directors.

Alex and Colin are terribly sweet boys for the most part, with the usual tantrums and exuberance of course, both adorable in their own ways. Colin with those big eyes and super cute expressions and Alex with his polite manners and obviously sharp mind. He loves playing Uno and at four, he’s a pretty fierce competitor. He can’t hold his cards in his hand yet, so he puts them in neat rows face down on the table, quickly shuffling through to find draw-two or wild card that will ruin all your well laid plans.

So far, we’re having a lovely visit, though we learned the hard way that we violate Colin’s nap schedule at our peril. Aside from enjoying the different weather (sun!) of Boulder, the constant breath taking vista of the Rockies to the west (does that ever get old? I hope not)—It feels to me like we’re visiting another country—the country of Parenthood. We’ve adapted ourselves pretty well to the customs of this new place, getting out of bed at earlier hours (for me anyway), riding the occasional tantrum wave and grooving to superhero soundtracks in the car while joining in the local custom of playing Blues Clues to make long drives go by quicker.

Like most trips away from home, I’m enjoying the local flavor and taking in all the joys of this new lifestyle—but this peek into parenthood, also reconfirms my decision that I wouldn’t want to live their permanently. We barely have the energy to herd our three rambunctious cats. I have nothing but mad respect for Carrie, Denis and good parents everywhere (especially mine) for shepherding little lives until they can bloom into adulthood.

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2 comments:

Sandy B. said...

As a somewhat newer inhabitant in the land of Parenthood, I really enjoyed your take on this different landscape. I often try to consider what my current life would've been like for my former self.

NoPoGirl said...

Great post! I loved the non-parent perspective. As a parent, a bike racer, a ski patroller, a rock climber, a triathlete, a wife and, oh yeah, a 40-hour-a-week worker, I just want to make note that every parent adjusts their lifestyle according to their needs. I abhor moms' groups and playgroups and, yes, even the zoo. Blech. But I don't begrudge others who are in to such things. Most of my friends are actually NOT parents and I try to always take that in to account when hanging out with them.

Keep writing!