Thursday, October 11, 2007

false dichotomies

I still remember when Isaac was about 10 weeks old. I was talking to my sister on the phone, telling her that lately Isaac wouldn’t always fall asleep right after I fed him and I didn’t know what was wrong.

“What should I do?”

- a beat, then…

“Interact. With. Your. Baby,” came the reply.

I was panicked.

How? What do you mean “interact??”

I know how to change diapers, take walks, and breast feed (sort of). Now you’re expanding my job description? I’m not ready!

So it has been ever since – running to catch up with the next phase Isaac has moved on to while loathe to relinquish my comfortable hold on what I had worked so hard to get down in the last phase.

Something else has also stayed the same – the choice of “to do for” versus “to engage with.”

“To do for” is the more comfortable of the two – the rules are clear and the route is (mainly) undisputed, e.g., baby needs lunch for preschool tomorrow. Action: make lunch for baby. These lists of “to do” not only fill time, but release me in some small way to my adult thoughts –
call about playdate,
buy diapers,
return library books,
wipe son’s nose.

Naturally, baby barges in on the “to do” list. I find I usually become most annoyed at Isaac when I’m on a roll with “to do” and he’s mucking it up with “engage” –

call about playdate = “Me talk! Meeeeeeeeeeee TALK!”
buy diapers = “No sit in cart!” followed closely by begging for some sort of dinosaur cookie lamentably placed front and center at the check out.
return library books = scattering books randomly about the building then stamping his entire body with the due date.
wipe son’s nose = hiding in the closet to the tune of “Not see me, Mama!”

I once held a job (I know, just stay with me here) in which I had much creative freedom in how to fill my days. New projects were welcomed, new directions expected. Sometimes, it was nothing short of torturous, my battered soul longing for a form to fill out.

Prior to the job, I once had a graduate professor who warned me in the margins of my thesis draft to “beware false dichotomies.” I’ve thought of that advice more often than I can relate in the last eight years. “To do for” and “engage” are likewise part of the same whole. The part of me that wants to find out where they meet, leaves the list lying around the house until, “Mama, me draw on dis?”

“Yeah, Iz, go ahead.”

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