Monday afternoon I got a call from Miss Maggie, one of Sasha’s teachers at Preschool of America. Sasha had a fever, 102 degrees, and I needed to come take her home.
My reaction was one of instant worry: Was my precious 2-year-old okay? Was 102 a potentially dangerous temperature for one of her age and size? How could I make her happier and more comfortable?
Actually, no, none of that is true. The first thing I thought was: Dammit, how am I going to finish rewriting this travel feature to meet my deadline today? The second thing I thought was: Is there any way I can get Jean to take care of Sasha instead of me?
As it turned out, I got lucky on the first concern and unlucky on the second, and so on Tuesday—because Preschool of America has a policy where sick kids have to survive at least one full day without a fever before they can return to class—I embarked on my very first “stay home with a sick toddler” day. Yeah, everyone loves those days.
It did not go perfectly smoothly. A 20-minute midmorning walk to the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library taught me that I should really check the schedule before leaving the house in the bitter cold. (It opens at 1 p.m.) A visit to the playground at Carroll Park and a 10-cent lollipop at Stinky kept Sasha’s spirits up, but once lunch was served back home things deteriorated. She didn’t eat much, didn’t nap much afterward, didn’t want to play. Finally, I relented, and sat her in front of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” for an hour, then let her jump on my bed like crazy until Jean came home at 4 to relieve me.
I’m not sure I learned anything from the experience. It’s more that I was reminded of something I often forget, which is that playing with very small children is boring. I mean, I like to play some games with Sasha: We dance to the new Girl Talk album, and we read together, and put her doll in the stroller and walk it around the apartment. But there’s an obsession with repetition that I find it hard to deal with, especially since the tasks we’re repeating happen to be the kinds of things that you have to be 2 years old to enjoy in the first place, like pushing small plastic toys back and forth, or “drawing,” which tends to involve picking up one crayon and then exchanging it for a different crayon and then doing that again. Singing “Five Little Monkeys” while Sasha jumps on the bed is great—until you start getting deep into negative numbers.
No doubt these activities are fascinating to children, but they drain my energy and enthusiasm, and Sasha seems to want to do them much more than she wants to, say, go through my RSS feed looking for amusing blog items.
In the end, of course, I’ll suck it up and do what it takes to keep her happy. I’m her father and I want her to love and trust me and have good, if vague, memories of our early years together, so that a few decades from now, when it’s time to put me in a home, she’ll pick one where they don’t beat the elderly residents too hard or too often.