the way of the octopus

Visitor ServicesAs a parent, I often have to juggle my life according to my children’s needs. In some cases, I have to simply juggle – literally. And I’ve found that, since being a parent, my skill of performing simultaneous tasks has grown to maximum proportions. There are days when all I hear is, “I want,” “I need,” “Can I have…?” and so on. It is of the utmost importance to be able to deliver, sometimes under great urgency and strife.

For example, when my son was just a small baby, I’d scarf down all my meals like the smallest pup in the litter, anticipating his next need and my ensuing obligation to fulfill it. On a night out with my husband, I’d sit down at a fine restaurant, flick the starched white napkin into my lap with one motion, and by the light of the slender, cream-colored candles, slurp the whole plateful down, not unlike a pig to the trough. After daintily wiping the corners of my mouth, I’d look up to see my husband’s gaping face as he gripped his fork in mid-air, staring at me.

“What?” I’d say, looking down at my shirt. Had I dribbled a bit of sauce? Did I have spinach in my teeth? Were there crumbs remaining on my upper lip?

No. No, nothing like that. I had only devoured my food as if I were a mad, seething banshee.

Nowadays I don’t eat with quite the same urgency, but I still tend to rush through most activities. There are things I need to do. Essential, imperative things. These young people, after all, can’t fend for themselves completely. Not yet.

And, truth be told, I’m getting pretty good at the whole multitasking concept. For instance, I can simultaneously:

– Brush my teeth and clean out an empty shampoo bottle for the recycling bin.
– Load the dishwasher with two hands and close the cabinet door with one foot.
– Change the channel to an age-appropriate station while creating a Lego spaceship and  wiping a chocolate-stained face.
– Hand a banana to a child in the backseat, while adjusting the mirror, and checking to see if the Dylan CD is inserted into the CD player. (I was at a stop light at the time. Really).
– Zip up a Ninja costume while affixing a barrette and sending an e-mail message.
– Hold a grocery bag, three jackets, two towels, a backpack, and a pair of sandals while slamming the car-door closed with my right foot.
– Talk on the phone, work on a pink kitty puzzle, and fix a snack of peanut-butter-slathered celery sticks.

I’ve often wished silently to myself, and aloud to others, that I might have been born an octopus. That way, I would have plenty of hands to work at everything I need to accomplish. I was pretty smug about this whole theory, until someone obligingly pointed out that if I had eight hands I’d do even more simultaneous tasking, and would, most likely, still need to do more. It’s akin to having a huge house, and instead of having more space for your things, you simply fill up all the rooms you’ve got with more stuff.

I’ll concede that the eight hands idea is a faulty one. But there must be a way to step up the efficiency. Perhaps I could wear track shoes. Do some exercises to promote flexibility. Ignore the pitiful, mournful cries of the young.

Tragically, I fear none of these options will work. You see, the only real solution for this dilemma is the total self-sufficiency of a grown child.

Or a comprehensive list of chores. Hmmm…

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