Maybe it started last night, when the baby could be consoled in ten-minute efforts, only to sleep for ten minutes and reawaken. Maybe he's cutting that other pointy tooth – what's it called? The bicuspid? The incisor? What is a bicuspid, really? Or maybe his stomach was hurting. You're beginning to worry that he might be allergic to cow's milk. Or intolerant. Or maybe all that diarrhea has just been from the teething; it's so hard to tell.
Maybe it started yesterday morning when you bungled up your scientific inquiry, feeding him, across the day and between you and your lovely husband, cow milk, Lactaid-cow-milk, and soy milk indiscriminately. Maybe it started because the baby's mad that his burps smell like underseasoned edamame.
Don't you hate a pallid edamame? But I think it started in the shower, with the thunderstorm, and the moment of panic that one shouldn't be in water during lightning, and the lightning that was flashing at the crack between window sill and window shade, and the lack of balance in my reasoning, because is that a real fear or a bit of crazy talk, to be panicky about being hit by lightning while indoors? and a mini-battle of self-disappointment at not knowing the difference.
It didn't matter, right or crazy, because with the lightning came the rain, which surely meant a DC-traffic disaster, and if I didn't leave early, I'd be late to work. But I hadn't gotten in the shower early enough to leave early, and anyway after a terrible night the only reliable early riser, the baby, was still sound asleep.
It didn't help that the agreeably-awaking daughter turned cranky and intractable and the one who could be counted on for her morning good humor was still asleep, and is a snarly waker.
It further did not help that when I pulled on my suede boots there were tiny little sharp somethings in them that were going to have to keep me company because we were late, and I did not have time for shoe shaking and sharp-things-pondering, and it did not help that part of me was a little concerned about what I was stepping on, what L had decided to store in my footwear (this time). It didn't help that I didn't want to be wearing those boots – they feel too winterish and I have put winter behind me despite the ominous predictions for the coming week – but I knew I'd be puddle-trudging to carry children into school, because I had not offered them their rainboots, because theirs take too long. It did not help that I knew that at least one of their pairs was still on the back porch from a weekend backyard mud stomp, and that those boots would be slowly filling with rainwater. It did not help that that weekend backyard mud stomp was last weekend.
It did not help that we could not find one daughter's lunch bag anywhere, and we had to convince her to use my lunchbag. It did not help, of course, that we had not packed lunches last night and realized the missing bag last night and thought of a plan last night.
There are no shoes allowed in the baby room and I needn't even tell you that I was already late. I needn't bother to explain that I almost never wear boots, because of the baby room. I wear kicky shoes, ones that can be flicked off in a solitary per-foot motion as I hop the baby gate to the baby room. I needn't tell you how on mornings like these, when I have to use my hands to remove my boots, I need to set my baby momentarily on the ground and I'm sure I needn't tell you the degree of consternation this causes him, nor the corresponding volume of indignation he emits. I will tell you his cries ended abruptly when he realized, faster than I, that the rocks in my boots were Cheerios and he fed himself a happy little snack right there on the carpet, outside the baby gate to the baby room.
I needn't tell you that I wasn't wearing socks in those boots. You know how I hate socks.
I will tell you: yes, I was grossed out. No, I didn't stop him.
On the other side of the baby gate, inside the baby room, there is a tiny closet. It is there that I stash G's jacket and his bag after his food is unpacked and where he keeps his extra clothes and snacks and it is there that I found the missing daughter's backpack, having been forgotten on Friday afternoon. The closet smelled rancid and her full milk cups take credit, and so it was that when I finally said goodbye to my three babes, late for work and foot-pain-free, I carried in my arms a toxic little cloud in a blue and purple package.
I left the cloud to molder in my car and fill it up with its fragrance and went in, late, to work, and so began another Monday.
You needn't tell me that my baby isn't really a baby. He's a toddler and I know and he knows it, too, walking clear across the kitchen yesterday, burping his awful silken-tofu breath. You needn't tell me that he doesn't belong in the baby room anymore, and indeed, he is mid-transition to the toddler room, where he belongs. Indeed, he toddles now, and can cross the whole length of the kitchen. I needn't tell you he only does so when his sisters dangle food at his eye level, because toddling or no, he will be permanently affixed in there in about two weeks.
I need to tell you that the toddler room has no baby gate, and no tiny closet, and no no-shoes policy. But it will still, I'm sure, have Monday mornings.