Yesterday Ada and I went over to a friend's house for a play date and I was chatting with the adult part of the duo about how her plans had fallen through. She and her husband had made reservations to spend a night away from their little one at a local resort, grandparents were coming to stay and she was super excited about it.
The plans fell through because, like it often does, the childcare element unraveled. I made some jokes about putting surgeries on hold and my normal snark, but what didn't happen is what I'm sad about: I didn't offer to help when I could have.
It took me more than 8 hours to come up with, "I could totally stay the night with your kid so you can get away on this looked-forward-to evening! I'm available and able bodied! Jeffrey and Ada don't care!"
In the pre-Ada days, I would have been listening to the story of scheduling issues of my friend and would have been thinking the whole time, "How can I help this situation?" I would also have been making up jokes about surgery scheduling -- apparently that part of my brain is still working.
Now, with Ada, I am listening and talking, but what is really going on is I'm paying attention to her and her surroundings to make sure both stay in one piece.
When were are in our own house, this isn't an issue. I know every rustle of paper, every creak of every cabinet, and thunks of objects by heart and can determine safety levels without thinking about it. It allows me to work without disabling distraction and the only reason I have difficulty talking on the phone sometimes is because my voice wakes Ada up and she needs her beauty rest or she's a bit more beastly.
But out and about? Everything is a potential problem: from cigarette butts on the park ground to the nice man's wireless mouse he's using on his laptop at Starbucks.
My line is that Ada is sort of like a feral wolf child. People always snicker at that, but it's true. I have very limited control over her as she is highly mobile and physically adept but doesn't have the emotional and mental capacity to handle a lot of direction, discipline, or problem solving. (She also doesn't have language and would eat raw meat if you let her.) This all basically equates to her running towards, say, a carefully curated shelf of breakable ob jets d' art while I verbally try to deter her, give up, and run after her, only intercepting at the last possible moment saying, "Ada, STOP! No! Look at my pretty bracelet!" and her figuring out that I'm stopping her, the screaming starts, and then "Oh hey! That IS a pretty bracelet!"
Which is why, if you see me out on the town, and you tell me something about your life, you might get a random text the next day offering to help solve your problem you were telling me about (and I'll understand that it wasn't why you were telling me the story, but I'm a problem solver by nature and will try anyhow.)
I'll also be wearing some pretty bracelets.
Because I'm ready, willing, and able -- it's just going to take a few hours since I was using most of my mental energy keeping a wary eyeball out to keep life, limb, and breakable objects safe from Ada.
As she gets older, more mature, and has more understanding of the world around her and the expectations those situations carry with them, it will get easier for me to use the rest of my thoughts for others -- like I owe this mom at storytime an apology because I realized later on in the day that my comments about seeing her out the other night with her kid sounded critical because ... I forgot to add the part of the sentence where I say, "I would have done the same thing with Ada."*
In the interim, I'm going to keep taking Ada and I into these situations so she can learn and so that we can have fun (we're having fun dammit!), and someday, the light will click back on and I can stop being a complete asshole and I'll think, "How can I be a friend? How can I help?"
*Not really, but I should have said it. It was totally silly for her to have that kid out that late.