What’s worse, though, is one of us coming home to find that nobody remembered to clean the highchair and that the tray is still haphazardly thrown into the sink, halfway-dried syrup and blueberries from breakfast gunking it all up as the toddler screams bloody murder for his favorite broccoli and macaroni veggie packet steamer for lunch or dinner.
Nobody wants to deal with that shit. That’s why the unspoken agreement was made.
I realize that knowing that you’ll be expected to clean up the highchair if you are the one to feed the toddler is incentive for neither parent to actually take the plunge and pop that motherfcking waffle into the toaster each morning, but since we’re somewhat responsible parents, one of us always ends up biting the bullet, and, rest assured, the kid almost always gets fed.
The other night, the hubs and I got into a small tiff over the whole arrangement. What happened, you see, is that I had fixed and fed the children dinner when I got home from work about an hour earlier than the hubs had. Normally one of us takes them outside to play for an hour or so after dinner, but since it was raining outside, the kids, somewhat tired from the busy day, had planted themselves on the couch.
Since the hubs was already working on cleaning up the dinner dishes, I saw a prime opportunity to whisk the kids off for early baths just to have it out of the way, and so I told my husband that. I SAID to him, I said, “Hey, I’m going to tackle baths right now because all they’re doing is sitting on the couch, anyway. I haven’t done the highchair, but since I’m doing baths, I’m going to leave that for you.” We’re 50-50 ‘round these parts, folks.
The hubs didn’t look up from the sink. “Cool,” he said. Except he actually said it as “Coo,” because that’s the way we talk around here. We shorten all words, even words so short that most people think they can’t possibly even be shortened. They can. Some call it laziness; I call it effish.
Anyhoo, because the hubs never listens to me (but don’t worry because, as I said, we’re completely 50-50 and I have been accused of the same), it shouldn’t have been a surprise when, 5 minutes later, he had something to say about it.
“Um, EXCUSE ME,” he said, sauntering down the hallway toward the bathroom, dirty highchair tray held up in a defensive stance at his chest. “Did you forget something?”
“Um, NO, DICK,” I responded, reminding myself that next time, I wouldn’t say awful adult words in front of the kids but that this time it was warranted because I had a point to make to their father. “I TOLD you I wasn’t going to be able to get to it. Would you like to take over bath duty while I scrub the tray?” I asked, rising halfway from the toilet, where I was sitting while I washed my boys’ hair.
I knew I’d gotten him. No parent in his or her right mind would trade bath duty on a hair washing night for a simple scraping of a highchair tray.
"Um, no thanks!” he replied, turning and scuttling back toward the kitchen with his tray between his legs. (Not literally. That was a metaphorical comparison, peeps.)
What used to be cause for a small tiff, though, has morphed into something we love to do. I’m pretty sure that each of us jumps with glee when we see that the other parent has left the tray all dirtied, because it gives us a chance to show that we’re the better parent because we actually clean the tray on our turn.
And isn’t that healthy parenting? Pointing out the other parent’s faults to make you feel better about your own skillz? We think so.
In any case, we love it. We love it so much that somewhere along the line, we began to take pictures of the dirty highchair and text them to each other with assholey captions. Like this one, which I snapped a few mornings after the bathtime episode, when the hubs had left for work in a hurry, leaving me with the highchair mess and two boys to get to preschool on time before I myself headed to work.
And then a few days later, the hubs got home a bit earlier than usual from work, ready to fix dinner, only to find that he’d have to first clean the mess I’d left in the sink that morning, when the kids and I were in a frenzy to get out the door on time. He returned the favor with this message:
And then somehow the whole thing morphed into a NEW rule, which we actually spoke aloud: It is no longer the parent who feeds the child, but the parent who physically gets the child out of the highchair who cleans the tray. Neither of us can remember when or why the rule changed, but somewhere along the line it did, and we both agreed to it, so it stuck.
Again, this might seem like incentive to plop the child, strapped into his highchair, in front of a SpongeBob marathon all morning and wait for the other parent to break in order to get out of wiping up a few blueberries…but, well, most mornings we simply don’t have time for that.
So instead, we wait impatiently through one full episode, tapping our feet at how we’re going to be late for work because someone has to get that kid out of the highchair and clean up the tray and that other lazy-ass parent won’t JUST DO IT…and then, when the episode is over and we can't wait each other out any longer without getting fired from our jobs, we play Rock Paper Scissors to see who gets stuck with it.
So dammit, the other morning when the hubs had fed the toddler and I had forgotten all about our new agreement, I tried to showcase what a martyr I was by sending him a picture of the highchair I had cleaned after getting our son out of it. Well, you can see for yourself how the exchange turned out:
Oh, and by the way, YES, my husband had to ask if the kids and I could wait until the late, late hour of 4:30 PM to eat dinner. My boys and I might as well have blue hair and Medicare plans, because we are STARVING by 4:00 PM and we eat with the retirees. What I consider a huge perk of this plan is that I’m hungry again by 9 PM, so I go ahead and have a second dinner.
See? Everybody wins.