By Linda Tagawa
It had been a long while since the last time I visited with JJ, my niece. We sat on her rumpled bedcovers chatting about work, babysitters and raising kids.
All the while, her toddling son pulled himself onto the bed, took the batteries out of the cordless phone and scattered Baby Wipes all around the room. Every now and then, during the talk, JJ added, "No, no! Put that down!" "Come here" or "Oh, oh! Thats dangerous!"
She continued talking with one eye on me and the other on her son, Kaulana.
"Boy, Aunty, I never knew how hard it was to raise a child as a single parent, until I became one."
Shopping just a drag
"Having a baby has changed my whole life! Now, I can no longer do anything I please. You know, I used to love soaking in the bath while reading a good book. That simple little pleasure vanished once I had a baby. Why, just the other day, I was in the tub sudsing my face when suddenly I had a funny feeling. I opened one eye and lo and behold, there was my son, squatting in the tub, right in front of my face, with all his clothes on, grinning from ear to ear.
"I used to enjoy shopping all day long. Today I have to plan way in advance, pack a bag with baby food, milk, juice, extra clothes, wipes and toys. I gotta carry all the stuff out and strap the baby into the car seat. Then when we get to the shopping center, I gotta unstrap the baby, carry the heavy bag, maneuver the stroller away from things he may grab, and hurry to find what I came to buy. I cant relax and browse like before.
"Boy, I never realized how much things change when a person becomes a parent! Before I could rent a videotape and watch the whole thing in peace. Now I never get to enjoy a whole movie in one sitting. In fact, I sometimes keep it longer and pay the late fee just to finish the video.
"And another thing, Aunty, I used to have my hair done at the beauty shop for a trim, color and style. It took about three hours. Today Im lucky if I have time to do my own hair trimming without interruptions.
"Why even when we stop somewhere to eat a meal, I have to consider whether there are foods my child can eat . . . not too spicy, not too rich."
Smashed and mashed
"Its the little things I didnt even think about that now require so much thought and planning. I remember the time just before Christmas, I decided to wrap presents while Kaulana napped. I organized my ribbons, paper, tape, bags, presents, boxes and began the simple task of wrapping one gift when my son awoke. Before long, my wrapping project ended with a colorful stream of ribbons crisscrossing all around the room. And when I went to the bathroom, he pasted yards of tape right over my gold foil paper, then danced on top of the box that I had carefully wrapped, until it was flatter than a pancake.
"Even a little thing, like washing clothes, is a major operation. You see, the washer is downstairs and I have to carry the basket, clothes and Kaulana up and down those stairs three times as I put the load in, dry the clothes, then bring everything back upstairs.
"Ill never forget the day that mom took my clothes out of the dryer and brought them upstairs for me. Oh! I was so thankful just for that little help.
"I never really valued all the time I had to myself until I didnt have it anymore. I didnt realize what I had until it was gone. Now when I do get some time to myself, I cherish it even more than ever, because it doesnt come by very often.
"Boy, as much as I love my son, raising kids aint easy!"
Linda Tagawa is a school teacher and mother of four grown children. Her column appears monthly in Island Life.
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