Helen is my creature of habit. And she's also my creature who develops the perfect way to complete a task, and she does not like to deviate from her system. For example, each night before bed, Helen requests Liam, her baby of choice for the past year or so, possibly another stuffed animal or two, and an "ice cold glass of water". Sometimes, she'll decide her foot hurts and needs a piece of ice. In the winter, she often wears a very snug hat to bed and will also don her pumpkin Halloween costume, which is just a bright orange fleece blanket with a hole cut out for the head.
In the morning, Helen insists on drinking her orange juice before consuming any other food, otherwise, the juice tastes "sour". She also insists that she needs a different fork for each food item, particularly if syrup is involved, because she doesn't want the syrup from her French Toast to comingle with her fruit (which is, naturally, in a separate bowl).
I know most of you are rolling your eyes at this point - but here's the thing. Each particular habit got layered on top of an existing habit, in such a methodical way that it hardly seemed bothersome. And many of the habit come with a reward of great value to me. For example, she might be quite insistent about several things at bedtime. But in return? Every night for several years I have gathered her items, kissed her good-night, and turned around and walked down the stairs. She follows about 11 hours later. In my mind, 5 minutes of detail results in ELEVEN hours of sleep. And I'll take that bargain any day.
Because each habit was layered onto another, it's sometimes difficult to even realize what's going on. Only the introduction of a third party can make you see things for what they are - a series of ceaseless demands.
A few days ago, I was working from home. Our new babysitter had given Helen breakfast. Helen started to eat her fruit, and then decided to go for another item on her plate. And here is what happened.
Helen: "M, can I have a fork?"
M.: "I gave you a fork."
Helen: "But I need another fork."
Helen: "For my eggy bread. I don't want to get my fruit on my eggy bread."
M.: "Can't you just lick the one you have."
Helen responded quite matter of factly "no". Because the thought of two items touching each other? That has really never occurred to Helen.
And so it is, that another adult now gives Helen one fork for each breakfast item. And I had the opportunity to realize how ridiculous my life has become.