How to Work on a Proposal at Home, on the Sunday Morning before a Monday Deadline

Smurf is sitting next to me in the home office. Being 5 and fidgety on a chair with wheels, he keeps wheeling himself to and from the desk. He often finds himself suspended across the wide chasm between the chair, on which he kneels, and the desk onto which he holds. I lose patience and bring in one of the chairs from the dining room, which are nice and sturdy and, most importantly, have no wheels. At least I don’t have to constantly look out for him falling nose first onto the hardwood floor.

He is sitting quietly in his chair and coloring the Gangar Evolution Tree coloring page. “Sitting quietly” means that he is singing to himself and sniffling loudly. I am periodically asked to help retrieve a Sharpies marker cap, because everyone knows that kids absolutely cannot write or draw or color with anything that has any chance in hell of being cleaned or washed off.

He hands me a sheet of paper with half a dozen monsters, three on each side. I cut them out so he would tape them to the window by our front door. I apparently cut the arms off one monster, mostly because I had no idea they were the monster’s arms (they we not attached to it, but floating), and also because cutting around them would have seriously maimed the monsters on the other side. After a bout of crying (I didn’t say whose), we decide that he will redraw the arms and we will tape them next to the apparently armless monster. This all caused the hunt for Red October Scotch tape, which turns out to have been used by Smurf yesterday in an inexplicable connection with him carving a Jack-o-lantern with his dad.

I must have said “Put on your socks” 5 dozen times since this morning. He finally puts them on when I refuse to help him tape the arms onto the monster unless he complies.  Parenting — it’s all about exasperated bargaining with a much more energetic and determined opponent.

The newly attached arms are a smashing success.


  1. I read a stupid internet article yesterday that said the hardest age to parent is 5. No, wait… it actually said :

    ”’When you find out you are expecting a child, everyone warns you about the sleepless nights that come with having a newborn — either that or the struggles you face during the hormonal teenage years,’ notes Liz Fraser, modern family expert at, the caregiver-service website that surveyed 2,000 parents in the U.K. for its findings. ‘’But it seems parents really need to be prepared for when their children approach school age at the tender age of 5 for the biggest challenges.’

    “ determined the age that seemed most difficult by averaging the ages given by all 2,000 respondents; the result was 4.85.”

    I may use this article as an example of what NOT to do the next time I teach basic statistics! 🙂

  2. So two people say age 1, one says age 7, and another says age 11, and they conclude the most difficult age is the average, 5? Nononononononononononono
    I would hope they looked at the distribution? (Please tell me they did.)

  3. Mine will be 5 in a month. I was just thinking everything got easier with my eldest when she turned 5. There’s no way it’s the worst age. No way.

    But it does have its challenges, for sure. I was just hoping to crack a book while mine works on puzzles… we’ll see if that happens.

  4. “ determined the age that seemed most difficult by averaging the ages given by all 2,000 respondents; the result was 4.85.”

    I may use this article as an example of what NOT to do the next time I teach basic statistics!🙂

    Ohdeargod. *facepalm*

    So far with my kid (near 3), it’s been less difficult over time on a relatively linear trajectory (not that its “easy” yet). Maybe a slight and short downturn when she got mobile for the first time… I am SO looking forward to 5. Mostly because free child care and socialization…

  5. My oldest has turned 4 last month, and yes we feel that it is the hardest age by far (for us). But it could be due to the arrival of his little sister.

  6. To be honest, Smurf is ridiculously adorable. I mean, I know I am biased, but he is just cute enough to eat, and he totally knows it. DH says that his favorite age is 3-5, and I am not disagreeing; although I think they are cute at every age…
    Anyhoo… 3-5 is super fun because they think and have opinions and talk about the world, and the stuff they say is just amazing. So enjoy! And in case I haven’t congratulated you yet, congrats on the baby girl!

    (Smurf is actually not a pest at all, he’s just 5 and smart and energetic. Mostly, the trouble is that I have the goddamn proposal to write…)

  7. Haha I can totally relate. My kids are younger so I probably get a whinier, messier version of this, but the end result is the exact same: nobody lets me work, I say f it, go play with the kiddos for a few hours, then chores, meals, bedtime. Finally I start at 10:30pm and stay up all night to finish before the 6:30 am deadline our grants admin give us.

  8. As far as I can tell, they did not. I love the quotes because I read them to my husband (math PhD) and he immediately got the joke. If only it were actually a joke… #nottheonion

  9. Ha! I have totally had days like this! The ProdigalKids are now old enough that I sometimes can actually work at home and get work done while they are still awake without turning on a video. Mostly I go to Starbucks and hide from my kids when I really, really need to get things done and they are home, even now.

    Things have been getting easier since our Hell year when ProdigalKid2 was born and ProdigalKid1 was still a toddler. I didn’t love the baby years, and that might be part of it. For us, 5 was a fun year–they have opinions and can hold coherent conversations, but are still cute and want to spend time with their parents.

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