Four years ago, during Lent, I quit carbonated beverages. In my search for a healthy alternative, I ordered McDonald’s coffee on the way to work and loaded it with cream and sugar. I purchased the largest cup available and forced it down my throat. The cheap coffee jolted me through the front door of my workplace. Eventually, I upgraded to sophisticated coffee, but more on that later.
I need you to know: Coffee has become my friend, addiction and hobby, but mostly it keeps me from tossing my toddler out the window. I need it. I cling to it. Without it, I am a mess. If you are the parent of a small child, you need coffee too.
Following the birth of my son, coffee became a way of life.
“Dada!” my son yelled this morning. My eyes struggled to focus in the dark room. My son sat erect in his bed like a meerkat on watch. He jerked his finger through the air and repeated my name. I needed to file a sleep extension, but that ain’t ever gonna happen. He was awake, so I was awake. It was 5:30 a.m. I needed coffee.
So, before rising, I offer my daily prayer:
God, grant me the coffee I need to keep my toddler son alive, courage to make it through this day, and wisdom to order more coffee. Amen.
I need prayer. And I need coffee—both before and after the day unravels. If you are the parent of a small child, you need the Almighty and coffee in your corner. I repeat: You need high-octane java to propel you through the day, especially when your toddler bites you on the inner thigh like a rabid dog.
In case you are struggling with your need for coffee, allow me to provide you, a sleep-deprived parent of a small child, a few examples of when you need a cup of joe:
1. You repeatedly get on the subway going in the wrong direction. Been there, done that.
2. You pour breastmilk in your cereal.
3. You decide to take your dog outside for a bathroom break, but you find yourself in the elevator of your apartment building holding your baby and a leash with no canine attached.
4. In mid-sentence, you find yourself struggling to remember a basic word like fork.
5. When you find yourself dazed in aisle 4 of the grocery store, and you snap awake but have no clue what you were trying to find.
When you decide to quit life, coffee is your best option. It’s a necessity for toddler supervisors. Let me break down our morning ritual for you (yes, I said our ritual because my toddler participates).
My son, Henry, and I take the coffee grinder apart and empty the stale, trapped grounds. I brush it clean. The scale turns on, so I push the tare button. I measure 26 grams of beans and let Henry dump them into the top of the grinder. They grind to sand-like powder, while Henry, my Jedi apprentice, hangs on my hip and motions towards the kettle. We fill the silver kettle with filtered water and set the stovetop to high heat. My favorite part comes next. I remove the plastic tray containing the fresh grounds and place it under my nose. I inhale. Henry pulls the tray towards his nose, breathes deeply, and yells.
“The Force is with you young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet,” I say. I don’t want him getting cocky.
The steam pushes the lid off the silver kettle. I grab it from the stove and pour water into a red funnel resting on a glass coffee pot. I pour enough to saturate the grounds, which leads to a magical dance between the grounds and water, until a mushroom-shaped bubble forms and collapses. It’s time to pour 400 grams of water in a slow, circular motion. This is what my wife means by obsession. The steaming coffee moves through the paper filter and drips into the pot. My work is done. We observe the coffee collecting in the pot. Henry grows restless. “Patience, you must have my young Padawan,” I remind him.
I drink coffee at 5:30 a.m. and mid-morning. I drink it during Sesame Street. In the afternoon, I drink it when I lose momentum. On the worst days, I wish I could hook myself to a coffee IV, and I know I’m not the only parent who has had this wish.