Those who already follow this blog will remember that on my return to paid employment after maternity leave, I splurged on a totally awesome automated vacuum cleaner, aka The Robot Slave. The longer I’ve owned this fine piece of machinery, the more similarities I’m seeing between it and my two-year-old daughter. For example:
1. It makes more noise than you’d give it credit for, considering its small size. I paid extra at Godfrey’s for the ‘whisper quiet’ model of robot slave, thinking maybe I could set it to clean the floors at night and we could all wake up to a sparkling house each morning. Unfortunately, it seems Mr Godfrey may suffer from a not-insignificant hearing impairment, as this thing is LOUD. My tiny toddler, who wears size 0 baby clothes and weighs all of 10kg, is also capable of making her presence clearly known without taking up an awful lot of physical space. Put her and the vacuum in the same room and, wow.
2. It needs constant supervision, otherwise it does stupid things like eat stuff it’s not supposed to and choke. I had visions of programming my robot slave to sweep the floors during the day while I went out to drink lattes and get my nails done. HA! If I leave this thing alone for even five minutes to go pee, I’ll invariably come back to find it bleeping and shuddering, trying to swallow a piece of Lego or a shoelace. I guess I should be grateful that – unlike a certain special someone – it only tries to eat things it shouldn’t when I turn my back, and doesn’t also endanger itself by climbing onto furniture or playing with sharp objects. Or inconvenience me by rearranging the house to its liking. But between the pair of them, I need eyes in the back of my head.
3. When it runs out of energy, it wanders around the house crying instead of putting itself to bed. Ever seen an overtired toddler? They quite obviously hit the wall, often with no warning, but will never voluntarily go to bed when they need to. Likewise, my stupid vacuum cleaner will abruptly run out of battery and proceed to flash its ‘CHARGE’ light and beep sadly, while blindly wandering the house because it can’t find its way back to the charger. It’s supposed to dock itself without help when the battery runs out, but do you think I can get it to work? Even when I put it right next to the charger, it sometimes grunts and reverses away until I manually switch it off and dock it. Like my girl, I have to guide it through the motions and lovingly tuck it into its base station at bedtime, regardless of how stubbornly it may object at first.
4. It regularly wakes me overnight for no apparent reason. At least once a week (usually on the rare night that both kids are sleeping through and the cats haven’t decided on a midnight serenade), I will be woken either by a whirring sound like a miniature helicopter taking off, or by a plaintive ‘MMEEP!’ repeated at just the interval it takes to start dozing again after ignoring the first one. Sometimes the fully-charged robot has taken it upon itself to start noisily cleaning at 2am. Sometimes I’ve uncannily slept through the first part of the vacuuming session and it’s now choking on a pen in a mystery location, prompting a somewhat sweary midnight search. Sometimes it’s just beeping on its charger with the power switched off, BECAUSE IT IS CLEARLY POSSESSED. Toddlers do this as well. They’re cuter, so easier to forgive (although, they do less housework, so…).
5. Animals are a bit freaked out by it. Our two cats are not fond of the robot slave, and they extend a similar mistrust towards Baby Girl. Honestly, I can’t blame them in either case. When you’re just chilling in the lounge room doing your feline thang, the last thing you want is some noisy creature approaching you intent on chewing your tail. I imagine that applies equally to small vacuum cleaners and small human beings, which is why the cats tend to seek higher ground whenever either one is loose in the house.
6. I’d probably get a lot more out of my relationship with it if I just sat down and puzzled out the instructions. Like many things in my life, I’ve learned about parenthood (and robovac husbandry) on the fly. I didn’t read any books about raising kids before I had them, and (surprise!) there wasn’t much time for reading books about raising kids once they arrived. I’m sure I could have saved myself some confusion and heartache by learning a few basic strategies beforehand, but I didn’t. Likewise, I’m sure if I sat down for an hour with the robot slave and learned how to pair it properly with the base station, how to set the timer on it, and maybe got into the habit of picking up around the house before it runs, my list of frustrations with it would run significantly shorter. But let’s be honest here: I’m unlikely to do that. I love my toddler just the way she is, all feisty and unpredictable. It makes for interesting times and usually gets a laugh out of people. And so it is for my robot slave – it’s a shambles, but it’s my shambles and I love it.