Convention Season has started in Geekland–though it never really ends, just takes a brief winter breather–and that means that the Darling Husband is in high demand. This is nothing to complain about, and I generally see the exertion of multi-day stretches of single parenting as the price I pay to have him so flexible the rest of the year. Some stretches are better than others, and there’s always a day in there somewhere that doesn’t exactly show any of us at our best. But we muddle through pretty well, for the most part.
Here’s how these weekends usually go:
DAY 1–Darling Husband departs with hugs and kisses early in the morning. Kids are at school, I’m at work. I have to leave a little early to be there when the bus drops them off, but that’s like a little vacation. I sit out in the sun while they play on the playground with friends, maybe do a little reading between general referreeing. I ask what they want for dinner. They say McDonalds. I playfully swat that idea, and we all pile into the car, go to the grocery store, and get ingredients for me to cook dinner. We munch on pasta carbonara or a casserole while watching Cartoon Network. They get ready for bed without a fight, and I tuck them in with a story and a kiss. I watch a documentary with a glass of wine, and go to bed relatively early, but read a few chapters of a trashy novel before sleep.
DAY 2–Boy, that alarm goes off early. Good thing I got a decent night’s sleep. I bulldoze the kids out of bed, dump them in the shower to general protests, and get them out the door to the bus. I find the missing jacket they swore was nowhere lying in the middle of the living room floor. I drop off a forgotten sheet of homework at school on my way to work. I’m yawning by 2pm, but there’s no time for a nap before the bus arrives at 3. I bring a book to read on the playground, but I CANNOT STAND THE SCREAMING. I retreat inside, and break up fights through the window screen. I pull them off the playground to run a few errands; there are many tears and recriminations. I ask what they want for dinner. They say McDonalds. I say fine, whatever, just use your inside voices. I catch them eating french fries off the carpet and wiping ketchup on their pants. More protests at bedtime–“I’m not tired! My show’s not done! We don’t have school tomorrow!”–until I’m the one who’s yelling now. I do not care that you don’t have school. I do not care that your show isn’t done. I do not care that we didn’t read a story. Get in bed and give me ten freaking minutes of silence, would you? I skip the documentary, maybe get a few pages of my book before sleep. Kids call me into their room at 2-hour intervals all night for essential services as covering and restarting music. Unfortunately, they never need these things at the same time.
DAY 3–No alarm set, but then again, no alarm needed. The sound of arguing awakens me earlier than the birds get up. Control of screens suddenly needs a UN peacekeeping force. I settle the fight, and try to go back to bed, but if I have to say more than a yes/no, my brain boots up to day speed. No more sleep for me. I watch the red light on the TiVo box that says fascinating news shows are taping; they watch another Phineas & Ferb marathon (things could be much worse). I’ve planned to take us out to a museum today to kill time. I feed them breakfast and pack many snacks, to avoid exorbitant museum food prices. I give the kids a long leash because I’m too tired to keep up, but I still feel like I got dragged around the block by a pair of St Bernard’s. I’m just glad I don’t have to break up any fist fights in the pirate exhibit. The exit, however, is through the gift shop. This should be outlawed. I consider myself lucky to escape with an exhibit book, though I play the parental version of Whack-A-Mole in which I yank an overpriced “science” toy out of a child’s hand every time they say “MOM!” I apologize to the actual parent of one of the kids from whose hands I take a toy. I reach around while driving home to tickle and pinch the kids so they don’t fall asleep. I don’t ask them what they want for dinner. They get macaroni and cheese. They also get to stay up later because I’ve fallen asleep on the couch while they ate. They wake me up to tuck them in, and I stagger off to my own bed.
DAY 4–I wake up hurting before the sun comes up. Kids are sleeping soundly, so I take painkillers and figure I’ll catch up on news shows I’ve taped. Alas, one kid rises 20 minutes after me, so I surrender the TV and try to read. The other kid sleeps in until 9, at which point I ask if I can go back to sleep for a little while. Sometimes this works, and I get another hour of rest. Sometimes this does not work, and I end up yelling at them through my bedroom door until I give up. They ask where we’re going today. I say nowhere–all my money and energy is gone after yesterday. They cry and call me the worst mom ever. They wish Daddy was home instead of me. I cry and say I wish that too. I feed them fruit snacks and graham crackers for brunch. They spend a few hours running back and forth between apartment and playground in random and irritating patterns. One kid does something incredibly dumb/dangerous/dumb outside, and I am forced to put on a bra and non-pajama pants and go outside and watch them. The sun melts a little of the pain in my back. The look I give the kids when they get close buys me a little time to read. I say a little prayer to the makers of ibuprofen and Xanax. I feel better; they get tired. I ask what they want for dinner. They say McDonalds. I make them spaghetti. They say, “This isn’t McDonalds.” I say, “This is all you’re getting.” I remember they haven’t showered since Day 2. I cannot care. I send them to bed early under the pretense of “school night.” Daddy comes home late. I give him a kiss and go to bed, where I stay for much of the next day.
RESULT: No hospital, no Child Services, no overdrafts, no corporal punishment. I declare victory.