It is, as my mother-in-law likes to say any time we have parenting difficulties, payback. For years I spent a large amount of my time on the road, at auditions, rehearsals, voice lessons, shows, and who the heck knows what else. When my first child was born I was in graduate school, and the plan was always to send my wife to get an advanced degree shortly after I was done. Unfortunately my degree was in music, which meant that I had no jobs or money, and I would frequently abandon my wife and children for weeks and months on end, dreaming the impossible dream, while they struggled along without me at home. And now the tables have turned.
On Sunday afternoon my wife left for five weeks to begin a graduate program at the University of New Hampshire, which involves several weeks of intensive, on-site classes at the beginning, a year of online courses, and then another dose of campus rigor at the end, next summer. It is very exciting, and she is having a great time, and I am very proud of her. It was not a easy decision to go, especially after the events of this past weekend, but in the end I think she made the right call, and so she is off living the single, student life that I knew so well, and she deserves it.
I, on the other hand, am doing what she did for half a decade, which is raising children, working jobs, and trying to keep it together on my own. And this is, technically, not a good plan. I mean, look, my wife, if you’ve ever met her, you know that she is just, what’s the word? capable. You can talk to her, and you instantly know that she has it under control. Even when she is falling apart and losing it, like all humans do from time to time, she still has an air of competence that I seem to lack internally. I’m not going to sit here and bash myself, because I think I am good at a lot of things, but “stuff” just isn’t one of them.
Within two hours of my wife’s departure on Sunday afternoon, I had packed the children up for a sleepover at their cousin’s house a little over half an hour north, and I was feeling good and in control. Until we got there. That was when I noticed that I had not brought the suitcase, and my son was wearing nothing on his feet. These are the minor details that do not escape my wife. And so, because my son’s medicine was in the suitcase, I had to drive back home, and then return with the suitcase and the shoes. Except that I forgot the shoes. Again. ADHD!
We managed to survive the sleepover (barely), although I don’t think we will be doing many more of them any time in the near future, and I got the children home and off to school with minimal problems, which meant it was time to go to the store. We were out of basic stuff, like milk, so I made a list and got it all taken care of. I put the groceries in the trunk, drove home, opened the trunk, and watched the gallon of milk fly out of the car at me like a dairy product possessed and then hit the ground, immediately turning into a milk fountain that began to decorate my shoes, the car, and the other groceries.
I rushed into the house, trying to find somewhere to contain this expensive milk, now somehow doubled in price since my last grocery store visit, and I found no pitchers, no buckets, no containers, and no hope. That’s when I saw the almost empty apple juice container that Edward had recently guzzled down, a one gallon unit from Costco. With inexplicable reason, I placed the milk jug in the sink to bleed out, while I quickly started filling sippy cups with the remainder of the apple juice. Once the mammoth flask was empty I rinsed it out as best as I could, and then filled it with the milk that had not yet escaped. What a good plan!
When my children returned home from school that afternoon, they accused me of trying to trick them, although I assured them that I had a perfectly good reason for the apple juice jug filled with milk in the refrigerator. Ruby told me that, if I had wanted to do a better job, I could have at least tried to add some yellow or orange food dye to the milk. She was not impressed with my trickery skills.
The next several hours were filled with whining, crying, and general tantrumosity concerning the fact that their mother was not home, and that she knew how to do everything better than I did. This despite the fact that their mother is never home after school, and I am always there, doing the same things I always do. But they could sense it. Kids can smell weakness a mile away. They could tell that, even if things seemed fine now, disaster was evident. “Who left Dad in charge?” they lamented, as I tried not to burn their chicken nuggets. And my lament was the loudest of all.
But I would like to end this tale on a positive note. We are in the adjustment phase, and that’s always hard. Soon we will find our rhythm and settle into a state of outward normalcy, while we mentally tick off the hours until Mom’s return. We will be fine. Don’t worry dear! Have fun at grad school! We love you, we miss you, and we are thinking of you! And you can take comfort in the fact that, at the very least, I remembered to buy food. And kids don’t need socks or shoes anyway, right?