Just leave the kids with me, I said. What could possibly go wrong? I said…
This week, for the first time, I watched the kids while my wife headed back to the states after the loss of a dear friend. In my world of constant travel and trials, it just so happened to be a week where I was home. What follows is a no-kidding recap of how it all unraveled. And boy did it ever unravel…
The Turnover: Prior to her departure, the wife gave me lots of tips on how to keep the kids alive and thriving. This is overwhelming because our kids are spoiled. Exacerbating matters, I was only half listening, so I learned just enough to be dangerous. For instance, I know that “Brody needs (insert something about 5mL of medicine),” and “Riley only eats (some kind of food) for lunch” and that I can’t forget about Jimmy’s homework. Or something.
Whatever, I got this.
Saturday: Drop wife off at airport with no drama. Solid. Then take the boys to soccer. Too easy.
Then I take the boys to GameStop as a bribe to basically be good all week. My thought was we could get a video game to share and enjoy. Well, we get there and the oldest wants a Pokemon card set all for himself. Our four y/o grabs the first thing he can find – a nerdy board game – and assures me that it’s what he has “always wanted.” I should have seen this coming.
That night, I take the kids to a free country concert by Hunter Hayes on base. The boys waste no time whining about the noise and asking me “when’s it gonna be over?” Little do they know they are hearing the pre-concert music, and the show hasn’t even started. But they loved it…
Sunday: Wake up, play, eat cereal, and head to church. Then we head home and eat Lunchables. You might be wondering how I find time to serve such healthy meals. Well, we had nachos for dinner so its not like we don’t have a cheat meal every now and then.
Monday: This is the first school day, and I quickly realize how much this week is going to suck. Evidently our four year old doesn’t have school today because he has a Parent-Teacher conference right smack in the middle of the workday. Does our pre-schooler’s ability to play with blocks and markers warrant a quarterly meeting? A text from my wife makes clear I’m supposed to go.
My suspicions were confirmed when, after driving across town and re-arranging my entire day, I learn nothing more than our son is doing “great” in school. Oh, great.
That night, after soccer practice, a neighbor asks me if our family wants some of her extra Sloppy Joes. I politely reply that I would love some “Sloppy Hoes.” It was autocorrect, I promise. I have neither the time nor the energy for Sloppy Hoes this week…
Tuesday: It’s Drug Free week, which means the kids get to wear a hat to school. Ironically, today I will be litigating a case involving, you know, cocaine.
Before any of this happens, I make lunch. One wants a red apple, the other wants a banana. One wants a PB&J, the other wants turkey – but only if its cut in the middle. Even I know that the quality of one’s lunches can make or break their status as a cool parent.
With lunch set, I take the older two to the bus and drop the youngest at his school so I can get to work to do, like, my job. I’m freaking exhausted and it’s not even 8am.
That afternoon, the older kids have “early release” which means they hop off the bus at an even more inconvenient time than normal. Upon arrival, they beg to go to the convenience store down the road. I make one rule, and that is that they cannot buy candy. Are we clear? Crystal clear? Good.
So of course they go and buy candy. The ensuing interrogation yields several false official statements. One tells me “I didn’t hear you when you said that,” and the other points to her brother and says he convinced her it was ok. And you see, this is how the Bible begins.
Wednesday: Standard morning chaos. Then work. Then soccer practice. Neighbors brought us dinner the night before but we ate it all, so its cereal and Ramen noodles on the menu tonight. And then of course they need dessert. After all this, we do homework and get ready for bed. And when it’s all over, it’s time to do dishes. Actually, forget dishes I’m going to bed.
Thursday: Morning chaos. Then go to work, which is really ramping up. Then gymnastics across the island, then get home to finish the work I left before gymnastics. Meanwhile, the kids want to play video games, and I have the audacity to recommend they go outside instead. For this, my son declares it’s the “worst day of his life.”
Welcome to tyranny, kids.
Right about now is where I notice all my kids using the “S” word when talking about the pending weekend. The “S” word is easily the ugliest, most dreadful word in my children’s vernacular. If your children are reading this, please cover their eyes…
Sleep*ver: defined as neighborhood kids helping our kids turn into punks, flood the house with Legos, and not sleep. We should really be calling these “awake-overs.”
Friday: The kids don’t have school. It’s not a holiday, they apparently just don’t have school. Because in Guam Friday is for partying.
Anyway, I work from home early and then head into the office for a few hours while the kids roam the neighborhood doing who-knows-what. Honestly, I just hope they have pants on.
At the office I make arrangements to fly to Hawaii on Sunday morning. Mom gets home Monday night, so there’s a gap in kid coverage. It’s all becoming rather stressful. Just when I’m ready to tap out of this unique social experiment, I get the word: one of the kids has lice. Holy sleep*ver!
I get home, treat the hair, and handle child’s fragile psychological state. Good to go. Now I just need to put the entire house in trash bags Dexter-style, and then do 18 loads of laundry – all while trying not to convulse at the thought that there were actual bugs living in my kids’ hair.
I pop on a movie and finish this hellacious night outside with a questionably large glass of wine. I’m starting to get my wife…
Saturday: Breakfast of champions is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Then we get ready for soccer, which is a game of 21-questions. Like, “where did you last remember having your jersey?” and “why do you not have shin guards?” and “WERE LATE WHY AREN’T YOU IN THE CAR ALREADY???” Another Saturday in paradise.
That evening the base is hosting a Halloween event, so the kids get to dress up in their costumes for the 18th time this month, and spend some time with their friends. Of course, they’re only allowed to do this after they’ve had their dinner…
On the way home I load the kids up with candy, and then remind them that I’m leaving in the morning and they will be staying with our neighbors for two days until mom gets back from the states. Ok? Ok?
Suffice it to say, it was not ok. “We talked about this, guys” I explained. Say, where have I heard that phrase before?? Holy cow I’m becoming more like my wife with each passing second. Anyway, I pull over to address the river of tears.
And this, right here, is why single parents have it so hard. It’s not balancing household chores with deadlines at work, nor is it the moments when you just want to sit and veg out but can’t because a school project is due tomorrow. It’s hardest when your kids are devastated and there’s no-one else to help – you just have to figure it out yourself.
My wife just did this for over seven months while I was deployed. Other parents out there have to do this, like, forever. I did it for seven days. I tip my cap to you, single parents. You have my sympathy and admiration all at once.
In truth, I am blessed beyond measure to have such happy, healthy children, and this week was precious… minus the lice, and some other things.
As for my kids, I’m pretty sure they’re doing all their homework and eating well and enjoying their sleep*ver with the neighbors. And if not, I really don’t care as long as they’re wearing pants.
A final note to my wife: welcome home. Now kindly make your way to the store because we desperately need more milk and cereal. Also, I know I don’t need to tell you this, but…
Grab a bottle of wine while you’re at it.