"Mama's coming. Don't worry Shepherd, Mama's coming." I woke up yesterday morning in Montreat, NC to my 2 1/2 year old son Abraham comforting his 10 month old sister, who was wimpering like she was wounded in the bed next to his, with these words. On any other morning, this would be funny. But this morning was different.
Momma wasn't coming, she was down the mountain and one state away getting ready for work at home. She took a vacation from our three-week family vacation to see a few clients. Sarah said it was necessary, but an alternative perspective might suggest the two "work" days are part of an evil plot to teach me a lesson.
You see, we both work, and by most measures I'm a serviceable father. And yet, until yesterday I was always the assistant parent - gladly ready to do as told and occasionally offering to give Sarah a break (which is revealing in itself); but by doing just enough to avoid trouble I remained ignorant. My interim appointment as the solo parent, a thankless position Sarah maintains without complaint during my frequent evenings and weekends away for work, enlightened me. This is hard. How do people do it two days in a row?
3 things I've learned so far
1) Solo parenting is a health hazard. Last night I went to the grocery stores to buy diapers and walked out with six Klondike bars, a bag of chips, and a pint of ice-cream. I was tired and I didn't care. There are some states of emotional despair that only 150 Klondike fat calories can cure.
2) How did I get so dirty? While eating my double ice cream dessert after I miraculously put/shoved the kids to sleep, I noticed my white t-shirt was now polka-dotted. The stains were everywhere and I can't account for any of them. I felt my skin and my fingers glide across the thin glaze of parenting perspiration that covered me. I lifted my eyebrows in surprise, unable to remember going for a run or bike ride. I realized then that it was a full day with my own children that caused the sheen of solo parenting perspiration to condense on my skin. It's grosser than ordinary sweat because the latter eventually dries. This stuff sticks.
3) God gave us children to keep us humble. I will never again look down at a mother or father that leaves food scraps in their kid's hair, allows their child to watch 4 straight episodes of the same Yo-Gabba-Gabba episode, or neglects to check if their child is wearing matching socks before leaving the house. I am now guilty of all these. If any of you have received persnickity glares of disapproval from me in the past, please forgive me. How was I supposed to know keeping them alive with just a few minor injuries was a more realistic standard?
As I'm putting the kids to sleep last night, Shepherd spits up in Abraham's bed. It's a big enough dollop to necessitate a napkin or burp cloth if you want to do it right. If Abraham saw it, he probably would have asked me to change the sheet as he's a little bossy right now and he treats me like I'm his personal butler. The napkins were in the other room and changing the sheet was out of the question, so I just sat in it and smushed it into the bed. This was my low point.
Well actually it got worse. As soon as I closed the door I dashed to the kitchen to find a drink. The wimpy beer and wine in the fridge wouldn't do on this day, so I scanned the cabinets and located some cheap rum. But there was no coke or other appropriatly classy beverage with which to mix it. So I settled for water. It was the tastiest rum and water I've ever had.
Sarah is coming back tonight. Thank you Jesus. Lesson learned.