Every year during the first full week of December, Mike prepares for the holiday ritual of his semi-annual sales meeting; gathering together with all the shoe salespeople of the world to celebrate sales. Sales of all kinds. This holiday tradition takes him to all sorts of places far away from home starting early on Sunday morning until late Friday night. A full week away from home to celebrate sales. At the height of the hectic Christmas season.
(rant about poor timing and the burden left to the Christmas elves at home DELETED. He's well aware and, yes, he feels badly.)
This is not new for me; I am a well-seasoned single parent. In fact, my single parenthood was the primary motivation for this move. Because that was NOT what I had signed up for (she said over and over and over again). It's not what anyone should sign up for unless you really get off on being a martyr. Which I don't.........I could never qualify for martyrdom because that would involve keeping my mouth shut. I was a demanding, resentful, unforgiving wife - and rightly so. I deserved every outburst and every Janet Jackson-themed barrage of "what have you done for me lately?" Because we are not meant to do this by ourselves.
But NOW, post-move, after several months of no single-parenting, the biggest inconvenience during Mike's Holiday Absence is wondering if we should go ahead and watch the Grinch or wait and watch it with Daddy.
Big sigh of relief.
But the notion of Daddy being gone a full week is unfathomable to most people (again, rightly so). And the news is usually met with some form of "Omigod, how do you do it?"
And I usually answer "Not very well" (remember the demanding, resentful wife wagging her finger Janet Jackson-style?). But what I really mean is..........I cut corners. All small corners, and certainly unnecessary corners and, yes, even some big, important corners. You know all those things you're supposed to do as a good parent? I don't do those. I'm more like "Maybe you could get your own breakfast in the morning. The sugared cereal is on the counter and there might be milk." And that doesn't bother me. Because, really, who ever died because they didn't have milk in the house? Self-preservation is the name of the game. Anything that makes more work for me is bad for Liam.........in the form of a parent who resembles a snapping turtle. Or maybe a wolverine.
I actually have a system for dealing with the wolverine. I figure I just need to own it as my own condition (it's all about "I" statements) and I need to give him fair warning. As in (very calmly) "Liam, I need to warn you that I'm starting to lose my mind. And if you fall off that chair one more time, I don't think I can take it. And I'm going to start yelling and throwing dish towels. Do you understand?" (falls off chair) "THAT'S IT! I'VE LOST MY MIND! NOW I'M YELLING! DINNER IS OVER! GET OUT! GET OUT! I'M DONE PARENTING NOW!"
We've already discussed my half-assed domestic skills and that goes triple when Mike is gone. The LAST thing I need when Mike is gone is a clean house. Or clean underwear. I'm a very resourceful person and I'll just figure that one out without having to add to my burden. What I need is more down time not less. And if I play my cards right, I can go the whole week without loading or unloading the dishwasher. It helps if you go out for lunch every day. And I don't ever "make" a real dinner; it's leftovers, breakfast, lunch or Subway (I actually get a boost from Subway because it's a TREAT! No whining! No protesting! Just "I love you Mom!" So that goes right back into my personal energy reserve! Everyone wins!).
But then there are days when the inner parenting critic pays a visit. And I think I've taken the half-parenting thing too far. When I haven't seen Liam for 2 hours (oh how lovely! wait....that's sad) because he's upstairs watching TV completely unsupervised. And if I check on him, the serenity will be shattered because I'll have to say this show is inappropriate and promotes sassy mouth (whine cry negotiate beg). Then I start counting how many baths he had (zero) and how many vegetables he's eaten (zero) and how much exercise he's gotten (does recess count?) and I start the reflective shame spiral. It gets easier and easier to think of all the ways you're failing your child - they just pop into your brain like prairie dogs. The inner parenting critic only shows where you fail. It never shows you a list of all the amazing things you do. It only exists in that failed moment saying "Yeah, this is bad. Do you want to hear a list of "shoulds" to help you see all the ways you're f*cking up?"
Until I take control and say "HEY! You are conveniently forgetting yesterday when we read both The Song of Hiawatha and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere! Two epic poems in one day! That's heavy stuff for a 2nd grader so I get extra credit for that! And I think an hour of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow cancels out an hour of iCarly, don't you? And what about tonight? How many parents do you know who discuss the various movements of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite with their 8 year old boys? And find youtube clips of the Russian Dance, the Arabian dance and the Chinese Dance to help illustrate the point? I can even spell Tchaikovsky! And AND did you forget that I read Twas the Night Before Christmas to his class this morning? Or how I coached him through the news that Grandma's cat had died? How come you don't write that stuff down in your little book?"
I thought so. Write it in your book, friends. Because, apparently, it's possible to be both lame AND amazing. Lame and amazing can co-exist and produce a top-notch human being.
Just try not to be lame all the time. You shouldn't try to be amazing all the time either. If you're amazing all the time, I don't want to hear it. Because you're either bat shit crazy or..........bat shit crazy.