REALLY scary stuff.
This is not a “woe is me” / “poor me” meditation. As much as I’d like to give in to those feelings, I’m going to refrain. Instead, it’s an accounting of how far I’ve come in 14 days, and a realization that there’s more to come. I’m going to use this writing period as an opportunity to silently marvel at the wisdom of Whoever decided parenting should be undertaken by a partnership. Whoever is a genius. It’s clear I can always use backup.
I know, I know, It Takes a Village. Sure, it does. This is true. However, The Village isn’t usually hanging around at dinner time, or at the homework hour, or during bedtime prep. The Village is around for things like carpools and those last-minute discoveries that, whoa, you really *can’t* be in two places at one time. Believe me, I’m grateful for The Village. But what I’ve been most grateful for, and have been missing very much in recent weeks, is the partnership. Ok, ok, Joni Mitchell — you were right: you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
My parenting partner has been off on the other side of the world for what will eventually be a two-and-a-half week jaunt through those places in Asia that appear in the Geography Bee in my fourth grader’s class. This trip has been planned for months — it was not a surprise trip so ostensibly I was prepared for it. (Early in our marriage — PK [pre-kids] — we had a lot of those kinds of last-minute trips, that began with a phone call from him to me around lunch time: it started off “Bad news,” and ended with “The car is picking me up from the office at 5 and I’ll stop home to pack….See you Saturday.”) I don’t want to invoke that old chestnut, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans,” or whatever….but obviously it’s not news that being prepared for something and then actually living through it are two very different things.
We have a few more children than many families do, so of course my Personal Potential for Chaos might well be greater than most other mothers. I get that, and more importantly, I realize we brought it upon ourselves. This, though, is a tough row to hoe when you realize that you’re the only one in charge for the next 18 days or so and, yikes, you really do need to be those two places at once, and oh crap, #2 is running a big fever (“What? Why? Where did you get this disease?”) and oh, dammit, she needs a strep test so there goes your morning plan, and why isn’t #1 where you thought she’d be when you went to pick her up, and why can’t you find her anywhere and oh….maybe you have your days mixed up and actually the pickup time is an hour from now (oops), and can someone tell me what day it is so I know how many lunches to pack?, and huh, my upper right gut — under my rib — feels really weird but I don’t have time for this so think about it later….oh ow ow ow ow OW, it’s later and ARGHH I can’t lie down without serious pain so maybe it’s a heart attack? Oh, wait….gall bladder. It’s totally gall bladder but if I can drag my butt downstairs I can text my ER doc pal and get him to confirm that it’s not the heart over the airwaves (modern medicine don’t you know) and I can take a handful of narcotic pain relievers and try to sleep…But I’m the only adult in the house and if there were a problem, then what? Is it too much to ask a 15-year-old to drive in the event of a house fire or tornado or tsunami?
But all of that passes (gall bladder pun completely unintentional!) and you make it to the near middle-end of the long spell of Single Parenthood, only to realize that the children are off for two days for parent/teacher conferences. While parent/teacher conference holidays bring great joy to the students in your household, you realize with dread that these are the two days where you feel like *you’re* back in school: you move from location to location every ten minutes (sometimes at the bidding of a bell just like in high school), clutching a ragged piece of paper that contains your conference schedule for the next two days. Not only does it contain the teacher and location, but it also references which child you should be discussing….because bless your heart, sometimes you have no. earthly. idea. This scheduling paper is like a lifeline, and you consult it about 58 times an hour because you are convinced that you’ll stand up the elderly but lovely nun who teaches religion, or the intense Earth Science teacher who is exceedingly enthusiastic about his subject and leaves you a little bit afraid (again, not unlike your own high school experiences). You have a 412 brief moments of panic when you suspect that you’ve lost this Raggedy Paper of Purpose, only to find it again in the exact place you put it 34 seconds ago. The whole parent/teacher thing is probably the most stress of the whole Single Parent Period, and ironically the stress is completely unrelated to listening to teachers discuss your offspring.
You’ve gotten through pseudo-strep, a gall bladder attack, numerous pickups and drop offs at all different times and locations, and parent/teacher conferences. You celebrate with a congratulatory glass of wine, only to realize…Did that Weather Channel guy just say “freaky October snowstorm?” Nah. That’d be weird. And totally uncalled for. Those weather guys never know what they’re talking about — “It’ll just be rain here, kids. We’re on the snow/rain line; I can’t imagine we’ll see any accumulation. (Settle down.)”
Huh. Meteorology has, apparently, upped its game. We’re currently at 7 inches and still watching snow fall gently down from the heavens. Although pretty to look at, Mother Nature has a plan when she normally permits snow to fall on bare trees; the autumn leaves are serving as snow catchers, which in turn puts massive pressure on the tree branches which in turn results in them snapping like popsicle sticks — but with more drama. The sound of these cracking branches resonates through the quiet evening tableau like gunshots. Most disconcerting. “Mom, what happens if a tree falls on the house?” “Oh, that won’t happen….first it would have to fall here and hit that, and then fall there and hit that, and then get to our house….we’re fine.” But truly? I’m thinking, “Damned if I know. If a tree were to fall I suspect we’ll have to get one of those giant blue tarps and call My Guys (who have really only just packed up their trucks and left me this summer). And wow, the dogs would be crazy insane if a tree hit the house.”
And snow? In October? means that you’re unable to find sidewalk salt — which wouldn’t matter except that you’re scheduled to have a school cocktail party here later today so you spend 90 minutes outside shoveling and salting with water softener salt — and you spend some Quality Outdoor Time with wet dogs and wet hair and wet Uggs, wondering where in the hell is the snow shovel and marveling at how heavy snow is and how much shoveling and sanding and salting stink, only to spend the rest of the afternoon watching the salt surrender to the snow. (Good try, salt. Better luck next storm.) And, of course, the phone call comes around 3: the cocktail party will be rescheduled for tomorrow.
The good news? I made it through two weeks: the children are alive, healthy and are, according to their teachers, doing “really great, solid work” all the way to “a delight to have in class.” We’ve triumphed over October snow and unnamed viruses and the chaos of wide and varied after school schedules and irritable gall bladders.
The bad news? Halloween is Monday. The Singapore flight doesn’t arrive until Wednesday.