My wife, Lauren, went away for the weekend with her mother, ostensibly for some R & R at a spa in Pennsylvania. She might have just gone to her parents’ house and hid there for 48 hours. I wouldn’t blame her if she did.
This left me alone with the children from Friday evening through Sunday. Expectations were low as I am a sometimes-depressed/always-lazy parent who preaches discipline, which in reality translates to impatience, yelling, and finally caving to all their desires.
Lauren (before leaving): I left you four notes.
Me: I’m fine. I don’t need notes.
Lauren: Four! Read them and text me any questions.
Me: You can’t wait?
(I have skipped Friday night as no major injuries occurred and the children made it to bed on time. I would argue that my superior parenting was the cause. Reality would say they were exhausted from school.)
I’m not sure how it’s mathematically possible. Liz and Matt know twenty other kids tops. Yet there are multiple birthday parties every weekend of our lives. I’m convinced some parents throw their kid a
party three times per year. Which brings me to my first problem. Lauren’s aunt can’t make it. I have to become the parent who brings the kid who isn’t invited.
11:16 A.M. We arrive and I explain to Jenny’s mom that the babysitter bailed.
“Of course he’s welcome! What’s his name?” Jenny’s mom says (while cursing under her breath).
Matt hides behind my leg. He’s in a stage where he does this a lot.
Like the hypocrite I am, I totally excuse this behavior when it’s me he’s clinging to, as opposed to when he does it with Lauren.
Speaking of types of invites, a cousin to the “uninvited sibling” is the “parents’ friends’ older kid who’s invited to avoid offending the parents’ friends even though they didn’t want to come anyway but didn’t want to offend you.” I scan the room and get a look at all the children running around. I spot an older kid not participating. I make eye contact and nod my head at him like, “I feel you, kid.” He looks back at me and appears to be debating if he should scream “Stranger Danger!”
It’s time for the kids to eat. Minus my obsession with germs and complete lack of self-control when there are three pies of pizza sitting there and no one to tell me “No,” I think this portion of the party goes fairly smoothly.
Am I too old to eat icing from a cupcake?
At home, we watch New York Minute with the Olsen twins which won 14 Academy Awards, I believe. I try not to look at my phone and the college football games. Liz loves it. It’s kind of entertaining. Wait,
did I just say that? Have I lost that much perspective after less than 24 hours with my kids?
(Does anyone else find these notes slightly condescending?)
5:58 P.M. It’s time for showers. Do they really need showers? Lauren didn’t say anything about showers in her note. In my mind, I run through their various exposures to the outside world. My germaphobia and my laziness are in a tight battle.
I play in the poker tournament. In a past life, I played a lot of poker and it’s one of the two activities (along with eating peanut butter straight from the spoon without choking) that I’m good at. So I
last until the final table. It’s getting late.
I text the babysitter:
What???? That’s a violation of babysitting etiquette. You can’t leave the house until the parents come home.
We’re down to five people and it’s $1,000 and town bragging rights on the line. I am at a crossroads. It’s been a long time since my gambling problem directly interfered with my life.
I ask a few fathers their input.
“They’re sleeping. What’s going to happen?”
“It’s only $1,000 to the winner, right?” I confirm. I think if it was more than $5,000, I’d have to take my chances. I intentionally lose and leave.
I am a hero.
11:00 A.M. Birthday party for Matt’s classmate. We’re on time to this one since Lauren’s aunt is watching Liz, and bringing one kid to a party is 50 times easier than bringing both.
Twenty years (and pounds) ago, I was a good athlete and played competitive tennis and soccer. (Lauren met me later and refuses to believe that I’m capable of extending past whatever speed I get up to when I run to the free sample line at Costco.)
I’m also a sports fan, and I badly want my kids to play sports so I can live vicariously through them. I just need something to root for again.
It was hard to accept that I may not ever have that experience.
I’m still trying though.
1:10 P.M. We arrive at the clinic.
1:25P.M. (clinic halfway done) I have finally gotten their cleats and shin guards on. Liz is wearing jeans because she only cares about her appearance and has no interest in running, which, at least when I was
playing, was an essential part of soccer.
Matt is more interested, though he spends 90 percent of the clinic picking the wedgie out of his butt from the jersey that’s tucked into his shorts because it’s huge on him. He is engaged
Until he’s not. “Daddy, my hands are cold.”
Fuck, I forgot the gloves. I spend the next twenty minutes intermittently blowing hot air into his hands and sending him back out to play.
MEALS FOR THE WEEKEND
2:30 P.M. – MCDONALD’S
We started out okay on Friday. I have since been broken down. In this case, I used McDonald’s as a bribe to get my kids to cooperate while getting ready for soccer (which didn’t work anyway). I also want to close the weekend strong so that Daddy gets proper credit. What’s the point of this weekend if not to make me the favorite parent?
I eat McDonald’s for the first time in a decade. A few thoughts: One, this food is delicious. Two, how do I have to go to the bathroom already? It just went past my esophagus three minutes ago. It’s a public bathroom though so I hold it in.
Matt and Liz are only eating the French fries.
“Three bites of your burgers,” I threaten.
“Four bites,” Matt bargains against his own interests.
“Matt, four is more than three,” Liz points out, ruining things.
I go to my bag of tricks. “Five-and-a-half bites each.”
Fractions work every time.
Note: I’m not sure why exactly I’m so anxious for them to eat a burger over the fries. Protein, maybe? I think I’m just personally offended that my children ignore food. As I am a total pig, I would question
whether they are in fact my kids. But I can’t imagine there’s a man out there who Lauren could have had an affair with who has this level of disregard for food.
We arrive home and I can see the finish line. I could stick them in front of the TV until Lauren gets home. Does New York Minute Part 2 exist?
I decide against the television route. If Lauren walks in and they are watching TV, she will assume they have been in front of the TV all weekend.
“Kids, let’s clean up.” They have no interest in complying, but I have one card left to play. When they finish, we will bake an apple pie from the 564 apples left over from apple-picking last weekend.
Lauren walks in.
“Would you like some apple pie, dear?”
“No. We met a nutritionist. I’m eating clean now.”
Whenever Lauren is introduced to something new, it changes her entire perspective on life. Until the following day when she forgets about it. I excuse myself to go upstairs. I am not as organized as Lauren and don’t plan weekends away. But I will now pretend to use the bathroom for the next thirty minutes.
My own little vacation.
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