Thursday, April 24, 2014

Parents Without Partners

I've been parenting alone for 93 hrs and 47 minutes. Not that I'm counting or anything.
My partner in parenting crimes and in this crazy, mixed-up life, the dazzling Mr W, is spending the bulk of next three months in the southland, doing an internship at a reputable studio in Music City. He's living out of duffle bags, pushing buttons, faders and stuff on sound boards, talking about music with strangers, living off bologna sandwiches (as if he would) and beer (he'd try) his dream, basically. On weekdays, back here in the 'Lou, the Buddy and I hold it down, and while I feel I'm up for the challenge, it must be said:
The short guy is not pulling his weight, no matter how many cookies he's willing to pull out of the pantry all by himself.
Sure, I've been alone with this kid before, many times. You don't co-parent with a career musician without doing a lot of parental heavy lifting on nights and weekends. That said, you never truly know how many holes someone fills in your daily life until they aren't there. That man fills a whole lotta holes. I'm sure every parent in the world out there can identify with me on this, in some way. Your partners travel a lot, have jobs that require a lot of their attention during the kids' awake time, they're shift workers, you're the nine-to-fiver and your partner works nights/weekends so a lot of the kid shuffling falls to you, or you're a single parent. Or maybe your significant other managed to score a guys'/girls' weekend in the Tetons before you had a chance to get your schedule conflict on the calendar first. Whatever the reason you're alone with these little people, if you're like me, you could use a survival tip here and there.
There are a few things I've already learned that might help me make it through this with my sanity intact, and since there's a snowball's chance in hell I'll remember them if I don't write them down, I submit to you, dear readers, the following list. If any of it manages to help you, too, I will be shocked. I'll also be happy for you, so don't be shy. Feel free to tell me about it in the comments section so we can both be encouraged. I'd also love to hear what other parents in the trenches are doing that works, so leave those comments as well.
In this list, I will be talking about my kid, The Buddy, but feel free to insert your own ankle-biter's nome de plume in its place. You're probably confused enough as it is.
1) When the alarm goes off at 5:30 am, get up. Do not believe yourself when yourself says you'll get up in 5 min. You won't. You'll end up sleeping 'til 6:15 when The Buddy wakes up, and we all know that's when the Toddler Time Suck kicks in. Everything slows down to half speed and no transition is made without a tantrum to round it out. You need to be showered, dressed and pouring the cereal by the time he wakes up, otherwise your morning is toast.
2) Wear the first outfit you put on. You've worn it many times before and yes, it still looks fine. You don't have time to "feel fat in this."
3) Always pack up what you will need for the next day before you sit down after putting The Buddy to bed. Put whatever will be safe and will not go bad in the car at night. If you don't, you will fall asleep where you sit and stumble to bed at 3 am, having accomplished nothing. It'll take that much longer to get out of the house in the morning because all your stuff is still scattered where you dropped it, between the front door and the bathroom, which was your first stop when you got home last night. I know...all you really want to do is sit down with a [insert drink] to watch/read [insert show/book], but the pain of working 10 more minutes now is much less than cramming in 10 more minutes of painful prep in the morning. Trust me.
4) When in doubt, phone it in. Feeding him fish sticks, frozen pizza, peanut butter waffles or chicken nuggets is not child abuse. Child abuse is shoving the kid in a drawer so you can't hear him whine and beg for food while you spend an hour making a macrobiotic meal from free range ingredients after a long day. So is sitting him on the curb with a sign that says, 'Free to a Good Home,' after he doesn't eat said meal.
5) As long as he's still getting his butt wiped at diaper changes, you wash his hands after play and before meals, and he didn't dive bomb any mud puddles or dog poo piles, 2 baths a week is plenty. Any more than that and you're adding unnecessary stress to your life and there's nothing I can do to help you.
6) Take out the trash/empty the dishwasher only when required by necessity and/or public code.
7) In spite of how you feel, singing the Transformers: Rescue Bots theme song or 5 Little Ducks six thousand times between daycare and home each night will not make you go insane. The Rescue Bots song is actually quite catchy and the way he sings along, dancing and making hand gestures will make you long for him to stay a joyful, little boy forever.
8) Exercise. Even if it's just a walk to the corner and back, get outside where the walls can't close in on you both. It's good for you. Go for a run twice a week. He hates the jogger, but you really need this, so push past his tantrum, shove him in that stroller and get out there! And stop forgetting the stroller on the front porch at night. It's a safe neighborhood, but if it's stolen, you were asking for it.
9) Please make sure to plug in the damned iPad and Kindle at night. He doesn't care that the battery is dead and he will not stop whining "it's not working!" until you bring either/both of them back to life. What's in it for you? Those two tablets are your ticket to 5 minutes alone in the bathroom.
10) Yesterday, you locked your keys in your car, distracted by a battle of wills with The Buddy when you were dropping him off at daycare. It was the straw that broke the camel's back on an already trying morning. You were an hour and a half late for work. You ate takeout for both breakfast and lunch. You were mean in your head to the locksmith guy because he talked your ear off when all you wanted him to do was open the car DOOR already, so you could leave! Thinking back, it sounded like he'd had a rough morning, too. Shake it off. Next time something like this happens (it will), keep this in mind: you have insurance. Roadside assistance took care of it in 20 seconds (plus an hour wait) and you weren't charged anything. Your daycare provider is a jewel. She and her husband were easy to hang out with and nice to you. You got a hug from The Buddy every 5 minutes because having you at daycare was a treat for him. He gave you a big kiss when you left--he must've forgiven you for not letting him take the iPad with him. Also while you waited, a little girl sang The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," to you. Your boss and coworkers are awesome. Everybody understands that life happens sometimes and nobody made you feel bad about it happening to you.

11) You can do this. You will not die. Alright, bring 'em in. 1, 2, 3...GO TEAM!