Sunday, February 10, 2013

Home alone, with Daddy

“I’m so sorry to do this to you,” my wife Kara said last week, right before she left me.

Her bags were already in the trunk of her car, and there was no talking her out of it.  Once she walked out that door, she’d be gone forever.

Well, for three days, but when you’re taking care of two small kids without any help, three days and forever are pretty much the same thing.

“Mommy, where are you going?” our son Evan asked.

“I have to take a trip for work, but I’ll be back on Thursday,” she said.

“Sunday-Monday, Tuesday-Wednesday, Thursday, Friiii-day, Saturday,” Evan sang, repeating the no-frills mnemonic jingle he’d learned at daycare.  Singling a list makes it easier to remember, apparently, which is why I’ve started setting our grocery list to Ride of the Valkyries.

“Get some CREAM CHEESE and some BROCC-LI and sliced TUR-KEY, da da da DEEEEE!”

If the list gets longer than three things, though, I have to resort to the tried-and-true method of writing down a list and then forgetting to bring it with me.

As we packed up our two cars that morning, mine headed for daycare and work, Kara’s headed for the wild paved yonder, Evan started bawling.

“Aw, hey, buddy, what’s wrong?” I asked, but I already knew.  Any kid would be distressed at the prospect of getting ditched for even a few minutes, let alone a few days.

Kara got out of her car and walked over, her lower lip pushed out in sympathy.

“My banana has stringy things on it!” Evan wailed.

“Dude, seriously?  That’s part of the banana.  You can eat those things.  Maybe you’re really upset about Mommy leaving?  She’ll be back in a few days,” I said.

“No, the banana,” he said, sniffling.

On the drive to daycare, Evan stopped projecting his separation anxiety onto his breakfast produce.

“How much time ‘til Thursday now?” he asked every five minutes, reacting with genuine surprise when he got the same answer each time.

After work, I took Evan and his baby brother Zack to the grocery store, which might sound ambitious, but grocery carts are like cages on wheels, perfect for containing children and killing time.

“Cheez Its!  We need Cheez Its!” Evan said, lunging from his perch by the cart’s handle.  He whiffed.  One of the first skills you learn as a parent is to never push the cart too close to the merchandise, lest you spend all your time wrenching Fruit Roll-Ups out of little fingers.

“Sorry, no room in the cart,” I said, which was true.  With a kid sitting by the handle and a car seat filling up the cart, you can’t actually buy anything.  You can try to balance a loaf of bread on the baby, but he’ll either chew on it through the plastic bag or mash it into matzo.  But even though you can’t purchase any food, you can kill a solid four minutes standing next to the poor man’s Camden Aquarium, also known as the lobster tank.

The next morning, for the first time in over three years, I awoke to the sound of an alarm clock, rather than to a baby screeching.  Most things can be done while wearing a baby on your back and having Dora the Explorer babysit your three-year-old, but showering is not one of those things.    If you don’t get up before the kids, I’m not sure how single parents bathe themselves without wheeling a shopping cart or other child-trapping device into the bathroom.

On Thursday afternoon, Kara texted: “Tell Evan not to brush his teeth until I get home.  I’m bringing something for him.”

Empowered by my success at handling the kids on my own, I replied, “Don’t worry – he hasn’t brushed them in three days.  A couple more hours won’t hurt.”

You can snatch some Cheez Its with Mike Todd at

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