I didn’t write about it at the time, but Tim returned from a business trip to Hungary a couple weeks ago and at the risk of sounding incredibly un-feminist–I’m not entirely sure how I survived that week and a half without my husband.
Let me preface this by saying, I am not single parent material. Period. Tim and I make a great team and he’s an exceptional and involved father. For that I am very grateful, but when he leaves life gets… difficult. Like I’m suddenly missing a large and very valuable limb.
Case in point: Tim went to Montreal for a weekend WordCamp this summer, leaving Ellie and me (a very pregnant me, I might add) to our own devices. My mom came to help for part of the time, but mostly it was just the two of us, hanging out. I thought I was prepared for the chaos. I even dug out my giant childhood sticker collection and let Ellie have at it, thinking that would keep her busy for a while (and obviously forgetting most two-year-olds have the attention span of a gnat on crack.)
Sticker fun lasted about five minutes. Five minutes of peace–that summed up my weekend. Ellie refused to nap, so by the time Sunday evening rolled around she was alternately bouncing off the walls with giddy happiness and throwing herself on the floor in a fantastic tantrum–all in the span of maybe two minutes. At one point Tim Skyped us to see how things were going and, upon answering the video chat, was greeted with two sobbing females–one child, one adult, both at the end of their proverbial ropes. Let’s just say it was intense. I’m surprised he didn’t decide to stay in Canada permanently after that.
So that gives you an idea of how I fare when I parent alone–I’m basically on autopilot, and a pretty crappy autopilot at that. I’m less hormonal these days, sure, but now I have two children to think about–twice the chaos! Half the sleep!
This time we had the foresight to call in heavy duty reinforcements–Tim would be in Hungary for 9 days, so my folks visited with us for half that time, and we visited with them for the rest. The change of scenery and extra company helped keep Ellie occupied, and the extra sets of hands were invaluable with Gwen.
But this trip did not come without its fair share of drama. I’ll be honest–I was feeling a little green about the whole thing. I mean, Tim gets an expenses-paid trip to Europe and I get nine days of diaper duty, followed shortly by a cholecystectomy. Why do I get the feeling the universe is laughing hysterically–at me, not with me.
Then, as if to rub it in, I dropped my laptop the night Tim left for Hungary. At first I thought it was OK, but by the next morning it was apparent the hard drive was damaged beyond repair. Thankfully by some random stroke of good fortune, I’d backed up my data to an external drive just the week before, and because I live with another computer geek there’s always a spare computer lurking around (I’m typing this from my “new” MacBook Air.)
After that, things went pretty smoothly until the day we left my parents’, at which point I made a last-minute decision to swap out Gwen’s car seat for my parents’ spare, which of course meant installing the seat’s base. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.
Picture this: We meant to be out of the house an hour ago, but the timeline has stretched a bit (as is known to happen when wrangling two kids on totally different schedules) so we’re feeling rushed. Ellie is strapped into her car seat, chattering along–“Whatcha doin’ Mama? You installing Baby Gwen’s car seat? Why? Whatcha doin’ that for?” and so on and so forth in typical preschooler fashion. Gwen is in her car seat which is temporarily on top of the car. I wrestle with the old base to get it out then install the new one. Lots of pulling on straps and fiddling around between seat cushions to find the hooks, but I finally get it just right. I set Gwen in the base… and the seat won’t fit. It doesn’t even look like it can fit, so I immediately assume I’ve installed it backwards. Oops, OK, that should be easy enough to fix. Gwen goes back on top of the car, and I start the process of uninstalling the base and reinstalling it the right way.
Then it starts to rain. And because I’m halfway in the car I don’t really notice, but then I hear my mom say, “Uhh, Caroline? Maybe we should move Gwen, she’s getting rained on.” Oh, right! Because leaving a newborn out in the cold to soak is probably a bad idea. I’m never going to get that Mother of the Year Award! Mom takes Gwen inside while I finish up with the base… yay, it’s facing the opposite direction now! Except… the seat still won’t fit.
Because I installed it right the first time. Spatially challenged much, Caro?
By this point my fingers are sore from trying to find the LATCH hooks and tighten the belts, my rear end is soaked from the rain and my back is cramping up from being hunched over the seat. I later discovered giant bruises on my forearm from leaning so hard on the base while I was mucking around with it.
This car seat business is serious shit.
I get the stupid base turned around AGAIN, it’s hooked up properly, I go to pull the strap tight… and the strap folds in half and jams in the buckle. No way to take the buckle apart. Can’t tighten the base enough to make it safe.
GAHHHH KILL KILL DIE DIE MAIM HATE RAWWWWWR.
At that point my Mom (perhaps sensing my extreme frustration and wanting to save her 28-year-old daughter the embarrassment of an adult tantrum) steps in and is eventually able to wiggle the strap through the buckle. Victory! We install the base for a third time, being VERY CAREFUL with the strap so as not to bring down the wrath of the car seat gods, and we’re finally on our way.
But the fun didn’t stop there. We had a two-hour drive ahead of us, and everyone knows two hours in a car with a baby and a preschooler is fun times, if by “fun times” you mean “a symphony of fingernails on a chalkboard.” Gwen and Ellie napped until we were about an hour away from home, at which point Gwen woke up and started protesting… loudly. And because there are no rest stops or convenient exits between Lincoln and Orono, it was one of those situations where I just had to grin and bear it.
Thanks to Ellie, I’ve had almost three years experience dealing with Grating Sounds That Don’t Stop. I’m sorry Gwen, but on the soundtrack of parenthood, no newborn’s pitiful cry can compare to the piercing screech of a toddler hopped up on sugar who didn’t get to watch that fourteenth episode of Dora. You’re going to have to do better than that if you want to get Mama’s attention, kiddo.
Anyway, we make it home in one piece (no thanks to the sheriff we followed from Old Town who did five miles under the speed limit the entire way. Thanks, asshole, for making it almost impossible for me NOT to crawl up your tailpipe) and only a little deaf. Then as we’re walking up to our house, as I’m daydreaming of a hot shower and my comfy bed, Mom turns to me and says, “Umm, the door is open?”
Yes, apparently in the chaos of getting everyone out of the house several days before, I’d left the front door wide open. Not just unlocked; I’m talking visibly open. For four days.
Mom took it upon herself to do a thorough sweep of the house, looking for intruders (later we laughed because we’re not sure what she–a 5’2″ self-proclaimed little old lady without a weapon to her name–would have done had she actually found one) or thefts. Remarkably everything was intact and no squatters were found sleeping in the basement. Fortune was with me that week (in more ways than one!)
Thankfully the rest of Tim’s trip passed without incident. And what did I learn from this experience?
First, I need at least one other person–a chaperone, if you will–with me at all times just to make sure I don’t, you know, walk into traffic. Apparently I’m special like that!
Second, I shouldn’t make big decisions (and by “big” I mean “choosing to swap out a car seat”) when I’m in a rush.
Third, I am so very appreciative I don’t have to do this parenting thing alone and that I have family who come to my rescue when I’m living up to my very air-headed nature.
And finally, I’m grateful Tim doesn’t have to travel too often. Because I’m pretty sure the next time he leaves for a week, I’ll be calling local businesses to ask them to check the lost and found for my purse or my car keys… maybe even my kids!