Mackinac Island photo © Laura Sternberg
Anita’s gone and I’m messed up.
She’s not gone for good. She’s chaperoning our nine-year-old’s class trip to Mackinac Island so I have the next three days in which to screw things up and be reminded of how much she does around here and how well she does it.
I need to chauffeur three young girls to and from appointments, grandma’s, swim practice and a birthday party.
I need to be prepared to drop everything and go pick eight-year-old Maya up from school if she has a tummy ache because apparently kids can’t learn anything when their tummies hurt anymore. (When I used to go to the office complaining that my stomach hurt, the nuns would tell me they hoped I felt better soon and I’d better turn around and march right back to class or my backside would soon hurt more than my tummy did.)
I need to prepare meals that don’t include Pringles, pretzels, Pop-Tarts or popsicles. (Anything by Chef Boyardee is out too because I love my children and don’t want them ever to know the kind of pain I felt after thoughtlessly ingesting some pseudo-ravioli the other night.) The kids don’t buy my “Cool people eat Lucky Charms for dinner, guys” shtick anymore and I decided to refrain from doing the pizza thing right about the time when Anita told me to refrain from doing the pizza thing.
I need to try to keep track of shoes and homework and library books and hair brushes. I have to avoid relying too much on eleven-year-old Nikita for help since she too is just a kid. I’m supposed to make sure the house stays somewhat inhabitable and everyone brushes their teeth at least two or three times before Mommy comes home. I need to dispense six-year-old Devina’s medication, moderate conflicts, monitor television viewing and keep track of who went to play with which neighborhood kid and when.
All by myself.
I don’t know how single parents do it. They have my respect and astonishment.
Sometimes I find my family challenging even when Anita and I are sharing the load. (I’m pretty sure she would dispute my use of the word “sharing.”) I’m always thrown for a loop when she heads out of town and I’m lucky that she doesn’t leave often. She and Bryant left before dawn this morning and I've been telling myself, "She's only 215 miles away" ever since.
Even if they forget to bring us back some Ryba’s Mackinac Island fudge, they'll still be welcomed home with eight open arms.