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Two days ago, my mainlander husband flew back west to visit family for a few days. He felt guilty leaving me and our two young children, but I assured him everything would be just fine.
He left in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The day went relatively smoothly, with only minimal hitches. This rookie luck, unfortunately, granted me false confidence.
Sunday felt different…
I looked forward to spending the morning with my two boys: me, in my fuzzy slippers, sitting in the recliner, sipping a giant mug of coffee; the boys, huddled on the floor, peacefully playing a tidy game of jacks or stacking blocks made of only primary colours.
But that’s not how I do life (note: that’s not how anyone - outside illustrated family members in creepy, out-dated, elementary-school religion books - does life).
I did not get to finish my coffee. My three-year-old taught me, once again, to avoid drinking coffee in a recliner in his presence (luckily most of it went down the neck hole of my shirt, sparing the light fabric of the chair). The children were like two, frenzied gerbils tweaking on uppers. I had to get them out of the house.
After a frantic Google search, I learned it was a family day at the pumpkin patch of a nearby farm. I ignored the table strewn with crumbs and dirty dishes and herded the youngsters out the door. But not before indulging in an 18-minute debate with my six-year-old about why he has to wear “these embarrassing red boots” (for the record, they’re Blundstones; I can’t even afford them) instead of his sneakers. I assured him they were fine and I wasn’t sure how mucky or poo-strewn this farm was going to be. He finally succumbed and I drove to the farm in the proverbial dog-house. Luckily, we got to listen to three specific Jungle Book songs on repeat the whole ride. I couldn’t tell if my deep, crushing skull pain was a residual symptom of my recent cold, lack or caffeine or the fact that - in my frantic push to get everyone out the door - I had not eaten breakfast.
At the farm - and in the throes of hunger sweats - I managed to sneak three goldfish crackers from the snack bag before the three-year old (rudely awakened from a brief car nap) caught me and insisted I spit them out (I did not, but that was the extent of my brunch). I treated the boys each to a little, barrel-train ride and a baby pumpkin the toddler insisted we get (i.e. blatantly shoplifted before I discovered and went back to pay for it).
Attracted to the promise of sitting, I suggested that the three of us go on the hayride. But the three-year-old wanted to live on only the barrel train forever, so he put ‘er up. While we waited for him to finish flailing out, modern-dance-style, the depths of his emotional turmoil for having been being forsaken another go at the train, my six-year-old practised tossing corn husks into metal buckets. I stared longingly at the goldfish and fought the urge to hunger-puke.
Once the little one beat himself out and realized that he, too, can huck corn at things, it was the six-year-old’s turn. He insisted that we go in the “corn maze”. Which was great, because being in an enclosed space and drenched in hypoglycemic sweats, while carrying three coats, the bag of no-mommy-allowed snacks, the baby pumpkin and a rock from our driveway that the toddler insisted must accompany us on our rustic autumn adventure, is second only to periodontal surgery as my favorite way to spend a day off.
The maze was ADORABLE, perfectly small and fully meant for children; I could see over the corn. For only $7.50, I got to trudge, endlessly, after two kids determined only to lose me. The six-year-old was in the lead, on a very vocal quest to find “the way out”. I couldn’t ruin the fun. So, I silently allowed a part of me to die a little, in that maizey maze, each time we’d finally reach the (blatantly obvious) “way out” and then he’d back-track, the toddler at his heels, to prolong the joy.
After surviving the labyrinth, I skipped (dragged) the kids over to the hayride and waited in line for a cool 35 minutes. You know what’s better than solo-parenting in a stagnant mosh-pit of a line with two, overtired children hopped-up on Timbits? Beats me!
We finally climbed aboard. My three-year-old refused to sit on my lap as he’s a “big boy”; I sat him next to me and avoided eye contact with the poor souls who were unable to board this trip due to lack of space (and lackluster parenting). I looked at the time: in 45 minutes I would have to be back in town for rehearsal. My panic sweats merged seamlessly with my hunger sweats. I stared at the trees, practiced diaphragmatic breathing and recited the Serenity Prayer in my head.
Thirty-minutes of incredible, bladder-jostling-at-a-forward-trajectory-of-two-kilometres-per-hour later, and we were speeding back down the highway. I managed to drop the youngsters off at Grammy’s and arrive - only five minutes late - for rehearsal. I had passed the point of hunger and was coasting on fumes; though woozy, I reminded myself that, if the guy portrayed by James Franco in 127 Hours can spend five days trapped in a slot canyon with his arm crushed, ingesting nothing but his own urine, I could surely make it through the next three hours.
There was a moment where a dear friend offered me a life-raft: a cranberry-almond granola bar. A heavenly light shone down upon it, illuminating every succulent morsel ... I was painfully awakened from my desert-oasis-type hallucination as I was reminded that, “this is a school: NO NUTS ALLOWED.”
When I finally made it back to children, I was spent. My mother was in a closet with the three-year old “hiding from lions” and my eldest was iPading in a homemade fort. On the stove was a bubbling pan of goulash which, my step-father informed me, was intended for me and the kids. The words had barely escaped his lips and I was snarfing down my second bowl like a wild boar, my mouth burning with pleasure (and also, actually, burning. I have blisters).
One child spiking a temp, one child refusing to eat and one more two-hour rehearsal later, I was in bed. I survived Sunday.
This morning (Monday) was my first, real, adult morning of getting the kids up and fed and cleaned and dressed and off to their respective places before heading to work. We missed the school bus. I was an hour late for work. And I forgot the only garbage day I was responsible for. Now our back porch (where I’ve been hoarding the garbage bags) smells like a donkey with leaky flatulence and a festering flesh wound, who's sitting atop a compost heap in a steam room while regurgitating several old onions and a rotten banana.
Our laundry mountain is growing. I've lost my keys. I don’t know how to use our dishwasher.
I miss my husband dearly. As the old saying goes: absence makes the heart grow fonder… It also makes the heart shoot pain into your chest wall, mimicking an infarction; but, really, it’s just stress-induced angina caused by your cringe-worthy inadequacy when it comes to independent adulting.
Three more sleeps.
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger (www.heatheronarock.com), wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook, NL. Her column appears biweekly.