Where I look ahead to playing a few days as a single dad
I’m looking at a few nights alone with the kids. While I’d never, ever, choose to be a single parent, and while I’m scared to admit it, I’m actually really looking forward to it. Daddy / kid time doesn’t happen a whole lot . . . just like I fear each of the kids has their own identity tied to each other (neither child seems to be themselves if they’re alone), I fear their vision of me is entirely tied to Duffy. Rare is it that they have me, alone, for more than an hour or two at a time. CJ isn’t really CJ if Leila isn’t around. Leila isn’t really Leila if CJ isn’t around. Is it possible that their vision of daddy isn’t really daddy if mommy isn’t within screaming distance? So, for the next couple of days, I get to try to clear things a little . . . though I do need to work on one-on-one time with the kids. The confused looks whenever I have one kid, but not the other, when outside of the house are disconcerting.
Anyway, first, there’s the food we’ll be eating. Duffy and I agree on many things, but the spice level in foods is one that we don’t have in common. And I love peppers. It’s not that Duffy won’t ever use peppers in her cooking. And I’ll, sometimes, use peppers when I’m cooking (though, well, it’s no fun to cook something knowing that someone else has to pick things out, so I generally refrain . . . unless I’m making cheesesteaks, and then I just make sure the peppers are separate from the onions, which means using another pan, which means cleaning another pan, but it’s so worth it). But, well, when we eat as a family, peppers, or spicy things, just aren’t a focal point. I’ve started making homemade jalapeno poppers when it’s just me & the kids, but, tonight, I’m making chorizo & rice stuffed poblano peppers, making up the recipe as I go along. While watching the kids, alone. And #livetweeting the process. In other words, tonight will be awesome. Or, maybe, I’ll be burning my house down. Either way, it will be memorable.
As I never really know what to expect the kids to eat, I have hot dogs for them . . . which means they’ll totally be into the stuffed poblanos. Or they’ll reject anything I’ve cooked and, instead, insist that mommy feeds them a regimen of fruit snacks and ice cream when I’m not home.
Then, there’s bedtime. And, I’ll admit, there’s something at the back of my mind. When CJ was an infant and Duffy was pregnant, an incident of CJ’s crying haunts me. One night, CJ was wailing in his crib — crying a full on “why the fuck aren’t you coming to get me?” outburst. And I slept. And slept.
At some point, Duffy said my name — no more than that. Just, at barely more than a whisper, she said “John;” I woke up and gathered the screaming baby. If Duffy weren’t there, what would I have done? How long would he have cried? There really is no way to know, but I think that part of my subconscious decided that there was another adult, so it wasn’t too worrisome. Also, that part of my subconscious is an asshole.
Now, well, we’ll see how things go — handling bedtime on my own isn’t anything new . . . I’m actually pretty good at it (I’m very capable of turning off the lights and the TV and not looking at my phone, and removing anything that might be a distraction from the line of sight, so the kids grow bored and fall asleep (because dreaming is more interesting than looking at my face in low light), usually, within an hour). But, dealing with the middle-of-the-night issues . . . we’ll see how that goes. Will I wake up if the kids cry out for me?1 Might middle-of-the-night demands for milk, which are oh-so-annoying, be met with a sleepy daddy, or will they fall on deaf ears and go unheeded? And, is it really a bad thing if those cries are ignored? (I swear, my kids are freaking milk addicts).
If I’m nervous about anything, it’s the morning routine. My ankle has been at its worst in the early morning — I’ll admit the scene that plays out includes me stepping out of bed, to deal with a kid who is sporting a diaper that is showing imminent signs of failure from overstress, but putting weight down on a foot that just doesn’t want to have weight put on it. The resulting scream takes both children from “near sleep” to “awake too abruptly,” which we all know is how you maximize the cranky component to toddler behavior. So, while attempting to calm two screaming toddlers and hopping around on one foot to gather fresh diapers, I actually watch both diapers reach the urine saturation limit and explode, brilliantly, about the room. Of course, everyone knows that exploded diaper residue is like crack for small & grumpy terriers, so I’ll then hop around (with two now-buck-naked toddlers still screaming) trying, futilely, to prevent the dogs from eating diaper shrapnel while I then hop onto an exposed nail (what the fuck an exposed nail is doing in the bedroom? Hey this is my nightmare, not yours) and have to dress my children while crying, at which point I’ll give up the dog policing (hey, they’re “cleaning it up” for me, right?), only to have one, or both kids, score a code brown on my pillow. I’ll decide to leave the kids to the parade of human waste to get real cleaning supplies, crawling up and down the stairs to do just that, to find the kids “painting” with the excrement — so I’ll take the kids into the shower with me, only to have the dogs puke up their “winnings.” In a fit of insanity, I start fashioning a rudimentary noose from iPhone cords, but am interrupted from making the final action of my life by CJ asking “can I play Wii?” while Leila brings me a supply of rubber bands for her hair and a tutu.
Basically, over the next couple of days, I’ll be trying to prove to myself that I’m a good parent, even if I’m by myself. So, if you’re reading this . . . um, can you send some wine?