Monday, November 17, 2008


In Which We Are Working for the Weekend...

“Well, you just have a great time, and don’t worry about us!” I exclaimed, kissing my wife.

Her Lovely Self sagged for a moment. “Now why did you have to go and say that?” she asked.

My wife is not a terribly superstitious person, but she’s lived with me long enough to see how easily I manage to jinx myself with such statements. And if with my parting words I managed to give myself a massive karmic whammy this weekend, she wouldn’t be around to pick me up: We were at the airport and I was putting her on a shuttle to the Big City, where she was going to meet up with her sisters and have a girls-only, no-kids, responsibility-free weekend.

I would be having the exact opposite.

But I had spent the whole week psyching myself up. I was excited, ready to meet the challenge of watching all three kids, something I try to do regularly anyway. It’s never been lost on me that my wife, who left her career as manager of an environmental communications office in order to be home for our kids, has by far the harder of our two jobs. On weekends, I regularly hold down the fort while she goes off for some alone time. But here it was, early Friday morning, and she wouldn’t be back for 60 hours. That was 10 times longer than she’d ever left me alone with Art Lad, the Brownie, and the Éclair before, with only Blaze the dog as my backup. Granted, I really wasn’t worried about handling Thomas and the Brownie--neither was my wife. At 10 and 7, they need very little from me, except hot food, money, and regular comic relief.

The Éclair, though, was another story.

At 18 months, my littlest daughter now holds the record as youngest, self-appointed Empress of Everything, Especially You, Daddy. The Brownie occasionally calls her “the Queen Baby,” with a sense of irony and humor that she can afford because she doesn’t have to convince the kid to eat the yogurt, to please not drink the liquid soap, to lie still for diaper-based poop remediation. I, meanwhile, am helpless in the imperious gaze of Her Minuscule Highness. And everyone knows it.

The Empress in question was, at that moment, locked on my hip like a howler monkey, legs clamped around my midriff, arms Velcroed to my neck. The Eclair looked at her mother, standing there with her overnight bag and her boarding pass and her face betrayed no emotion. She put her hand up and waved. “Bye!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. She’d been doing this since about 6 that morning, ever since I’d mentioned that Mommy was going away for a while. It seemed to me that the Éclair couldn’t wait. I suspect that this hurt my wife’s feelings a little. She says the baby has been going through a daddy-obsession phase. I don't think it's that so much as the fact that the Éclair has correctly identified the weak link in the chain of command and knows who in the house is most likely to eventually succumb in a battle of wills over, say, whether to have oatmeal or M&Ms for breakfast (incidentally, I now mix the M&Ms into the oatmeal. Go, compromise!)

“You sure you’ll be fine?” my wife asked. “I know how you can get.”

“What? Me? Get how? I’ll be fine. I’m not going to let her totally run roughshod over me,” I answered. Just then, Her Lovely Self gave A Look, and I felt compelled to offer some proof so, over the baby’s instantly shrill protest, I set her down and nudged her towards a small children’s activity center, right near the escalators to the security check-in. The Éclair made a few attempts to get me to pick her back up, but then she saw that the activity center had a tiny slide, and at my prodding, she toddled over to have a go on it.

“See?” I said, turning back to my wife. “Seriously, we’re going to have a great time. I’ll take the baby shopping with me while I run a few errands, get home in time to feed her, get her down for a nap, be there when the kids get off the bus, make dinner, get everyone bathed--“

My wife interrupted me. “You don’t have to repeat my day back to me. I just don’t want you freaking out about crazy stuff, like gas leaks or other things.”

I made a face. A few weeks ago, I had spent a little time--certainly no more than three hours--on my hands and knees, in the basement, with a flashlight, trying to suss out the source of a mysterious but telltale odor of escaping gas. It turned out to be a dead mouse giving off a faintly methane-like odor, but still. At the time, I might have made some slightly alarmist remarks about the house blowing up.

“Gas leaks are nothing to poo-poo, you know. My friend Lisa’s grandmother’s, um, grandmother, died in a gas explosion,” I said sternly.

My wife threw up her hands. “That was in the 1800s!”

"But--" I stopped myself. “Anyway, it’s over and done with.”

“Yeah, but you blow things out of proportion. Like that whole thing with the carjackers.”

Oh boy. A night or two ago, I simply remarked that reliable sources at work had told me there was a rash of carjackings in town, which was unusual in and of itself, but rumor had it that the carjackers were now moving into the suburbs and targeting unsuspecting mommies running errands or doing their Christmas shopping early. I wasn’t worried about it; I was just telling her something I heard.

Now, Her Lovely Self had a point: ordinarily, if I was about to be faced with the idea of taking care of my kids alone for the weekend, I might start to catastrophize about potential dangers that might have the slightest, most remote chance of affecting me and the safety of my family--it’s a thing I inherited from my mom. But as I said, I had been psyching myself up all week. This was going to be a good weekend for everybody. We were all going to have a great time. There would be no carjackers, not even in my imagination.

I said--well, promised--as much to my wife, gave her one last reassuring kiss, then turned her around and gave her a gentle shove-off towards the escalators.

And, all too predictably, turned back to find the Éclair had vanished entirely from the airport waiting area.

So began my weekend...

I think I'm becoming something of a psychic! I see hilarious dad misadventures in my future...
When my husband had to take over the house for 3 months while I recuperated from a pelvic fracture, he said on more than one occasion.. "I don't understand how women with kids work and do this...."
And another wild rumpus begins...
Oh dear, I can't wait to hear the rest of what is going to be a bumpy ride.
OK...I am waiting IMpatiently to hear the rest of the story - which I already know will be worth the agonizing wait. Lizardmom
oh dear. why? WHY do you keep cursing yourself this way? perhaps to entertain us... waiting with bated breathe for the furthering adventures...
I literally can't wait to read what's coming next!

Hope this ended without broken bones or a re-surgence of ass strep.
ya, as soon as you set the Empress Eclair down, I saw her toddling off to who knows where....

now for part two. :)

please no ass strep. Melinda, you had to go there. :)
Nice to see the return of...
Oh yes, the ellipses! They are back! What a perfect way to start off the holiday season. :)
Who saw that one coming? Raise your hands...

Yeah, pretty much ev everyone.

Well, you're still alive to post, so we know you find her -- eventually.
I'm really looking forward to the second part of this tale.

I once lost my nephew when I was babysitting him - - he was about the same age as the Eclair.
They can get away sooo fast.

(he was under the bed, asleep)
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