I’m parenting solo this week, so it makes perfect sense that Thunder Bay is currently in an official state of emergency. (Update: make that disaster area. I live in an official disaster zone.) Heavy rains have washed away roads and bridges and flooded basements – in some cases with the sewage that the sewage treatment plant, currently partially submerged, can’t process. Our household, our neighbourhood in general, has emerged relatively unscathed, and for this I am truly grateful. We’ve been asked to restrict water, which means that first-world conveniences like flushing the toilet even semi-regularly or running the dishwasher or clean laundry or, say, bathing, are suddenly luxuries. (This morning, I surmised that Isaac, sweet little Isaac, was smelling just a wee bit fetid, and stuck him in a bucket in the bathtub with a bit of water and soap. And for this everyone will be grateful.)
It’s not that I’m taking responsibility for the flooding. I’m just saying that the last time Rachel went away a freak windstorm ripped the power and phone lines out of the side of the house, leaving me and the kids (and a houseguest, no less) ex communicado and relying on the extension cord my lovely neighbour Greg ran from his home.
These kinds of incidents are extreme – normally, when Rachel leaves town all that happens is that one or other of the kids gets a sudden, painful ear infection. Or bronchitis.
And yet, it’s all good. It’s true what they say: these children, crazy and complicated and activity-laden as they are, have also gotten easier. They are easiest, I will admit, in the morning: happy and curious and golden and bright-eyed and generally fairly amenable or easy to coax from one activity to the next until they have been deposited at the various institutions in charge of them during the weekdays. “Easy,” of course, is relative: there is a certain, Herculean, amount of planning and prepping and tidying and cooking that goes on in the name of getting and keeping us on board the little train that chugs us inexorably from the before-seven wake-up call to the shutting of the cats in the basement and the switching off the final nightlight. Just before dinner, things tend to get a bit hairy: whiny choruses of “Mama? Mama? Can you read me this book? And how fast is water? Can I paint this rock? “ compete in poorly timed syncopation with “Mom? Can you play soccer? Can you? When? Can you?” as all the while my brain is chanting at me to get dinner into them get dinner into them before they impl— oh well.
And while I take a certain amount of pleasure in the planning and organization (ahem, okay: while I aspire to be the fucking VALEDICTORIAN of planning and organization), I will be really, really happy when Rachel arrives home on Friday evening.
Because this solo gig gets a bit all-consuming, and occasionally a little bit isolating. These kinds of weeks always increase my awe of and admiration for single parents, and make me appreciate my co-parent that much more.
Or, I should say, my primary coparent, because I am lucky enough to have two.
Rachel is the daily, the core, the one who knows the steps to the dance of our household routine so well that we don’t have to articulate them. (Much.) And while we occasionally step on each other’s toes as we waltz around the morning kitchen, mostly we’ve got the steps down pat.
Rob is the safety valve, the one who shows up again and again and again and forces us to step out of routine: go out for dinner, take a walk, an evening, a weekend, a week away. Get that four-year-old out of our room and into his own. Get some perspective on this whole messy and all-consuming and often golden disaster called family life. Remember that routine can too easily turn into a rut.
If I had to, I could and would do this job alone. Even through windstorms and floods and ear infections, if I had to, I would find a way to shepherd the three of us through it all. But I don’t have to. I have not one but two other partners in this there-but-for-the-grace adventure. And for that I am also, truly, grateful.
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