Wednesday, February 3, 2010

family: it takes two when it used to take only one....

I don't understand how single parents manage.

If not for M, I'd be in bad shape, and the girls would be in worse shape.

I suppose kids are resilient. I mean, they have to be, right, because we're not perfect, we screw up. (My older sister once told me that the best I can hope for is that I don't screw up in the same way that our parents did. Which is not to say that I think they screwed up. They did the best they could. We had a loving family, and a relatively peaceful one. But our parents weren't any more perfect than we are. And at some point as adults we each have to realize that, no matter what happened as kids, we're responsible for ourselves now. So the fact that we didn't get those Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots that we wanted.... get over it! The slot car racetrack... get over it!)

It's amazing to me just how much difference it can make to have M in the house, even if she's busy with something else.

I've got garlic in the cast iron skillet, quickly going past golden brown to crispy black, L standing smack up against my left leg with her arms stretched high yelling "Uppyuppyupupupup!" and K is riding Belle, rocking back and forth like a possessed child, wailing all the while because she "needs" some boots right NOW like the ones that they wear in Saddle Club and nothing I can offer as an alternative will work, and Lucy is out in the yard barking her fool head off because someone had the nerve to walk past on her sidewalk....

Where's that bottle of.... whatever?

I've burnt the garlic, the smoke alarm is going off now, Belle is running away with a sobbing K and L is hugging my neck and weighing me down, wanting to see into the smoking ruins of the pan....

Then M walks in, home early from work, and ah....the energy shifts. L is down and running to the living room while K screams her footwear requirements through tears. Lucy is still barking but now she's at the back door, needing to come in.... and I've finally managed to get the windows open and some fresh air into the kitchen. So the chaos still surrounds me, the garlic is still smoking and the noise level has not changed, but it doesn't feel anything like as unmanageable as it did just 3 minutes before. Whew! M hasn't even had a chance to take her shoes off, but now she's reading L The Hungry Caterpillar one more time and I have a chance to wipe out the pan and rechop garlic and things are looking up! We still haven't found boots like the ones that Stevie wears, but somehow the wailing doesn't feel quite as critical, and I can even find some empathy for my disconsolate rider.

So how do single parents manage? How do parents with partners off in the military or traveling for work or simply absent do it? I don't know. I think one of the things we've lost as a culture is the closeness of community. I think that it really did take a village and that we've lost the village (except perhaps for some really active church communities, but I haven't yet seen household chaos extreme enough to drive me to church). But I do know I'm extremely grateful for M's company and help and for the basic balance she gives to our world.

Which is my way of saying that I'm pleased that we went on that date*, 10 years ago today. I wasn't thinking kids, or parent-partnering at that point, but it's been gravy, that balance she provides our family.

*Any Given Sunday - don't bother.

No comments: