**UPDATE** Links to parts one and two here.
So there I am . . . staring at the ceiling, just waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow. . . Tomorrow . . . What was I waiting for again? That’s right. I was thinking that tomorrow would go more smoothly. Oh! You haven’t read the last two days’ worth of adventures. Whether movie dates with parents, or Knott’s Berry Farm adventures, the rest of the weekend could not possibly be as crazy. Feel free to peruse through the last two blogs to find out how I ended up at this moment.
And as I drift off to sleep from this long day, I know that things couldn’t get any worse. I do keep telling myself that. So you know you have parents who cannot stop being parents. They are probably your parents for that matter.
Who am I kidding? I know that I’m never going to stop being a parent to my child either. And I am sure I will be the obnoxious old curmudgeon who tells what it was like in the good old days before smart-phones, cell phones, personal computers, televisions that didn’t have a billion channels. . . Maybe I am doing that already. Wait a second!!! That makes me feel old, and it wasn’t that long ago, in relative terms. Whether you believe in a several-billion-year-old planet, or a 10,000-year-old planet, 40 years is like a blip on a radar screen.
So these parents have been given a gift. They have the gift of the screeching voice and bringing chaos to the quiet. Maybe they got it from all the years that you tormented them growing up. Maybe someone made them a deal in exchange for something dark and sinister. Whatever the case may be, they have had years of practice disturbing you enough into getting up from a slumber. This can be through telephone calls or merely yelling loudly from the bottom of the stairs. They got really good at this during your teen years, and it tapered off since then. But sometimes they feel like they need to let you know they are still good at it.
Getting called early in the morning out of a dead sleep is one of those times. (Well maybe not quite dead as you have a child and need to be available for anything.) So in your death warmed over look you are shocked into alertness, desiring that you should remember that they want to help you get clothes for your daughter that day. While you are not adverse to this adventure, you do know that your child, at this point, hates to try on clothes. (Yes you are being tortured for hiding in the clothes racks to avoid trying on clothes when you were a child.) And it’s not exactly the best way to have an enjoyable day. But you know it needs to get done, for your daughter, and for your parent.
So after much prodding to get out in the morning, because after two days of crazy you know it’s not going to be easy, you get yourself and child out the door to start your day. Forget that you may have had plans to do anything else in the morning as it’s been blown up by two days of crazy and you have to unwind. This is mandatory not only for your sake but for the sake of your over extended child.
So after attempts at completing your Sunday morning plans, the first stop we took on our detour is to a little Italian lunch place called Lascari’s. I remember the amazing hot ham and cheese sandwiches that I had there when I was growing up, and I wanted something light. (Ham and cheese light? It’s lighter than pizza so there!) But when I get there and look at the menu, they have a free child meal with the purchase of an adult meal on Sunday.
To get the deal, a sandwich is not going to cut it, but things have to be looking up because of the free meal. It’s only right that things have got to be getting better. And the meal is amazing. Not only is the Lobster Ravioli I purchased well worth the price, my daughter ravaged her spaghetti and Meatballs. I expected to see a half eaten plate. There was not a noodle left to be seen. I was half expecting snarling sounds from the other end of the table.
Then we go to the store to purchase something to make for dinner, which again goes smoothly. Afterward, we wait around for my parents to get home to be able to get the money and go to the store for clothes shopping. My parents, whose promptness in the morning woke us earlier than we were ready, made sure that they were not quite as prompt on the way back. They were two hours late. On most weekends this wouldn’t be that much of a problem. On the Sunday evening, before I take my daughter back to school the next morning, it’s drama.
First, every parent has rituals that they practice with their kids. Whether it’s prayer before a meal, or taking a shower and combing out hair at night, you have something you do to establish some kind of a schedule for your kids. It’s good to give them something to count on. Making us get to a clothing store at 5:00 P.M. on a Sunday evening and try on a bunch of clothes is like an atom bomb to the schedule. (And it’s not exactly like we have been following the schedule this weekend as it is.) At 6:00 is dinner; 7:00 is shower; 8:00 is watching a TV show while I comb out her hair; 8:45 is brushing her teeth and taking any medication she needs; and 9:00 is bedtime.
Now I admit that we fudge on that schedule from time to time. There are things that throw you off. But if you are trying to get clothing that you want your child to try on that makes it so you don’t get home until 6:30 in the evening, and you haven’t even started to make your dinner, things are not going your way. And of course to try to explain this to your parent, whose sole purpose for this misadventure was to get your daughter to try on the clothing rather than just purchasing it and never trying it on, is a non-starter. So we go to the store.
I had counted on a friend of mine who works at this clothing store to be there, but was not. Thankfully we found a helpful female sales associate to get some clothes my daughter would appreciate for someone her size. She’s that fun size which is every dad’s nightmare. Everyone wants their child to be tall. Being short leaves you the opportunity to be bullied and picked on, even as a female.
Tallness is great, until the moment just before your child reaches that magical stage called puberty. It’s not at puberty that is the problem with clothing. At least then they are filling out the clothes the stores have designed. It’s just before that with your taller child that there is a problem. They are too tall to be wearing the kids’ sizes, even in the extra-large category. Their height makes it so that they need to wear something in the women’s size, even as large as a medium. But by the time you reach a medium in women’s clothing, they expect you to have a bust. A ten-year-old usually does not. And if they did, it would be a whole other problem.
I would go into details about what happened next, but I am going to spare my daughter and myself the embarrassment. I am sure as a parent that you can understand all of the fun things that could possibly happen in a clothing changing area. Thankfully the sales associate was very good about it all and we were able to get some clothing. The hard thing was to actually pay for the women’s clothing and realizing how little you were getting for how much. One size smaller in the kid’s section and the clothes would be relatively cheap. But by the time you paying for adult clothing, you can forget it. Ah, the advantages of growing up!
On the drive home I am sitting listening to my daughter explain to me about the benefits of shopping at Target, which may not be as good as she thinks but certainly has been good to us. I’m trying to explain to her why my mother wanted us to shop where she wanted us to shop. It really would have been alright had my friend, who my daughter knows and trusts, been there to help us with the clothes. But there is nothing I can do about that now. And my head is spinning with all that needs to get done before I get my daughter to bed.
It’s all one big blur from there. Get in the shower. Get your night clothes on. Choose some things you want to wear in the morning. Get your stuff together in the morning to get packed. Find your medicine. It’s one command after another as my daughter winds down from the wild and crazy weekend. I’m getting the dinner prepared and having her eat it while I get mine ready and sit down to eat with her. After we finish, my daughter is working on a puzzle with Rapunzel as I comb out her hair and she watches a little TV.
Following that, I give her medication and then get her into bed. Usually, I let her watch about 20 minutes of TV in her room before calling it a night, but tonight we cannot find the channel changers for her TV. Of course! So she lies back and gets herself under her “quilty” as she relaxes herself in bed.
I don’t know whether any of you father’s do this but my daughter likes me to be there until she can fall asleep. I know that this is changing very soon, and has already begun to change. But for now, she appreciates that. So I’m lying on the floor waiting for her breaths to slow, and even possibly hearing a little snore, before I pick myself off the bedroom carpet and head back to my room.
My day is finished! My weekend is finished! I am finished! Well not quite . . . I do have to get her up for school the next morning, and I am wiped out by the entire weekend. But I still wouldn’t have missed a moment of it. I’m already missing her by the middle of Monday, and of course, this is Wednesday as I type up these last words on the page and I am missing her already.
But the moral? The thing I promised you a couple of days ago and haven’t told you yet… What is the moral? Let me see. What I will tell you is this. We get so busy in our lives that we rarely take the time to engage with our kids. And while I was the most exhausted parent known to man, sleepwalking through my Monday, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. Yes, dads, it is important to give your kids structure. And it is essential that you help them develop the habits that will make them successful as adults. But we cannot do this from the front seat of a car, or two minutes before bedtime with that good night kiss. We develop those relationships through time and effort.
Whether this means going on a long road trip, camping out in the stars under the beach, or planning a wild and crazy weekend where you barely have time to take a breath, we establish those connections to aid our kids when they really need us. And as a single parent, it’s even more important with the little time we have to build those bridges with our kids. That way when they talk about Lexington and Concord (the city and not the jelly), or their friend at school who has stopped talking to them, or even their dreams about what they want to do when they grow up, you can speak into their lives in a meaningful way that they will appreciate. So my answer is, just do it! And don’t forget the energy drink on Monday!
Would love to hear about your crazy weekends. This is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life