Ah, fall. The time of back to school, cooler weather, football and… business trip season for my Lovely Bride.
She usually travels for work in October and early November and then again in late January and February. This year started early, however, because she’s one of six chosen from 400 for a leadership development program held with another university on the West Coast. Factor in travel days plus visits to her prospects in the Northwest, and she’s gone all week.
I don’t begrudge her this time at all, because it’s energizng her in her work, which provides well for our family. And really, it doesn’t change my routine one bit. While the kids have been at school this week, I’ve kept busy with another freelance article (assigned on Thursday, due on Tuesday – awk!), and we’ve had workers cutting holes in our attic walls all week installing central air conditioning. (I want to drop the window units out of the third floor window, but it would probably crack the patio.)
The hardest part comes after the children go to bed. Then there’s nobody else to help with the dishes, the laundry and walking the dog. There’s nobody to talk to. And worst of all, there’s nobody else to fold the damn socks.
Because of the time difference and the intensity of her class, we’ve been limited to just a few minutes on the phone when the kids get home from school and she’s got a few minutes for lunch. Then when Lovely Bride called last night, I got verbal diarrhea:
Lovely Bride: What?
I try to limit the whining about her absence, especially after I ran into a friend whose husband is in India for two weeks. Turns out she stays up way when her spouse is away, too, because there’s nobody to go to bed with at night. And compared with military spouses whose loved ones are gone for months or a year or more, I really have nothing to complain about.
I have tried to man up and call in some chits for a little relief. Neighbor pals watched Carla while Eddie had a soccer game Monday and practice Wednesday. And I used some “baby bucks” from our neighborhood babysitting co-op Tuesday night so I could go to a Safe Routes to School meeting for our neighborhood.
It was a big step for me to actually ask for help instead of just suffering through and dragging my 5-year-old to soccer and then snapping at her to quit acting like a dirt monkey. When I’m actually paying attention to what she’s doing, that is.
During our Washington museum trip yesterday, I brought along neighbor pals Caleb and Tina. They’re the same ages as Eddie and Carla, so it’s a beautiful matchup. It actually keeps my kids out of my hair better when playmates keep them busy, though the excitement made the 40-mile interstate drive a wee bit hairy at times.
My kids were crestfallen when I made them go inside for supper the minute we got home – at the very moment neighbor kid Harris came scootering up the sidewalk. I was honest with Eddie: I didn’t want him to go out because I couldn’t bear fighting with him when it was time to come in. If he could promise to come in without complaint, then he could go out for half an hour. Ditto Carla, whom I dumped with a mom across the street watching her kids play outside.
Okay, they both said.
But then when I came to fetch Eddie, he flung his scooter down. I grabbed it and told him I was taking it away for three days because he knows not to throw it.
“But YOU made me lose the race!” he wailed.
“I don’t care about the race,” I told him. “I care that you don’t break your scooter after I told you not to throw it down like that.”
“But the more you remind me, the more I forget!” he cried. Cue the waterworks.
“But Eddie, I didn’t remind you. Time to come in.”
Lovely Bride reminded me that spitefulness and gotcha aren’t two of the best parenting tactics in the book. Yes I know, I answered, but I thought we agreed no more nagging from Daddy.
We both sighed.
She gets home Saturday morning on the redeye and will get some shuteye while each kid has soccer. Then it’s overnight to Virginia for my dad’s 75th birthday party.
Then on Sunday we get to be a family again.
All four of us.
In our own home.