I don't know how they do it. I've been a single parent for four days now, while hubby is on a business trip, and while things go well most of the time (especially meals, since when he is gone the kids and I basically eat over the sink), there are times when I just do not know how children of single parents grow up to be adults without being murdered by the overwhelmed person with the sole responsibility for their care.
Yesterday I got up at 6, slugged down two cups of coffee, got the kids up, dressed, breakfasted, teeth brushed, hair done, backpacks packed lunches ready and out the door; then I worked in the office for four hours or so; then I mowed the side yard and pruned the azalea bush; then I went to physical therapy for the arthritic back, then picked Rebecca up at school to take her and the sewing machine (which keeps jamming) back to the sewing machine place so the two of us could learn how to operate the damn thing. Endured one snit fit from Rebecca on the way because she wanted to eat dinner at McDonald's and I said no, but got past that, arrived at the store and then had to wait while an old lady in front of me told the proprietor about her vacation in minute, excroooooociating detail. Finally get my turn, get the kinks out of the machine, back in the car, go pick up Suzanne, get back home and announce that we are having meatballs for dinner. The kids have requested meatballs on many occasions, mind you, but somehow this announcement now creates mass consternation. "We're having WHAT?" Suzanne yells, as if I have just announced we are eating sauteed monkey shit. (She was the one who really really wanted meatballs.) I serve them anyway, ignoring the gagging noises. Rebecca eats two and then asks for a brownie. "No," I say. "You didn't eat enough dinner to qualify for dessert."
"WHAT??" she says, as if I have just announced I am running away from home with the front singer for Counting Crows. Suzanne, meanwhile, is whining that Rebecca has a sewing machine, can she have a sewing machine too, please please?? Somehow, while she is doing this and I am clearing the table, she manages to spray shaving cream all over the bathroom and spill a glass of water on the floor in the family room. I decide to distract her with the promise of an art project, which we will do as soon as we take Rebecca to her math tutor's house. I have to take the project out of her hands at least six times while Rebecca is putting on her shoes, saying each time: "Wait." This word is not in her vocabulary. We drop Rebecca off, but not before Suzanne has a snit fit in the car because she wants to set up a blanket tent over her seat and will NOT sit down until it is configured correctly, and thus is not in her seat belt. "Just a minnit," she keeps saying calmly, while Rebecca and I both scream at her, "SIT DOWN AND FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT!!" Back at the house, Suzanne and I embark on the art project, which involves bangle bracelets and beads--millions and millions of tiny little beads. Why I thought this was a good idea I don't know, but Suzanne takes to it at first and has a great time, even though we are making a huge mess. Then, when we've made all the bracelets, I get the brilliant idea of glue and construction paper and sprinkling beads on the glue to create designs. Suzanne is entranced until she tries to write her name and messes up a letter.
"I CAN'T WRITE MY NAME I CAN'T DO IT!!!!!" she wails, and proceeds into meltdown. Ooo-kay. I figure we have just enough time to vaccuum up the mess before picking up Rebecca so I haul out the vaccuum cleaner--and then I have to fight Suzanne for it, because Suzanne has never met a vaccuum cleaner she is not in love with. We have managed to scatter teensy little beads over the entire house; I even feel them between my toes when I walk into the living room. The clean-up, obviously, takes three times as long as the art project, especially when it's being done by two people snarling, "GIVE ME THE VACCUUM THIS MINUTE!" "NO I WANT IT GIVE IT TO ME!!" But we get it done, pick up Rebecca, I send the kids to the showers, and suddenly the end of the day is looming. Thank. You. God.
Then Rebecca appears, sopping wet from the shower. "I'm hungry, Mom," she says plaintively. This is the kid who swore at dinner that two meatballs stuffed her so full that another bite would result in projectile vomiting. "Eat an apple," I say.
"WHAT??" She recoils as if I have just suggested that she should go lick the toilet. "Have a glass of milk," I say. She looks at me as if to say, You are not my mother, you evil alien woman. Meanwhile, "I want chocolate milk!" Suzanne wails, so I serve up chocolate milk to her while Rebecca storms upstairs in a huff. "Go pick some books to read," I tell Suzanne, and head into the living room to turn out the lights....to discover that Suzanne has somehow, in the 30 seconds of free time she has had since arriving home, constructed ANOTHER pillow fort in the living room. Pillows and blankets are strewn around, the chairs are overturned so as to hold the blankets in place, and I scream, "WHAT???" as if I've just discovered a corpse. "Goddammit, I spend all day picking up this house and 10 minutes with the living room in order is all I ask!"--and as I rant I snatch up blankets and a teddy bear and hurl them into Suzanne's room, while Suzanne wails, "I'm sorry Mommy!", hurls herself into bed and burrows under the blanket.
Five minutes later, I crawl in beside her. "It's been a long day, sweetie," I say. "Sorry I yelled."
"It's okay," she says. "But mommy, next time, don't throw the teddy bear. It hurts him. He's alive, you know."
"Okay," I say. I pat teddy on his stomach. "Does teddy forgive me too?" She puts her ear up to his face and listens a minute, then waggles her hand. "Eh. Maybe."