Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Are We There Yet? A Single Woman’s Guide to Parenting
Having lived my entire adult life without the constraints and restraints of marriage or, thankfully, parenting, I recently found myself knee-deep in that world without having given birth.
My great disclaimer: I love my nieces and nephew. All three nieces and one nephew have intertwined themselves so deeply into my heart; they will never be free from me. Much to their dismay, I am certain. And yet, as much as I love them without condition, this semi-parental time has yet again reminded me that there are those who simply need not reproduce. I am one of those people.
My brother and his wife jetted off to a far away land (Israel) for what I am sure was an absolute trip of a lifetime. I was asked to stay with his children. Before he left, I made my brother sign over a power of attorney so that I would be able to step in and take over should an emergency occur. Towards the end of my parenting tenure, I became certain that should an Al-Quada terrorist abscond with my brother and his wife, all George W would need to do to locate Osama, would be to send me to the Pit. I would rather take on Osama than take on the full-time parenting responsibilities of a 17, 16 and 10 year old any day.
Having a great foundational network of helpers is essential to regular parenting… even more so for the “I-don’t-have-a-husband-to-help-me” single girl who finds herself in the throes of parental responsibility overnight. Grandparents fill that foundation nicely. Throw some money at them and they will cook for you each night, ensuring the tykes will have a well-balanced meal and will not live off of McDonald’s or Fruit Loops for the entire length of your stay. Grandparents are generally retired anyway, so they will also constantly call the children and wear them out, giving you a break from what has been the constant phoning of yourself over the years. Try to catch the eye of the child being tortured at the time and remind them that Nana and Granddaddy are just old people with nothing better to do… and they will take it all in stride.
Having one of the children with a car is a big help too! She can typically fend for herself and help the hauling of the other non-driving children to places of interest and responsibility. Of course, she cannot remember that she needs to fill up her car with gas, and will use that to perhaps get you to call in to her school to explain her tardiness.
Having a 16 year old who makes you laugh until you want to throw up is always fun. Some people just live life to the fullest… and the 16 year old certainly does that! There is always a joke, a snippet, and a story that will leave you shaking your head specifically when she turns into a ravenous eating machine that cannot be controlled. There are not enough Fruit Loops in the world to satisfy her hunger… and the fact that she is skinny as a rail will simply make you want to smack her in the head!
The 10 year old boy is undoubtedly outnumbered and believes himself to be at LEAST 16. But alas, as he still crawls into bed with the 16 year old when he is scared, you are reminded of his tenderness. He will attempt to explain how he made that bad grade and his argument (weak, at best) will be delivered with great passion. He’s the sneaky one of the bunch and will do his best to talk you into renting an R-rated movie. You easily see through his wily ways. At 10, he simply is no match for you.
You must realize that you are still dealing with kids and not throw them into the adult mentality that you are so accustomed to. This will help in dealing with the consequences of being locked out of the home with no way to get back in. Of course, the oldest child has a key… on her key ring… at her new job… on the other side of town. In an effort to teach a lesson, you subject the 16 and 10 year old to spending the entire evening with Nana and Granddaddy, arguing over who gets to be on the computer, or what channel they are going to watch. You patiently wait for the 17 year old to come home and hand over her key and take the now fighting 16 and 10 year old home… it being well past the 10 year old’s bedtime.
On the drive over the 10 year old calls the 16 year old an imbecile. It is thrown back at the 10 year old from the back seat and she is challenged to spell the word. Her first letter is wrong, and you simply shake your head. The 10 year old also attempts to spell the word, and does so incorrectly. Now the real fun begins as the incorrect spelling of a word is debated until you have had ENOUGH and calmly allow that neither child can spell, and you’d really rather they didn’t make another sound until you are at home. They know better than to continue the argument.
You spend the latter part of the Sabbath with the children cleaning the house, it being just a few days before Mom and Dad return. You agree to do the laundry, if they will just bring it to you. BIG MISTAKE single woman! As a single girl, you know that as long as you have clean underwear, you are good to go! As a college student, you learned the importance of buying cheap underwear just so you didn’t have to do laundry more than once a week. You used the same bath towel for a week… hanging it up to dry each day. There has never been… in your single adult life… a reason to do laundry for six hours straight. Ever.
You cannot imagine where all the clothing came from. You have to pause mid-day in order to purchase more detergent. You are still washing, still drying, still folding until the dark hours of the night. You are amazed… you are grateful for your singleness.