As a parent, I’ve witnessed some horrible things in my time. Poo in the bath. The time Kara insisted on wearing a stripey top with spotty leggings. All sorts of stuff that leaves permanent scars. But nothing quite prepares you for the horror of taking over from your wife and doing the school and preschool run with three children single-handed and without a safety net.
The most challenging part of Single Dad Week for me has been picking up the morning routine, simply because it’s not something I normally play much part in other than a few peripheral tasks. Before this week, I’ve never had sole responsibility for getting all three kids out of the door and to their appointed destinations at the correct time – or at least something approaching it.
Heather has a well-drilled routine for this that she makes look far smoother than it is, which I’ve been trying to replicate this week. Naturally, I’ve been taking twice as long to achieve half as much, despite diligently doing as much as I can in advance.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Wake up. Struggle to rouse a sleeping Kara. Ask the boys (who have been up for an hour already) to stop playing Minecraft.
Grab breakfast stuff: 950 varieties of cereal, yogurts, toast, butter, jam, chocolate spread, milk, juice, fruit, smoked salmon, blinis, last night’s leftover wine. Bite my lip so I don’t swear when I drop three of the above. Clean up resultant mess.
Tell the boys to stop playing Minecraft.
Shout at the boys to stop playing Minecraft and join us at the dining table this minute or there will be (unspecified) trouble.
Confiscate tablets when there is still no movement forthcoming.
Breakfast. Get kids dressed. Ask kids to brush their teeth. Realise that – yet again – I should have done those two steps the other way round when one of them smears toothpaste on their clothes.
Check watch. Five minutes early! Announce it’s time to leave. Actually depart ten minutes late after a last-minute round of toilet visits and I’ve-lost-my-[insert random item here].
Swear that tomorrow it will be different. It never is.
Actually, in truth it hasn’t been that bad, although I’m not proud of some of the strong-arm tactics I’ve employed at times to chivvy the kids along. We’ve left more or less on time every morning. Nobody has been dropped off at the wrong place or left behind, forgotten, in the evening. Nothing major has been forgotten. None of our neighbours have called the child protection services.
In fact, as the picture at the top of this post demonstrates, there have been as many lovely moments as there have been harrowing ones where all I’ve wanted to do is curl up on the floor in the foetal position quietly sobbing.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be hugely relieved when Heather’s back, though! I’ll be happy to hand the reins back over, but there’s definitely more that I could (and should) be doing. Now that I’ve had to walk a mile in Heather’s shoes, I’ve got a better idea of where I can help out most effectively to make everyone’s lives a bit easier.