I just finished five days as a single parent. Yes, I’m exhausted. But beyond the fatigue, I’m also glad to have had the opportunity to be with my daughters for such an extended period of time.
*First, a disclaimer. I am not technically working right now. I write in the morning and am not on a deadline, so my schedule is much more relaxed. Had I been trying to juggle a full-time “job”, I don’t know how smoothly all of this would have gone down. In no way do I feel as accomplished as the true single parents out there. You have my utmost respect, and I’ll gladly buy you a drink, or let you take a nap.*
My girls realize I’m a work horse. I enjoy doing, being active, for as many hours of the day as possible. We went on bike rides, walks with the dogs, trips to the park, and swimming, so much swimming. They took advantage of the fact that on all of these excursions, I’d carry the bag, the water bottles, be responsible for the leash and both dogs, the towels, the snacks, the ipod and docking station, and on and on. And I enjoyed this position. It let me know how my girls view me. I serve them. I’m a staunch believer in gender equality, which means I get to choose, and so do they. Our unspoken agreement of let’s see how much Dad can do, was perfect, both ways.
And there had to be entertainment. So we took trips to the library–got books and movies and signed up for summer reading, went and saw Monsters University, and then worked on our own story telling–outlining the plot for our first children’s book (it has to do with caterpillars).
Throughout all this, of course, I had to maintain my home, the lawn, and make meals and provide small touches of dining fun–like smoothies and Jell-O cake baking. And, yes, I had to provide care for my youngest’s type 1 diabetes, as well as my own. That was a juggling act unto itself, but one I have a lifetime of practice with, so managed quite well.
Most important, I was able to sit and listen to them. My daughters talk to my wife about “girl” things all of the time. She wasn’t around, so I was the sounding board. Our impromptu meetings were my favorite part of our time together. I gave advice about manners and etiquette, bike riding, boys, fashion, self-esteem, education, religion and creativity. I offer the same when my wife is around, but this time, these moments felt much different. I think because they know I have no filter–my wife is smart and censors me–but they also knew along with the honesty, I would not just spit platitudes, but provide examples, analogies that help them see. I teach for ten months out of the year, but I feel as if I taught more in these five days than in those 180.
Yesterday my wife returned. We were all excited to welcome her back, especially my daughters, who clung to her like magnets and later demanded a girls-only movie night with her. But before they segregated us, my daughters told my wife of all we had done. They pulled out the list that they kept track with and told stories of our days.
I liked the man in those vignettes. He seemed like a good person, the kind I’d like around my daughters.