Spring Break 2016: The year I pretended to be a parent

My nieces are in the bath. It’s their last day here, which makes me really sad, but also a little relieved.

All of you that are parents, how do you do it, every day, all day? I’m so exhausted. The house, which was spotless on Friday (or pretty close to it) is a wreck. I just discovered a glob of cookie dough on my forearm and I’m pretty sure I have sprinkles in my hair. Also, the girls have been almost silent for about five minutes. Be right back.

“I wonder how mermaids wash their hair,” Flower says, her face the only thing sticking out of the water. I look from her to Lea, who gives me a huge smile and says, “We’re mermaids!” as she slides down the back of the tub and into the water. I laugh and just like that, my heart feels huge and I think, “This is why people have kids. This is how they survive.”

They’ve been here almost four days. Brandon brought them down Saturday and then stayed with us through Sunday afternoon. Flower is 10 and Lea is 8. We went to the Science Spectrum and saw the butterflies. Then we spent hours going through all of the exhibits. I thought we were all going to pass out from laughter as we each took turns on the centrifugal force exhibit, spinning and giggling as we alternately shouted, “Faster!” and “Stop! STOP!”

 

We went to the movies and saw Zootopia, and their laughter at the sloths during and after the movie made me laugh harder than anything we saw on the screen. After, we had ice cream, where Lea got gummi bears (again) and realized (again) that they aren’t that great in ice cream. Soon, Brandon went back to Amarillo and since then, we’ve mostly hung out at the house. We made lots of cookies.

 

 

When I moved to Lubbock in July, one of the first questions they asked me was when they could spend the night. Spring break seemed like the perfect time to bring them down. Now that I’m getting ready to take them back home, it feels like four days passed way too quickly. If there was actually a choice, I feel like it’d be really hard for me to not keep them here. I love them so much.

But at the same time, it’s … nice to know that they’ll be home soon and I’ll be back to a child-free life. Four days as a pseudo parent was great but like I said, I don’t know how all of you parents do it. Kids don’t ask you to build your life around them, but really, what other way is there?

You worry about someone abducting them at the museum, so you pay 99 percent of your attention to them and the other one percent to the exhibits they need help with or want you to see. You want to use the wand yourself and also want them to get a couple of turns at the bubble-making station, but there are at least 15 other kids trying to get a turn, too, and besides, after your kids are done, they’re already headed to the next station and so you forgo wrapping your body in a bubble, thinking, “Maybe I’ll come back by myself.” But you know you won’t because it’s not the same without them.

 

 

At the movies, you’re flabbergasted by how large the theater actually is and calculate how safe your seats are and how long it would take you to get to an exit or away from a gunman, and then are irritated and anxious because everyone else got there first and took all the “good” seats. You spend half the time on the lookout and then miss even more of the movie when Miss Tiny Bladder has to take a bathroom break right at the peak of action.

There are the hundreds of everyday things you can never get to.  You have homework? Too bad, they’re bored. You’re in the bathroom? Knock knock. You’re hungry? “Can you get me something to drink?”

You think once they go to sleep, you can get some stuff done. But by the time they do, you’re so exhausted, you pass out, too. Yesterday, I thought, I’ll start on that assignment that’s due next Tuesday after they fall asleep. Instead, I washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen and started a load of laundry. I woke up in my computer chair with a blank Word doc on the screen.

Is it this hard all the time or is it because this is basically amateur hour and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing?

It’s 3 p.m. and I just realized I haven’t eaten anything today and still need to shower. I want to take them to the park like I promised, but I also need  an oil change before we get on the road, and I need to pack my stuff for the rest of spring break in Amarillo. In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to furiously type this up ( I apologize for any errors I’ve not had the chance to catch), I’ve had to check on them SEVEN times. Once when they were mermaids; twice because Lea wanted to “feel like we’re in a real pool” and so Flower was screaming about the cold water Lea had turned on; another to stop what sounded like they had figured out how to cannonball into the shallow tub (there’s water EVERYWHERE); two more times to make sure they were actually washing up.

The last time was when they called me in to show me their soapy hair, smashed against their scalps.

 

 

“Now we’re REAL boys!” they exclaimed, pointing at their heads. Pretty soon, we were all laughing uncontrollably.

Walking back to my desk, I’m overwhelmed by the glitter on the floor, the dirty dishes in the sink, the pile of blankets on the living room floor and the pile of laundry that needs to be folded and packed. But I’m also really sad at how clean the house will be next week without them around and how quiet it will be without their voices and laughter and questions. I’m sad that I won’t get to see Lea’s face light up as she’s showing me an exhibit at the museum or as she’s explaining the collage she made that says, ‘Mony is EVIL” in glitter. I’m sad that I won’t get to hear Flower belting, “Eye of the Tiger” four times in a row on Rock Band or hear her telling me again about the “puberty talk” they had at school last week.  Most of all, I’m going to miss the hugs and love and THEM.

Right now, though, I’ve got to go. It sounds like they’re out of the tub and dancing in towels to the final scene in Napoleon Dynamite. The front door has several clear panels. I hope they have towels.

 

Napoleon dance

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