Okay - earlier in the week, I gave a shout out to the single parents. I'm serious about that. This week, while extremely fun and entertaining was also quite stress filled and also gave me a whole new insight to "family life".
I realize - as I have for a while and my sister Denise can attest to - that being single is a selfish way of life. Not a single soul makes any demands on me. With the exception of work, which is a given. Even that I could take or leave, realistically I am beholden only to myself. If I wanted to quit my job, sell my home, and live in a yurt on the profits - no one is going to stop me. If I want to sleep in until 3 pm on Saturday afternoon, wake up and eat a brick of cheese, and go back to bed, again, no one is going to interrupt that agenda.
So going from that selfish and self indulgent life - to being a Single Aunt of three was a shock to the system. A good shock - it makes me understand why Denise doesn't always have time to listen to my witty banter about geeked up things like scooters and event planning. It also made me realize while I was trying to have conversations with the other family members that called...there's a valid reason that she hangs up on us so quickly. It's because her children are inventive and busy.
They are great kids - wicked smart - endlessly enthusiastic - loud - creative - demanding but helpful. For example, one day, Isabel had left her coat upstairs. So while we were having a discussion about coats and coming upstairs with me to get it (in an effort to show that life is easier when things are in their proper place [side note: Damn it Dad you were right about the whole, cleaning and ordered life business. I hate when that happens.] and I am thinking - you're never too young to get in on these "lessons") Well, Grace offered to run upstairs and grab Isabel's coat. When she returned, Isabel, the 3 year old, mind you... said, "Oh Grace, I appreciate that you got my coat." C'mon - how many 3 year olds say appreciate and use it in proper context?
These are the types of kids that say please and thank you because they mean it - not because they are prompted, falsely encouraged or bribed into doing such behaviors. With the occasional gentle reminder - of course - after all, they are human kids and not some sort of strange Iowa pod-people.
It was in the "small" moments that you realize why parents are frazzled. For instance when you're not in charge of a little person you forget that you have to speak in specifics. You can't say, "Please go pick up your room." Because when they are 8 and under - they don't get that you really meant, "If I step on one more rigid and uncharacteristically sharp dolly hand you will wake up to find all of your doll's hands have magically melted into the round little balls that won't pierce the soles of adult feet like some sort of Mid-Century torture - so if you like your dolls to have 10 fingers, put them in their dolly beds!"
We had a blissfully welcome late start day on Thursday. School didn't start until 10:15* I, in my wisdom and strong desire to sleep past 5:45 a.m. made the following statement to Grace, age 8. "Hey Grace, tomorrow's a late start day, so your alarm doesn't need to go off at 6:00 a.m. Okay?"
She responded in kind, "Oh, that's no problem, it's set for 6:15. And the 2nd alarm is set for 6:30."
What? What? Oh, I get it - see I said you don't have to set if for ANY time during the 6:00 hour and you thought...okay - actually, I can GUARANTEE that all of you will be awake LONG before you need to be in order for me to feed you a proper breakfast and get your butts to school. And this was true. Thursday night was the night that Isabelly woke up at 4:30 - stayed up until 5:30 and Grace woke up at 6:45. Thanks for sleeping in buddy!
It's other strange occurrences, like the fact that even though the Ikea bowls have no visible differences to the adult eye - these kids could determine from WHICH of the white bowls they preferred to eat. Which ultimately meant that one of the children was eating from the unloved white Ikea bowl. Really? What's different about the bowls. "Nothing." Okay, then WHY the fuss? "I dunno."
Also - I forgot about the elements of the random and the totally bizarre. We decided to put the sheets on Mom & Dad's bed as a group so that they'd have a nice comfy, clean bed to crawl into when they got home. At one point between stretching out the fitted sheets in ways that would make Martha Stewart go bonkers, Grace happened upon the dryer sheet. She immediately gripped the sheet in her fist, pumped it above her head and stated triumphantly "LUCKY!" Well, upon the realization to the other two chuckleheads standing in the room that there was only 1 dryer sheet and apparently because it had been declared "LUCKY!" they immediately assumed that this was some sort of vile laundry plot where they were being cheated out of the joys of discovering their own lucky used dryer sheet. Lucky dryer sheets? I don't get this behavior. It's random. It's odd. It makes no sense, and I relish in nonsense! My sister has since confirmed that she does not play some bribing game where kids can help out with laundry in hopes of finding their very own lucky dryer sheets that can be redeemed for things like Nintendo DS systems, or ponies, or cats that haven't been diagnosed with feline leukemia shortly after they go home to live with Nana which is why we don't have a cat anymore.**
It's those little things that make the days crazy and treasured all rolled up into one. The true moments that make you scratch your head and you think, "What if there *were* lucky dryer sheets?"
*Actually, school started at 10. So they were late for their late start day...a fact that was brought to light at precisely 3:15 when they were picked up from school. I believe this tardy was forgiven, the one that we got on Friday - well that was legitimate tardy - so if your kids don't get some perfect on-time attendance certificate at the end of the year Denise, I apologize sincerely. Just remind yourself that you came home and they weren't malnourished or ceased to function normally under my care.
**R.I.P. Shiny Glass Luna - the cat, who went home to live with Nana because of "allergies" that was then diagnosed with feline leukemia and died. Which apparently is how the story gets told when retail clerks at Cracker Barrel ask young children if they have any pets.
Aimee (a 30-something clerk at Cracker Barrel that had her own 3-year old son and kept asking about Isabel... "How old is she? When's her birthday again? She's quite quick isn't she?): Hey there. Do you like those? (points at the motorized hamsters that Isabel and I are playing with.) Do you have any pets?
Isabel (my charming 3 year old lunch date): Well, I do have a big black dog. We used to have a cat, Shiny. But it went to my Nana's house and then Shiny got sick and died. So we don't have a cat. But we do have a Patchy. That's my big black dog.
Aimee: Oh my. Well it's nice that you have a dog, even if you don't have a cat.
Isabel: No, because our cat died at Nana's. Do you have new batteries for this one? (Handing Aimee a robotic hamster that apparently doesn't have fresh batteries)
Aimee: I think I do.
Aimee and Isabel continued to have a lovely conversation about hamsters and batteries.