Given the recent trend of recruiting new workers who apparently perform tasks as efficiently at those already in place, but at a lower cost to the employer, I thought I'd treat myself. I will be temporarily outsourcing my job as Father. Interested applicants will be paid 50% of my usual salary, and should carefully read the following:
Mornings can be tough:
- Waking up: My alarm clock gains time throughout the week for some reason. This means that, although it is set for 6:30am, by Friday you will be awoken a full fifteen minutes earlier wondering why you hadn't readjusted the thing on Wednesday.
- Breakfast: My son has begun to help make it. This new show of maturity and interest in being an active member of the family's morning routine is heartening. However, don't dawdle in bed. Having an 8-year-old operate the kettle, Bodem, and toaster while rummaging through the fridge for a full carton of milk can result in a clean-up period which more than makes up for any time gained by not having to do it yourself.
- Hair knots: My daughter gets them. You should wet her hair by filling the palm of your hand with warm water, then applying the load to her head. Once the whole head is moist, begin at the root, brushing downwards slowly. Should you encounter a knot, hold the strand just above the knot, supporting the slack as work through the knot with the brush in your other hand. Important note: you have fifty-two seconds to complete this operation. After this period of time, my daughter will inform you you are not doing it properly, and insist on taking over. Try not to despair that every minute she uses to arrange her hair is one you will not have to enjoy your coffee.
- Getting them out the door: They will always ask if you can walk them to school. You will say the following: "Sure, as long as you don't fool around in the bathroom after breakfast and you get ready quickly enough."
By Friday, you will wonder what their problem is. How can two people so badly want something and yet so consistently ignore the simple parameters and instructions which would grant them that thing. It is important to be consistent. If they take too long, drive them. They will be mad at you, but that is better than teaching them that walking with Outsourced Daddy takes precedence over being on time. Don't waste time wondering why they're mad at you despite their own lollygagging being responsible for having to rush to school. You're a dad, now, not a logistics expert.
Pickups and Playgrounds:
- Pickup: Wait with the other moms and dads at the designated spot. You'll recognize it instantly; it's where all the neighborhood dogs automatically bring the grade-school parents at 2:20pm.
When my kids come out the side door, DO NOT APPROACH THEM! The sidewalk you are standing on is the designated waiting area. If you attempt to cross the school driveway and approach the children, you will be 'Excuse-Me''d, or clicked at by either the school Principal, a teacher, one of the parents, or one of four black lab retrievers. Also, brace yourself. The kids will charge at you. While I've learned to absorb the humiliation of being knocked down by an 8-year-old my legs can no longer support; I fear the trauma will be more than you can bear, temp worker.
- Playground: The path home travels through two playgrounds. The kids will want to stop in both. This is fine. My neighbor and her son will join you for the walk home. She is a lovely lady, and the adult conversation is a refreshing change from office talk, or painting the living room ceiling. Inevitably, my daughter will need your support in preventing shoulder dislocation as she swings from monkey bars. You'll wonder why she's not playing with the two boys or on another apparatus less likely to pull her sockets apart. By Thursday you'll really be eager for her to entertain herself while you enjoy just a few more minutes of grown-up time before beginning homework and supper. Too bad. When she asks you to help her, she does this little thing with her eyes which reminds you that, although she's only six, one day she'll be sixteen and won't want to go to the park at all.
- The Walk Home: One or both of the children will ask "What's for supper?" Unless the answer is 'pizza' or 'spaghetti', don't answer!!! It will only lead to hours of debate and alternate suggestions, none of which I have left you the ingredients for. If, by accident, you do answer, for example, 'Eggplant Parmesan', have your threat of no T.V. this weekend prepared. That will quiet things somewhat.
- Homework: My son has homework daily. My daughter has none, daily. If my wife is with you, the two of you can decide how best to divide yourselves among the two of them. Should you be alone...be careful! The Boy needs supervision, The Girl needs distraction. She's allowed to play educational computer games while he does his homework. Yes, yes, Outsourced Worker, I know our den and basement are filled with more toys than there are molecules of breathable atmosphere on the planet. Yes, she would probably be better off building Lego villages and doing puzzles. You're free to discuss that with her; but, spare some energy, there's that Eggplant Parmesan for supper.
Supper and Bedtime:
- Supper Prep: At 5pm one of three things will have happened:
1) The kids will be occupying themselves outside, miraculously leaving you alone to assemble the E. Parmesan.
2) You will have followed the kids outside after homework, and become caught up in conversation with the neighbors. An hour from now you will wander into the kitchen, wonder where the time went, and pray there's a box of Kraft Dinner in the fridge.
3) Exhausted, you will put the kids in front of the T.V. for "30 minutes" while you make supper. If you are the kind of person who has an easy time scraping burn offerings off pot bottoms left on the stove too long, you should have no trouble getting The Girl away from the T.V. in half an hour. Best of luck.
- Supper Consumption: Repeat after me: "This is all there is. This is all there is. This is all there is." After you place a plate of E.P. on the table, that is the phrase you will repeat until you hate yourself. I would tell you not to use the promise of ice cream as collateral towards getting them to eat at least half their meal, but that would be unfair - even for an Outsourced Worker. If there is no ice cream, you can use popcorn. But, normally we only have popcorn on movie nights, and movie nights are only when there is no school the next day. Good luck with that. Occasionally they will accept fruit as dessert. Occasionally there are also really cool lunar eclipses out the back window.
- Toothbrushes and Pyjamas: They are both capable of brushing their own teeth and putting on their own pyjamas while you clean the kitchen. I am also capable of building that built-in bookcase unit my wife wants around the fireplace; it's just a question of quality of workmanship, and time of completion - just like the kids getting themselves ready for bed. If you're not desperate at this point in the day for two hours of quiet time before falling asleep on the couch, let them do it by themselves. So what if their breath stinks, and it's 10 o'clock by the time they're in bed? They're not your kids.
- Storytime: He'll want you to read chapter books by Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. She'll want Dr. Seuss or Robert Munsch. The easiest compromise is beginning storytime early enough that each child gets their own story while the other listens. I probably should have mentioned this at the very beginning of this section. Sorry. Do yourself a favor, do both anyway. The time you spend explaining, justifying and defending yourself will end up being exactly equal to the time it would have taken to read both stories. Parenting is mathematically fascinating that way.
- Goodnight: They both have their routines. She likes to sing and talk. He likes to talk, and talk...and talk. You could try telling them "I'll be right back." and hope they fall asleep in the meantime. But, they won't. They'll track you down. They have an elephant's memory and a jungle cat's patience and instincts for the hunt. Sit, listen, sing, nod, say "Uh, huh." and "OK" as long as is necessary. Sometimes, if it's dark enough in the room, I'll move my eyes around the way I used to when my third-grade English teacher went on and on. But, it's spring now, and still fairly bright out at bed time. So, be careful, or you'll get busted.
It's All Over:
Now, the evening is yours. Maybe the Canadiens are playing a 7 o'clock game. Maybe you can watch some PVR'd HBO with my wife. Maybe you're alone this evening and have found a great movie which starts at 9 o'clock. Tempting isn't it?
Don't do it! The fatigue just compounds itself during the work week. Do yourself a favor, be like a ninety year-old; go to bed early.
Of course, there is one advantage to watching that movie which only starts in half-an-hour: it will give you enough time to make tomorrow's lunches you had forgotten about.