Four people live in my house. Only one knows how to work the buttons on the computer, calculator, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner and washing machine. How many guesses do you need to figure out that it’s me?
Let’s face it. Every day of my life is a series of minor domestic disasters, mishaps, and misadventures caused by multi-tasking gone wrong. There is never enough time and always something to fret about: deadlines, laundry, school projects, cavities, fistfights, or shoes that are missing or too small or the strange object stuck in the vacuumm cleaner that I’m afraid to touch because I think it might be a small mammal.
Nevertheless, my husband has the occasional audacity to envy my “undemanding” life as a work-at-home mom. Last week, this misconception helped me convince him to swap places temporarily. I could catch up on work, and he could pull Daddy duty. No big deal. After all, his part would be very undemanding, I reminded him.
Then, I retreated to the office downstairs.
At first, I heard thumps, bumps, shouting and what sounded like an amateur boxing match upstairs. Squelching my motherly instincts, I held my position at the desk. Next, I heard my husband laying down the law. I know these things because his laying down of the law is always followed by the phrase – “and I mean it this time!” Still I refused to go rushing upstairs at the first sign of trouble or neglect, even when I heard the distinct low, muted flush of the toilet, a sound indicative of something large and possibly furry being sucked down the pipes. Perhaps it was my husband’s law? Within twenty minutes, my frazzled husband started coming downstairs and asking contrived questions.
“Can they eat fruit snacks? How’re you doing?”
“Can Diva play with the make-up? Think this is going to take long?”
Five minutes later, he started asking outright, “How much longer? I just remembered I had something to do.”
When this didn’t work, he sent the kids.
“Daddy won’t give us snacks. We don’t like him anymore. Can you come back?”
“Daddy cheats at Candyland! We want you back.”
I stood my ground, chased them out the door and turned the lock behind them.
After working for awhile with no interruptions, I listened for creaks in the floorboard or the sounds of children diving from furniture. There were none. The house was too quiet.
Fearing the worst, I raced upstairs, tripped over a pile of toys and went sliding into the living room, where I was greeted by Diva, who said, “I not doin’ nuffin!”
Actually, she had given herself and her dozing Daddy a makeover and was now playing animal cracker zoo on his head. There was an elephant in his ear and a strong odor of peanut butter permeated the air. Smartypants had fallen asleep in front of a video game, despite the fact he had used up his allotted time. And my husband had fallen asleep, watching ESPN before the envelopes pasted on the screen obscured his view.
Sighing, I nudged my husband.
“Honey, wake up, I’m finished.”
He jumped straight up, toppling his daughter to the floor and sending animal crackers flying in all directions. He dropped a kiss on my forehead and shoved his feet into his boots.
“You’re finished? Okay, good. I’ve got to get going.”
“The kids got the best of you, huh?” I surmised.
“No. No problem. This was a piece of cake. I don’t let them get to me. I’ve got more patience than you do. Well, gotta go. Maybe I can help you out again some other day.”
He headed for the door so quickly his shadow had problems keeping pace. I glanced around at the destruction. It would take hours to set the room right. And gee, he left so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to tell him he was wearing Very Berry Sugar Lips and pretty girl sparkle powder. And I also suspected the strong odor of peanut butter was coming from his boots.
Oh well, fortunately, these things don’t get to him. You know what with him having more patience than me and all.