It was a bit of strange week last week, which, if you read any of my previous blogs (like this one or this one or this one) is code for: my kids kicked my butt without my wife around. It was bad. I told Rachel last night that when it comes to being a single dad with two kids, the best strategy to employ is the same that you’re supposed to use if you come across an angry bear in the woods:
Just lay down and pretend to be dead.
It’s not a fool-proof plan, of course. Mainly because the danger levels aren’t the same. A bear will walk past you. Your kids will jump on top of you and one will pull your eyelids open while the other whacks you in the groin with a stick saying, “Wake up daddy!” I’ve found that if you can hold out for more than thirty minutes, the kids will lose interest and you can actually get some rest for at least 45 seconds.
Of course, now that Rachel’s home, I can just go back to what I normally am: useless. It’s quite a relief.
Yes, I picked Rachel up from the airport on Saturday afternoon. I was so excited to see her – nothing makes you appreciate the singular talents and qualities of your spouse like time apart (with you being stuck with the kids). I got to the airport right on schedule and made my way to the yawning maw of Hartsfield, otherwise known as the arrivals lobby. It’s essentially a wide space where five or six escalators dump people out in bunches to scramble for a familiar face or book it to the baggage claim to see if their luggage made the flight. It’s kind of creepy, in a way – since you can’t see the people riding up the escalators, you can’t really keep a sharp lookout for the person on whom you’re waiting. People just fairly explode into view and you have to scan faces pretty quickly to see if your loved one is among them.
One lady off to my right was standing there when I arrived, and was still there when Rachel and I left. I felt sorry for her – she kept mumbling to herself, “Hi, mom. I’m gay.” It didn’t seem like she was feeling confident about the reunion. I wish I could’ve seen how it went.
I didn’t get to, though, because Rachel came gliding into view. She looked fabulous, as always, and she had somehow acquired a new carry-on bag. Turns out, she had brought home two new bags, both stuffed with Easter goodies for our kids and for our three nephews. I quietly noted that it was good I had driven the truck to the airport. We grabbed a bite to eat, loaded up the truck, and booked it to our church for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.
Rachel was so excited to see Ella – she snuck up on her from behind (Ella was busy eating a bowl of ice cream) and tapped her on the shoulder. Ella turned around and screamed, “Mommy!” then jumped into Rachel’s arms. It was a Hallmark Channel movie moment – a happy family reunited at a massive community celebration. It was good to see.
Unfortunately, things turned into a Lifetime movie from there – a female protagonist tries to salvage a family on the verge of collapse and everything is the man’s fault.
To say that there has been some conflict upon Rachel’s return would be an understatement. Now, it hasn’t been bad (we didn’t need the plates that got broken anyway. Kidding!) – it’s just been a re-adjustment for all of us. Jon can’t decide which parent he wants more: the one he’s become comfortable with over the past few days, or the one that he missed so much. That makes him a little fussy and a wee bit hard to deal with. But we’ve managed.
Ella, however, is a different story. She and Rachel have butted heads almost non-stop since we all finally got home. Ella has become accustomed to her role as The Negotiator, and has been trying her tactics out on Rachel. They are not working. Rachel, being a female and well-schooled in the ancient art of successful thinking (what we guys call “getting your way”), doesn’t cave into Ella’s demands. In fact, she can go tit-for-tat with Ella’s attempts to turn the situation into her favor, and Ella gets flustered at the sudden ineffectiveness of her tactics. She’ll look at me as if to say, “It works on that dumb animal, why doesn’t it work on Mom?”
Now, again, keep in mind we have sweet kids, so this isn’t like an episode of Intervention or anything. It’s really been over smaller issues, things that I ultimately will cave on because they don’t seem like that big of a deal. But Rachel views the smaller issues as the gateway to larger ones and is determined to put a stop to it. As Rachel put it yesterday afternoon, “Ella, it seems to me like you’ve had the run of the place since I’ve been gone.”
She’s right – Ella has had run of the place because I suck at single-parenting (see the strategy for single dads as outlined above). I value peace too highly, and sometimes the price for peace is steep. Of course, when Rachel pointed out the fact that I let our five year-old have total sway for a week, I felt tremendously guilty. I felt small and stupid. I felt ineffective. Humiliated. Worthless. Lower than worm poo.
Then I realized I had survived (my ultimate goal, in all honesty) and I immediately felt better. Especially once Rachel made the following statement:
“There’s only one woman that runs this house. And it’s me. Guess we’ll have to re-learn that.”
Yes, the Queen has returned!