December 2017

The Dad Life, Episode 1

Author: Justin Jarrett

Prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts…whatever cosmic currency you deal in, please send a little my way. There’s nothing wrong with me; it’s just that my wife is leaving town for a few days, leaving me single-dadding with our seven-year-old son (easy) and four-year-old daughter (uhh…not easy).

The last time she left us alone—for a 10-day work trip to France—I experienced what can best be described as a minor mental breakdown and resigned from my day job to become a full-time freelance writer the day after she got home. Come to think of it, what is she thinking by leaving us again? So irresponsible.

But I digress.

The truth of it is we get through the weekdays on our own just fine, thank you very much. Daddy is already the pick-up and drop-off guy, so that’s no problem, and my wife works in Savannah while I work from home (since the last single-parenting incident). I usually get dinner on the table, too. Bedtime is a little tougher when you’re playing zone defense instead of man-to-man, but I’m eventually able to wear them down.
Then comes the weekend.

The weekend is everything when you’re young and carefree—48 hours of limitless possibilities and copious amounts of sleep. For parents, it is something altogether different, and for single parents (or those playing them for a few days), it is a challenge, to say the least. The weekend can wear down even the parental tag team champions of the world, so when you don’t have any backup, you don’t stand a chance.

First of all, there is no sleeping in, at least not with my kids. They might give you until 7, if you’re lucky and no one has to pee. And even if they did allow you to sleep in, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage on Saturday, because the extracurricular activities start at 9.

By the time we’ve completed the Extracurricular Tripleheader Gauntlet—soccer, gymnastics, and baseball (with lunch squeezed in somewhere)—I’m exhausted… and it’s only 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Instead of vegging out in front of the TV and watching football, I spend most weekends refereeing fights over whether we’re going to watch one mind-numbing episode after another of Pokémon or endure yet another viewing of Frozen. Regardless of what we settle on, it will simply be background noise for a rousing game of Loudly Chase Each Other Around the Living Room Until Someone Gets Hurt. The end of this game is signaled by me yelling, “How many times did I tell y’all to be careful?!” Nobody wins.

“Take them to the playground,” you might be saying. Let them burn off some energy. Great idea, except trying to keep track of two small children at a public playground is a nightmare. Most of them have a definitive Lord of the Flies vibe, and I’m not trying to tell my wife that one of our children is in the emergency room after a tumble from the shrimp boat, or worse, missing in action somewhere in the wilds of Old Town Bluffton.

So, we stay in the relative safety of home, where we’re likely to keep everything but Daddy’s sanity intact.
Our children are polar opposites. Bubby is the world’s sweetest kid and is intrinsically motivated to always do the right thing and urge his sister to follow suit. He will happily entertain himself with his iPad, often by using educational apps—unprompted. When told it’s time to take a break from video games, he will quietly read to himself until you tell him he can stop or he runs out of books, whichever comes first.

The Princess is something else. While she has been known to play independently and quietly (save for her sometimes super-creepy whispering to no one in particular that leads us to wonder if she has The Shining), she’s more likely to be found belting out girl power songs at the top of her lungs. With a notorious streak for mischief, her prolonged silence is rare—and unsettling.

While my son cries almost exclusively when he feels he has done wrong or disappointed us, my daughter wields her tears as a deadly weapon, and she has little regard for the damage they inflict. She has a way of trying to get what she wants, and she is not a peaceful negotiator. Dread is not a strong enough word for my feelings about her teenage years. Unfortunately for both of us, I do not react well when she goes full fournado. I am the idiot storm-chaser taking video when I should be lying low in the ditch.

I take no pride in losing a hard-headed battle of wills with a four-year-old, but I am usually too stubborn to stop myself. There are no winners in these battles. It is in these moments that we miss Mommy the most, and at the end of an episode we are both left crying for her to come home, though I’m usually able to keep my crying on the inside.

Oh, and did I mention I don’t drink alcohol? Yeah, I know.

The Princess bounces back much more quickly than I do and can often be coaxed back to sanity just by reminding her to get back in her “front brain”—a trick we learned from her play therapist when she was a wee threenager with a penchant for vigilante justice.

She’s back to her bubbly self in no time.

“Ohhh, look what you made me do. Look what you made me do. Look what you made me doooo,” The Princess scream-sings as she prances back and forth in front of the TV. There is no music playing.

“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? BECAUSE SHE’S DEAD!”

I don’t even ask her to be quiet. You have to pick your battles.

It doesn’t take long to reinforce just how amazing full-time single parents are, and I sincerely do not know how y’all do it. Thankfully, my episode will last only three days, only one of which falls on the weekend. Mommy will be home in time for us to tackle Sunday as a team.

And at least this time I don’t have a day job to quit.

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