Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living the dream

G: *hands me empty food wrappers*
Me: Why are you giving me your trash?
G: Because you like cleaning things.
Me: I don't like cleaning things. I clean because someone has to do it. It's not my hobby.
G: Yes it is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sometimes you have to fight dirty

Today I insisted that G get dressed and go out with me for the afternoon. She wasn't thrilled, but gave in because she could see I meant it, and I wasn't going to let her get away with dragging her feet until it was so late we ended up staying home, which is her usual ploy when faced with the dreadful possibility of leaving the house on a weekend.

We had a nice lunch at Buca di Beppo - spaghetti for her, ravioli for me, cannoli for us both - and when we got back in the car, she asked, "How much of the afternoon is left?"

"That depends," I said. "Do you mean how much chronological time is left until the afternoon ends? Or do you mean how much longer am I going to keep you prisoner on this outing?"

"The latter," she said.

"Oh, about a couple of hours."

"Two hours! But --"

"There's no point arguing," I said. "We're going to spend some quality time together whether you like it or not. If you're nice, I might buy you the book you've been wanting. And if you're not nice, then we'll go shopping for new underwear for me."

"Oh no," she said, turning pale.

"Oh yes. I'll take you to Victoria's Secret and hold up every bra in the place and ask you loudly what you think of it. Maybe I'll even try some of them on over my clothes."

"I'd die of embarrassment," she said.

"I know," I said. "Let's go to the bookstore, shall we?"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vomitus absurdicus

Earlier this afternoon, I had finally succeeded in dragging G away from the computer, prodding her into the shower, prodding her out again, and making her get dressed so we could go out for the first time since Friday evening.

We went downstairs and she put on her shoes, and then I stuck my foot into my flip-flop and promptly yanked it out again. The flat surface and toe strap were both cold, wet and slimy, and that's a combination that never means anything good*.

I said, "What the ...?" and bent down to look, and one of the cats had thrown up in my shoe. Not a single spatter on any of the other shoes, not a drop on the floor, just a perfect blaarrrghhh that covered the inside of my flip-flop like a revolting custom-made insole. And as I hopped around, trying not to get any of it on the carpet, I thought, I would be a lot more upset if this didn't so neatly symbolize how the last couple of weeks have gone for me. It was like the universe punctuating a long joke with a rim shot.

There was nothing for it but to laugh. And then go back upstairs and scrub my foot with antibacterial soap. Ugh.

*Unless you're a frog on a blind date, but how often does that happen?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

House of cards

This school year began with high drama when, a week before the first day, I was informed that the city-run afterschool program had been cut for budget reasons. I had personally called the city's administrative offices the day before and received confirmation that yes, the program was on and would move ahead while the school tried to raise money to help pay for it, so it came as a surprise to me when I received a terse e-mail from the school that essentially said You are all fucked. Actually, I sort of wish they had just come out and said that. It would have added some much-needed humor to the situation.

I called the YMCA, which was the alternate suggestion provided in the e-mail, and was given a price quote for ~12.5 hours a week of "care" that made my head explode. After I'd picked up the fragments of my skull, I spent the next three days worrying and coming up with Rube Goldberg-esque plans for transporting G the two miles from her school to our house. I knew she would be fine on her own once she was safely at home with the door locked, but getting her there, in the absence of school buses, seemed next to impossible. Then, the Friday before school started, I got an automated message on my voice mail - actually half a message, as the first part had been cut off - that retracted Tuesday's e-mail and confirmed what the city had told me in the first place.

If you're imagining me being jerked around like a marionette on a string, that's more or less how I felt by that point. Hey, it's okay! I enjoy stress and uncertainty! They keep life interesting!

Only not.

Anyway, this experience highlighted just how much I rely on the routines I've developed over the last four years. I frequently get told that "you make single parenting look easy," and maybe that's true, but if so, it's not because I'm some sort of superwoman - it's because I have systems in place to keep everything running more or less smoothly. Throw a wrench into one of those systems, and instantly I become that single mother, the flaky, unreliable one who makes people roll their eyes and say uncharitable things under their breath. I've sometimes found myself in conversations where people say those things to me about other single mothers they know, and I always tell them to have a little more sympathy, because I know I'm just one broken-down car or canceled afterschool program away from being in the same position - and that's with only one child to tend to. I can't imagine what it would be like if I had two or three or four.