When Mommy's gone

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As my wife’s career continues to flourish and make me look even more dispensable, I often find myself at home with the kids while she is travelling to exciting cosmopolitan locations on out-of-state business trips. If I travel for business, it’s almost always to a city within a 10 mile radius of a Buc-ee’s. (At least I know I can get to some jerky and a clean men’s room – usually in that order.) When I’m left to care for the children for a few nights on my own, I’m always reminded of how little I contribute to the operation of the household while my wife is there. Who knew kids needed to eat more than a couple of times a week and that Pop-Tarts didn’t cover their nutritional requirements? I mean, I buy the kind with fruit filling!

On her most recent trip, I knew I was in trouble on our first morning without her. When I wandered through the darkness of the living room on my way to wake the children and livestock, I discovered that our cat had tried to make me feel more needed by barfing on the carpet during the night. Even worse, she had strategically placed her offering directly in my walking path. On the bright side, there’s nothing like cold feline vomit between your toes at 6 a.m. to bring you fully awake.

My next act involved agreeing to let my youngest daughter have a Diet Dr. Pepper with her Pop-Tart for breakfast. (Don’t judge! Both of these products are made in the USA! America First!) I had actually intended to offer her some yogurt, but on my recent trip to the Walmart Neighborhood Market (which is like a regular Walmart, but without the fertilizer and toilet seats), I purchased the strawberry cheesecake-flavor, instead of the cherry cheesecake-flavor. How thoughtless of me! Where do they come up with these flavors, anyway? When I was a kid, yogurt came in one flavor -- vanilla blech.

I was considerate enough to provide my daughter with an old plastic Olive Garden kid’s cup with a lid so her drink wouldn’t spill. Unfortunately, the lid I chose was from an old plastic On the Border kid’s cup that didn’t fit the Olive Garden cup because, apparently, part of the strategic plan of these two franchises is to make my life difficult. When I tried to force the wrong lid on the wrong cup, the dog enjoyed lapping up the Diet Dr. Pepper off the floor. (We’re hoping her fur returns to its natural color soon.)

The fun continued when I asked my eldest daughter to use the Keurig machine to fix my daily mug of hot tea. (No, I don’t drink coffee. To me it tastes like stagnant water out of an old tire. Don’t ask how I know.) While she was hypnotically watching the tea pouring into the mug she was holding, I reached across her to get a bowl from the cabinet for my Cap’n Crunch and managed to push her arm just enough to shift the mug from under the stream of piping hot tea. She then began hypnotically watching the hot tea pour onto the cabinet and then onto my bare foot, freshly sanitized from the pet sputum fiasco. At that point, I lost it. In an act of manly strength, I shoved the mug and the Keurig into the sink, breaking one of our few surviving drinking glasses actually made of glass in the process. Naturally, I blamed the entire incident on the children.

I then prepared the girls’ lunches in stoic silence, with only the maniacal laughter of SpongeBob SquarePants echoing through the kitchen (because I believe in starting the school day with educational television programming). The lunches included mini-sandwiches made with King’s Hawaiian Rolls, that miraculous bread created by removing all of the nutritious ingredients and leaving only the delicious ones. I was also feeling guilty for my tantrum, so I threw in a few miniature York Peppermint Patties – the only candy in the pantry that I don’t like. As I lovingly handed the girls their lunch bags, they timidly informed me that they were having pizza at school that day.

Once I had finished sobbing over the lunches, we had piled into the car, and I had gone back in and out of the house two or three times for things I forgot (my keys, my wallet, my phone, and at least one child), I told the girls I was sorry for acting like their mother and throwing a fit. Of course, they reminded me that “Mommy never acts that way – only you, Daddy,” and they told me it was OK – they understood how hard it was for me without an adult in the house to take care of us. This made me feel even guiltier, so I suggested we say a prayer as we drove to the school.

As I prayed that everyone would have a good day and that the Lord would allow my kids to stop spilling stuff, my middle daughter interrupted to remind me to drive with my eyes open. She assured me that God wouldn’t mind if I didn’t kill us all. I just hope He also understands that the next time my wife leaves for a business trip, we’re going with her – and bringing our Pop-Tarts with us.

– Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of East Texas, and an Aggie. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective, and his blog is published at https://susanjase.wordpress.com/ . Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.

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