No matter how often she leaves the house, my wife always comes back.
It’s a sure sign your children are aging when you can get a haircut, talk to an investment adviser or get a massage without a 20-minute discussion with your kids as you put on your boots.
Now that our girls are three, five and six years old, our at-the-doorway explanations are down to a tidy 10 minutes.
Kid 1: “Where are you going?”
Mom: “To the bank.”
Kid 2: “Can I come?”
Kid 3: “Whyyyyy?”
Kid 2: “Does dem have treats there?”
Kids 1-2-3: “Whhhyyyy?”
With some cajoling and bribery, she can even travel for work regularly (cajoling for the kids, bribery for me).
Of course, that means I spend more and more time alone with our three girls. Yes, that’s right, alone.
For every yin, there is a yang.
It’s not a huge deal, really. I’m being dramatic. I’m a freelance writer and editor. I work casually from an office when the need arises. If there’s enough energy left in my day, I might even write at night when the kids are asleep.
What we save in child care makes up for decreased income, plus I get to watch my kids grow up and we don’t scramble when the kids are sick (every 19 ½ hours, give or take).
Until the kids are all in school (one year, six months, one day, two hours and 39 minutes from now), we’ll shuffle along by sacrificing a second car, skipping winter vacations and forgoing expensive Christmas gifts.
In the meantime, my key to tending three girls alone is having a plan. By the way, dads, you can’t call it babysitting when they’re your own kids; it’s called parenting at that point.
What separates good and bad days for me is action.
No matter how hard it is to leave, you can’t stay home (not to be confused with the days it’s so important you leave, you just can’t get out of the house).
If we’re home too long, my kids just corner me in the play kitchen and pelt me with plastic peas and carrots until the garage door lurches to life and Mom returns.
Instead, you have to get them moving. It took me a while to accept this.
Soon after our third was born, with Mom at a massage therapist appointment, it became obvious one day we needed to get out of the house. Our objective was simple: the mailbox.
When the dog and I used to run there at night, a return trip would take 90 seconds depending on the level of junk mail and the number of pee breaks (the dog’s, not mine). With two kids in the double stroller, a baby strapped to my chest and the dog on a leash the journey was … slightly longer.
Most of our time then, of course, was spent inside the house putting on snowsuits. Why we struggled with them is anyone’s guess, because after we layered up and stepped outside, the girls automatically asked for the double stroller.
It seemed easier to throw them into the stroller and layer a horse blanket over top. After all, you don’t need snowsuits inside a mobile yurt.
I thought that phase would never end.
Fast forward three years, though, and there we were last weekend at the Kelowna Family Y swimming pool. With my wife at lunch with friends in Summerland, it was just me and the girls. There were no meltdowns, not from the girls, daddy or the lifeguards.
After a pleasant day in the water we dressed ourselves politely in the change rooms (not the parking lot, thankfully) and returned home to much praise and awe from Mommy.
As it turns out, there might be some science behind this phenomenon.
Ann Corwin, “The Parenting Doctor,” writes on her website that children see their mothers as essential to survival (well, they’re no dummies, these kids).
“That is why kids will escalate their behavior to get attention (a connection) from their mom anyway they can,” Corwin writes.
“Dads, on the other hand, symbolize trust, taking risks and play for kids, so kids don’t get so desperate for that critical attention from their fathers.”
Do moms need this information? I’m pretty sure that once my wife reads this, I’ll be reminded every time she leaves the house that the kids will be no problem, since I’m the “fun one.”
All this has left me with just one question for her: “Whyyyyy?”