I remember once when I was driving across the Texas panhandle, past Amarillo, through Lubbock and down toward Roswell, New Mexico, that I had the thought that AAA roadmaps are the silliest things in the world. Sure they tell you where you're going. But they give you little else: you cannot possibly imagine how big the Southwestern US is until you've driven through it. It's interminable. The flatness. The amber waves of grain. Seeing a storm off in the distance that won't get to you until the next day. I drove nearly 100 MPH for eight hours without stopping and barely made it across a single state. The geography hardly changed. On the East Coast, the results of such a drive would have been dramatic. I could have gone from Boston to New York to Baltimore in that amount of time. So, to follow on the metaphor or what have you, maps give you lines and names, but not the sense of place that you need to really feel like you've been somewhere. Enough with the literary crap. Here's what I mean to say: Brooke comes home tomorrow night. Before this week, she could have talked until she was blue in the face about how hard it is to parent a toddler and how some days there is precious little standing between your normal state of mind and spasmodic, child-induced insanity. I would have nodded, attempting to understand, and then related to her how insane academics can be--to which she would have nodded and comprehended very little (and sympathized even less). This week, I felt like I'd been given a map of how to parent my daughter completely by my lonesome. B and I talked it over and even practiced a little beforehand. I read books. I heard testimonials. We did preparatory shopping. But the difference between the map and the actual terrain of single parenthood is substantial. I followed everything on the plan--the naps, the meals, the baths and books and bottles and bears. I even introduced her to Thomas the Train (since I liked him as a kid). But every day, the lay of the land was subtly different than the day before. Storms that looked to be days off were suddenly upon me. Seemingly endless plains suddenly revealed deep, hidden gorges. There was lots of road kill, lots of vultures circling overhead. Thank God Brooke comes home tomorrow. I miss the womb-like silence in my book-littered corner of Nerdlandia.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So...let's see. You had one week alone with the kid. You had all the shopping taken care of. You had a no-doubt detailed set of instructions as to the kid's routine. You had to figure out nothing by yourself except how to deal with a few tantrums. You could call your wife with questions. You knew your wife would be home soon. And now you can't wait to give the kid back so you can get back to schoolwork.

Single parenthood? I think not.

That sounds like just about the most privledged, pre-packaged brand of parenting i've ever heard of. Not getting to be totally self-absorbed for a week is much less of a trial than what single parents go through. My guess is you didn't even get the tiniest taste of what single parenthood is like. Sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but it's an aggravating sentiment you've expressed here.

3/17/2006 12:58 PM  
Blogger e said...

Anon--I'm presuming from your comment that you are or have been a single parent in the "real" sense? I suppose then, especially given the caustic way you've expressed yourself here, that you feel bitter either about your experience or the fact that I usually do have support when parenting.

You're right to call me out on the adjective "single." It's not fair to compare my week with those that have to do it every day. That being said, however, you shouldn't mistake the last week for some "trivial" side-project in my otherwise "self-absorbed" life.

One thing that I've noted since Greta was born is that moms have a much, much, much easier time assimilating themselves into a "society of motherhood" than fathers do into something similar for men. Especially in Indiana. I'm also a grad student, which means that my "job"--aside from being a parent--never gives me a "break." Vacations, nights, weekends, these are all given over to the academic monster. So it's hardly self-absorption that I'm escaping from by being an only-parent for a week. It's moving from one world focused on individual-driven knowledge production to another that is commonly based on social support--either explicit, like "mom's groups" or tacit (like the fact that if you go to the grocery store around 10am you are predominantly going to see mothers pushing carts; a man is relatively unwelcome in this environment).

So don't mistake the last week's worth of posts as a "woe is me" tirade. It's more just impressions from another side of life that I don't usually get to participate in.

I miss my wife. We work better as a team than either of us to individually. Especially when parenting: I like getting to be with my daughter all the time, but I'm not comfortable making unilateral decisions about discipline everytime she does something I don't like. If it was just me that is parenting her, I probably would just raise her how I want. But since I'm a partner in this family thing, I usually talk parenting decisions out with my wife (which I haven't been able to do for most of the week).

Anon--I don't enjoy "aggravating" you. Perhaps if you revealed your identity and your background with single parenting, we could have more rational and more interesting dialogue about it instead of just having you hurl cyber-insults at me.

3/17/2006 1:27 PM  
Blogger e said...

and lest I not address this charge--that everything was "privileged" and "pre-packaged"--I can assure you it was not. I gave the impression through the map analogy, perhaps, that everything was written down or so routinized that I merely had to follow a script for our days. (Perhaps what is worth criticizing, then, is the use of the map analogy.) We had the food, and that was about it. We have few routines other than bath, bottle, blanket, book, bed--which I participate in nightly anyway. B is a relatively unscheduled mom, so my week was almost entirely improvised aside from the initial "3 meals, afternoon nap, goodnight routine" that we initially set up. Those were the things that even in some limited sense didn't fit the "map." I suppose what I was trying to express in the post, however, was not the routine as much as the "lay of the land." We were both used to an intense, cautious, creative, and quiet toddler. What we now have on our hands is a defiant, loud, messy, emotional almost two-year-old. Neither of us have had one of those before, so it feels like someone took our cuddly infant and replaced her with a whiney energizer bunny. Naturally, we're a little thrown off by all of this. Our old "mapping" doesn't work anymore.

3/17/2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

Dear Anon,

Come out of the shadows. And then go away. The only thing worse than anonymous comments are venomous, anonymous posts.


Thanks for the post.


3/18/2006 11:08 PM  

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