Last week my wife got called out of town for work unexpectedly. She found out towards the end of the week that she would be flying out Tuesday morning and returning Wednesday evening. This meant that for the first time it would be the “solo Dad” show at our house.
Most nights we tag team the nighttime routine with Elliot, so I wasn’t overly concerned about it. It didn’t seem like too difficult an assignment – pick him up from day care, feed him, play a little while, bath and bedtime. Simple. One of my normal nighttime duties is to rock him to sleep – partly because he seems to like it and partly because I won’t put up with his shenanigans. I think he respects this about me and is usually compliant.
Needless to say, I was quite confident that I could handle this simple assignment and (in principle) I did. We didn’t have any major calamities. Everything went pretty much according to schedule. However, it lacked the typical smoothness of our “routine,” and what it did was give me was a great appreciation for all my wife, Lauren, contributes … much of which I clearly took for granted.
What I learned is that while I will be the first to boast whenever I am able to get Elliot to sleep at night, Lauren quietly goes about all the little things that get us to that point, and all those “little things” add up to a really big job.
Tuesday night we got home from day care around 7 p.m. Elliot was hungry and wasn’t shy about letting it be known. On a normal day Lauren is able to pick Elliot up around 4:30, so by the time I roll in from work, he’s already been fed a snack and dinner is in its early stages. Not today. I walked in, and Elliot was expecting a meal, and I was trying in vain to bribe him with Goldfish and Teddy Grahams so I could warm up the dinner Lauren had neatly packed for him. This turned out to be one of the those nights when he arbitrarily decided he didn’t want to eat what we had made for him (he loved it last night), so I started going through the classic stand-bys in the fridge one at a time until finally it became clear what he wanted – the pizza I had been cooking for myself.
After dinner and some play time, we headed up to get ready to wind it down. I immediately realized there were no PJs laid out for him (another thing my wife always does), so I rummaged around and found some I thought fit. Then it was bath time, and when it was time to get him out, I realized Lauren wasn’t there with the towel … now I didn’t know what to do … I knew leaving him unattended in the tub while I searched for a towel was a horrible idea. I finally settled on letting all the water out of the tub and letting him shiver there while I rounded one up.
Then it was on to bedtime, and Elliot went to sleep quickly. Probably he figured that was his safest option after all the amateur care he’d been receiving. I headed back downstairs to watch some TV and play video games, something I don’t normally get to do … but wait – what was this? There were dirty dishes everywhere, food on the floor, a half pizza sitting on the counter … oh, right, my associate, who quietly makes magic work around the house, wasn’t here. So after 45 minutes of cleaning, interrupted by one quick trip upstairs to remind Elliot that it really was ok to just go to sleep, I finally had the house in decent shape, and I was ready to just call it a night. Maybe one day I’ll turn on my Xbox again.
This one short night was a very powerful reminder of what a team effort our “routine” is and even though I am always the first one to take credit for getting Elliot to sleep I realized it was actually the quieter and more polite half of who does all the work.
Jordan Echols is a Marketing Manager at Texas Health Resources and Dad who has extra appreciation now for his the tag team effort he and his wife have going.