This last post in my “Mom-Life in May” series was supposed to be an opportunity for you to have a good laugh at my expense. I planned to relate all the details of how I did as a single parent in the month of May while my husband was traveling in China. I fully anticipated some major bloopers and moments of chaos that I could share. While there were plenty of bloopers and chaos as I held the fort down alone for 2.5 weeks during the busiest month of the year, my mind keeps coming back to how well we actually did in “survival mode.”
While Neil was away, I mowed and trimmed our half acre lawn three times. This isn’t anything unusual, because I mow all the time. This Spring, however, I have a nursing baby and four other busy kids, and mowing has become an extra challenge. But, it just wasn’t something I could let go of with all the rain we have been getting. I filled an entire garbage can and a half with grass clippings every time I mowed, because the lawn is growing so fast. The first time I mowed, my 10-year-old daughter opted to stay inside and care for the baby. When dinner time rolled around and I was still working, I gave her the recipe for dinner (using the Prepear app, BTW) and she made a delicious pot of corn chowder from start to finish without a lick help from me. She then fed all her siblings and cleaned up the kitchen. I couldn’t believe it! She’s never done that before, and it was amazing.
My next surprise came on Mother’s day. I set my expectations pretty low, assuming the kids wouldn’t remember the holiday let alone do anything for me without dad being here. I was wrong. When I woke up for the baby’s usual 5 AM feeding, I heard noise downstairs. My first thought was a bit of panic, thinking someone had broken into our house. When I tiptoed down stairs, my 10-year-old was crafting away, making cards and a trail of paper hearts or me. She put her finger to her lips so as to shush me, and sent me back to bed. Three hours later, I was awakened again–this time to the smell of breakfast. My 9-year-old son had made fried eggs for the first time ever. They may have been a bit over cooked, but they were the best eggs I had ever tasted. The two younger siblings drew pictures on construction paper for me and helped set the table. Everyone got dressed in their Sunday clothes by themselves, and my 9-year-old diapered and dressed the baby, so all I had to do was get myself ready for church.
School mornings were tricky to navigate. Usually Neil is here at least through morning scriptures before leaving for work. Without him, I assumed it would be near impossible to wake the kids and go through our regular morning routine. However, sticking to the routine is how we survived. It wasn’t pretty, and my girls went to school many times with messy hair and mismatched clothes, but we did it. One morning, my kindergartner recognized it was getting close to carpool time, and I was still upstairs putting the baby down for a nap. After dressing herself, she made her own lunch by slicing some vegetables and arranging them onto a tray with dip, just like she sees me do. Her ride came just as I ran down the stairs to hug her goodbye. She got her own shoes and backpack and was on her way without me helping her at all.
The last way I was surprised by how my kids stepped up while dad was away was at Church. I was anticipating a nightmare as I wrangled five kids alone in Sacrament meeting, but I was pleasantly surprised by how reverent they actually were. I was planning on a neighbor sitting with us to help me, but when the time came for the meeting to start, they didn’t show. That turned out to be another opportunity for the kids to step up. My 10-year-old insisted on holding the baby and feeding him a bottle while we sat in the meeting. After the sacrament was passed, it donned on me that I hadn’t had to discipline the kids once in the full 15 minutes since we had arrived. I looked down the row of chairs and realized they were all sitting up, reverently listening to the songs and prayers, and the baby was asleep in my daughter’s lap. What the?!? This was even better behavior than when my husband was there with me!
Now, I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture through rose-colored lenses that I’m supermom and everything was smooth-sailing this month. I had plenty of moments of feeling totally overwhelmed. Four out of six of us got sick for a time. I lost my patience and yelled at my kids more than once. However, through my husband’s absence during the busiest month of the year, I have been amazed at how the kids stepped up. Maybe they just needed an opportunity to prove their capability in a situation where I was really counting on them to help. Or, maybe the Lord was answering my prayers that we would be able to get along without Dad for so long. Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised with how we survived and even thrived while I was “single-parenting” this May.