I had never been alone with Daniel before. There was always somebody else around. A nanny, a sister, my mum…some other woman (other than my wife) was always around to take care of him. But as with everything in life, people move on and we were left with only my wife and I to care for Daniel. That was okay because Wendy works from home anyway so she could easily care for Daniel.
It just so happened that she needed to travel out of town for 2 weeks. It was on a job which required that she be available on the field. That meant I will be the sole and primary caregiver for Daniel. This clearly was going to impact the time I left for work in the morning and the time I returned in the evening. It also meant we needed to put logistics in place to drop him off at my sister in-law’s place until I was back from work. In reality, it meant I needed to make some significant adjustments.
I very quickly dismissed Wendy’s concerns because I didn’t want her to use Daniel as an excuse not to pursue a career opportunity. I told her I would handle it and she didn’t need to worry. Before she left, she did the needful any responsible mother would do. She stocked the freezer with already made stew and soup. She made sure his favorite cereal was available. She even dropped a check list. I told her ‘babe…no biggie..I got this’.
I work on the Island and live on the mainland. If you understand what that means, then you know that I need to be out of the house before 6.00am if I wanted to get to the office before 8.00am. On Monday’s I need to get out much earlier. Daniel’s school bus usually arrives around 6.45am – 7.00am. So that basically means I would be late to work daily for the next two weeks. I was counting on the goodwill and credibility I have created over the years as being one of the most punctual staff in the office to get them to cut me some slack. Unfortunately, we just had a management change and the new management were not exactly familiar with my punctuality record. Not a good way to start making a first impression. But what choice did I have? My son is far more important than the opinion of any boss.
6.00am: The Wake Up experience – The day started with my first “daymare” – Waking Daniel up. To say it was a dramatic encounter is an understatement. It was more of an encounter of epic proportions. One that required massive doses of patience and strategy too. I must add that as the days went by, I perfected this act and it got easier but the first few days was a mental and emotional drain.
Waking him up took several attempts. The first attempt was rebuffed with a groan that clearly told me in no uncertain term to “Buzz off”. I didn’t. The next attempt, he sits up…looks at me (more like a snare) and slumps back into bed. At this point I am looking at the time. I need to get him into the bathroom, have him brush his teeth, have his bath, dress up, eat his breakfast (which I must prepare), while at the same time, I need to dash into the bathroom, get dressed and be ready to leave the house the moment he leaves. Let’s just say time is of the essence.
I was finally able to get him in the bath to brush his teeth and take his bath (he will be 10 soon, so we were teaching him how to do those things by himself). I dashed to my room to have my bath hoping that by the time I am done, he would at least be taking his shower. Wrong. I returned to find him snoozing comfortably on the sink, toothbrush in hand. I wanted to smack the living daylights out of him, instead what came out was a scream. The time was 6.30am.
6.30am – I had 15mins to get him ready for the school bus. I grabbed him, rushed him into the bath and bathe him myself…this do-it-yourself training will have to continue tomorrow. Certainly not today. 5 mins later, we were done. I creamed his body, have him put on his clothes while I dashed downstairs to make his breakfast. I checked the time. It was 6.40am. There would be no time for him to take the breakfast. So I quickly made sandwich, put it in a zip up bag and placed it in his school bag with an extra Ribena. They don’t allow them eat in the school bus but today they are going to make an exception.
6.45am … I was already dressed and ready. Laptop bag, car keys, ready to go. ‘Wait…where is Daniel?’ I expected him to be out of his room and ready to go. I dashed into his room. I didn’t see him. The toilet door was locked. ‘Daniel what are you doing?’ He responded… ‘I’m poo pooing’. ‘You are what?’ I screamed. Next I heard was the sound of the school bus. Their horn was loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood and they don’t stop there, they usually proceed to bang the gate as well. Trust me, if I had a 12 gauge….hmmm never mind.
I dashed to the gate and told the school bus driver and attendant to give us a few minutes as the young man was easing himself. Somewhere in my mind I was already resolved to dropping him in school myself. I dashed back into the house to see Daniel strolling out looking radiant in his school uniform. He asked ‘Where is my breakfast?’ ‘Breakfast ko, Breakdance ni… If you don’t get moving young man, I will be the one breaking you into pieces’ I replied. I practically bundled him into the bus. Heaved a sigh of relief and started my own journey to work. I was halfway to work when I realized I forgot to put his mid-day snack in his bag. Oh boy! His mum must not hear. Let’s hope the young man doesn’t sing when his mum calls in the evening.
9.00am – Got to the office 1 hour late. As a good staff I should give that time back by closing 1 hour later. But I couldn’t afford to. Daniel had to be picked up on time so he can have dinner and take his bath while I review his homework. Before his bed time by 9.00am.
7.00pm – On the way home, I found myself thinking. What is he going to eat? Did I remember to bring out the stew from the freezer before I left? I didn’t. (In our home, we don’t use the microwave for health reasons). I got to my Sister-In-Law’s place, picked Daniel up and headed home. We had some chit chat about his day. Then I asked the question – ‘What are you going to eat?’ The young man paused for some seconds. I immediately knew it was a very bad idea. I should have just told him what I intended to cook when we got home. This “What would you like to eat?” routine is something that his mother has spoilt him with. During my young days, you never had an opinion of what you wanted to eat. You ate whatever your mum put on the table for you. Not kids of these days. Daniel answered, ‘Pancakes’, I said no, it’s too late for that. I lied and I think he knew. But there was no way on earth I was going to attempt pancakes that night. He then said ‘what about dodo and eggs”. I replied ‘only on one condition..that you fry the eggs’. He responded gleefully ‘you got yourself a deal’.
7.30pm – Got home. Made dinner. Had to check his homework. There were some corrections. The young man would not agree. Not unusual because they always think their teachers are way smarter than their parents. Google to the rescue. I put his dirty school clothes away in the laundry basket. I will wash them tomorrow. I was way too tired to wash. Besides’ he still had two clean sets to use.
8.30pm – There was a premiership match going on. I watched and bantered on Twitter. Wifey called to find out how we were doing. ‘Oh we are doing great. Not missing you a bit’. I said. Slept off on the couch. Woke up at 10.00pm. I heard a loud laugh – Daniel’s laugh when watching cartoons. He is still up. I dashed upstairs. ‘Why are you still up? Go to bed now?’ ‘But I am yet to have my bath’ he replied. I switched off the TV, matched him to his room amidst loud protest and ensured he took his bath before tucking him into bed. Time now is 10.30pm. I knew that the consequences of this late sleeping will be felt tomorrow during “Wake-Up” time. The boy has no appreciation of time. None whatsoever.
11.00pm – I crawled into bed physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. This is just day one. I still had 9 more days to go. A thought flashed through my mind. What if I had two more Daniel’s to attend to? What if after a day like this and I finally get time to crawl into bed, some dude with over grown testosterone starts groping because he wants servicing? I finally get it. This is the reason why she always has a “headache”.
Day 2 – 10
I had perfected the wake up ritual. No I was not going to leave the room until he was into the bath. Before leaving the room, I will make sure he was well awake and watch him brush his teeth. His bags were packed the day before not in the morning. I settled into a routine of constantly thinking – What is he going to eat today? Should I stop at the market to buy plaintain on the way home? What did he eat yesterday so I don’t have to repeat it? Have I washed his uniform? Has it been ironed? Would there be light when I get home to iron his clothes. Do I have fuel in the gen? Have I signed his feedback note? What about his homework? Have I called wifey today? It was exhausting. By day 10 I was so glad wifey was back. I was so glad I had some respite. And above all, I understood. I understood why sometimes she was just cranky and irritable. I understood why sometimes she said she needed me to be more involved. I understood why she let Daniel have his way because the alternative was that something else more important will be delayed. After 15 years of marriage, it took only two weeks with Daniel to finally make me understand.