For two years I have been living with my three, teenaged children as their sole care giver and while that may sound like a barrel of laughs to some of you, believe me it's not all fun and games.
5:00 am - the time I get up for work six days a week to make sure I am fed, showered and dressed so I can then get the two youngest up for school.
6:15 - I drag the youngest out of bed. He's still small enough that I can manhandle him, he's the easy part. Next I go into his sister's room, she's sixteen and has what the English call bumps and chuff that I must be mindful of so I can only shake her shoulder and tell her it's time to get up.
6:20 - I go into the livingroom and drag the boy off the couch and sit him at the kitchen table where he stares dumbly at the wall. I then go back into his sister's room and shake her on the shoulder and tell her it's time to get up. "JESUS CHRIST! I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??" (My daughter is not a morning person.)
6:25 - They are both now at the kitchen table and I point to the open cereal cabinet which is crammed with six or seven types of sweetened cereals. I ask who wants what for breakfast. "THERE'S NOTHING HERE TO EAT!!!! WHY CAN"T YOU EVER BUY ANYTHING GOOD?"
6:35 - I leave for work and spend a half hour or so in the relative calm of ther Capital Beltway. I listen to the soothing lilt of sixteen wheelers blowing by me at eighty miles per hour while on their way to jack-knifing and tying up traffic for the next four hours. My job is a relative cakewalk.
4:oo pm - I arrive home and begin the evening ritual of preparing dinner while being lied to about homework. "No, I did it all at school". I open the fridge and peer into the space where the tub of chili used to be that I was going to use for dinner. I go to the basement door and I'm hit with a strong herbal smell. I call down to the nineteen year old and ask him where the chili went. "The guys game over and I made them burritos" I ask him about the odor wafting from downstairs. He tells me it's the marijuana incense he bought at the market downtown. The marijuana incense he bought actually smells like soap, this doesn't smell anything like soap. He's now in his second year of college and believes I just fell off the turnip truck. I resist the overwhelming temptation to go downstairs and join the party.
6:00 pm - I put dinner on the table from ingredients I pulled out of the freezer and cabinet. That thirty-five year career as a chef finally pays off but only briefly, "WHY DON'T WE EVER HAVE ANYTHING GOOD TO EAT? MOM TAKES US TO McDONALDS! WHY DON'T YOU EVER TAKE US OUT TO DINNER?"
7:00 pm - I have finished cleaning up the kitchen and I am settled in to watch a bit of TV until I go to bed but must first referee the nightly fight over who gets the laptop despite the fact that there are two other computers in the house. "I have to write a paper". "NO HE DOESN'T! ALL HE DOES IS WATCH STUPID VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE AND CHAT WITH HIS IDIOT FRIENDS!" Wise King Solomon gives him the laptop for an hour and her the laptop for an hour. "YOU'RE THE WORST FATHER IN THE WORLD! I HATE YOU!" My ex-wife pops in to drop off a couple of things for the kids and tell me how tired she is.
9:00 pm - I pry the youngest off the Xbox and make him prepare for bed. After the third attempt and several threats to throw the effing Xbox in the trash once and for all he signs off.
9:20 - I find the boy in the kitchen eating cold pizza and saying, "Two minutes, two minutes." I stand over him in the bathroom to make sure he actually brushes his teeth and then stand outside his room to make sure he does not take his cellphone and iPod to bed with him.
10:00 pm - I am in my own bed with my medium sized book that in my youth I would finish in two or three weeks. Now it takes me two months or so because all I can manages is about four pages a night before I start to fall asleep. It's almost Sunday, my day off. I'll do my laundry, the shopping where I'll buy food no one likes and maybe even spend a few hours with my girlfriend.
I've recently read that because of the economy many kids are staying with their parents until they are as old as twenty-six. That means I only have another twelve years give or take and then I'll be an empty nester. Something to look forward to.