Friday, March 7, 2014

Theory 35: When mama's out of commission, the world falls apart.

I rolled out of bed Monday morning with a dehydration-style pounding headache, stuffed, itchy, dripping nose, watery eyes, and sinus pain. I did the lovely neti-pot routine and operated as normal. The long drive to work was stressful and the school day interminable. Tuesday, I caved and called the substitute teacher hotline. I also called the doctor, even though I suspected a simple bad cold (not treatable by prescription). I went for broke because I don’t have time to be sick.

As my mother-in-law put it once, “I have to be okay because too many people depend on me.”

Can I get an “amen” from the sister wives, mothers, and especially single mothers?

The kind doctor pitied me and wrote a prescription for steroids, antihistamine, nasal spray to “get me through June,” Amoxicillin in case I got worse and didn’t have time to come back to the doctor, and renewed a prescription I take daily. BONUS – we talked about my possible breast reduction. I had planned to visit him on spring break, but he said, “Ah, let’s talk now. You get two for the price of one.” I think he meant three. Anyway, he took one look at my dented shoulders and said, “Pick a surgeon, any surgeon.” My. Kind. Of. Man.

I had a similar experience with Sharky’s ear, nose, and throat MD. Let’s call him Super Sweet Doctor Daddy. I would tell you that he’s father to two of my best friends, but when I was in his office and said, “You know, Dr. SSDD, I’m buddies with Flower Child and “Elaine” (whose pictures were hanging on the examining room wall) he quoted the medical privacy act and just smiled and chuckled. He respects the rules of his profession. He respects women.

After examining Sharky, Dr. SSDD turned to me and asked, “What can I do for mama while you are here?” I was startled.

“The appointment is just for Sharky.”

Dr. SSDD said, “Well, the mama is the doctor in the house. If she’s not well, everyone and everything in the family is disrupted. We need to keep mama well.”

After a confession-like conversation, I walked away with a prescription for Ambien, a one-day cure pill for yeast infections (Dr. SSDD said I could make a new best friend with it on a beach trip), and a awe-like affection for the sweet doctor. He communicated such respect for my role as wife and mother. I was so touched, I literally cried all the way home. I wanted desperately to tell my friends about it immediately, but I didn’t want to hurt the doctor’s privacy policy.

~ ~ ~

I conjured up Theory 35 while man-handling Gnome in one of my usual hangouts—the basketball gym— were Sharky attempts his Elliot-on-a-bicycle flights (ET) to the hoop for 2-point floaters.

My friends—let's call them "Yacht Mama" and "Yacht Daddy” because they live part time in rural East TN and part time in Volunteer Marina near the UT Campus in an old, yet roomy yacht. Well, they were all caught up in an intense logistical debacle a few weeks ago. Yacht Mama had a business trip to the West Coast. Yacht Daddy anticipated an entire week at home with two boys. Let's call the older one, who is 12, "Socks" since his legs are a country mile long and let's call his baby brother, who is eight, "Shoes" since he wears neon tennis shoes. A few days before Yacht Mama's scheduled trip, Shoes tripped on his backpack as he skipped down the dock headed to the car to go to school and did the Nestea plunge into an icy cold Tennessee River. Socks yelled to Yacht Daddy who rushed to the edge of the dock, laid flat on the boards, reached down and fished a shivering, soaked Shoes out by his backpack straps. Boys.

Socks and Shoes play basketball, among other things, and go to a challenging private school. Plus the family splits time between the house and boat, so daily schedules aren't simple. I observed, as I love to do in any basketball gym, the human condition. I studied both parents as they planned out the coming week. As Yacht Mama repeated and rehearsed with Yacht Daddy, I swear I heard him gulp and I know I saw beads of sweat dot his middle-aged forehead. Yacht Daddy is no dummy. He's basically a chief financial officer for a huge religious organization and supervises hundreds of people. He’s a smart, competent, cheerful, loving father. But, he is a man. And as we women on the bleacher back row watched them converse all weekend long about what he needed to do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, we just shook our heads and prayed for sanitary meals, homework completion, dry walks to the car, and Yacht Mama's peace of mind on the other side of the country. Of course, she'd already contracted help from a girlfriend, in case Yacht Daddy needed it. Just in case.

Just a thought/observation: When women are ill, out of town, post-surgery, post-partum) friends drop off casseroles, roses, and babysit for them. When men are ill, out of town, post-surgery, post-partum, most folks do nothing because a wife/mother/sister/girlfriend is handling things. And, handling them well. We only show up with our 9x12 pans when the wife dies.

Red Hot Backspace and Dogwood Debutante (each of whom are successful professionals and single mothers to two children) weighed in on this topic. I can’t thank them enough. We offer up a mixed bag of all that goes awry when mama is out of commission. Do you agree?  

·         Groceries spontaneously disappear.

·         Children come in the “sick” room. Constantly. With basketballs. Stay out!

·         Men and children email, text, call with every issue that comes up. Ironically, they do so with issues they handle fine on their own when mama is not sick and is home.

·         We hear, “Don’t bother daddy; he’s on the phone.” But it never matters when mama is out of town, in meetings, in front of a class, laid up in bed. Even (especially) asleep.  Red Hot Back Space’s boy child comes to ask her questions when she is clearly ASLEEP!! 

·         Children come to mom. Period.

·         Daddy may take children out to eat, but nutrition is out the drive-thru window. Cake for breakfast? Sure, don’t tell mama.
Is this breakfast or a pre-supper stay-out-of-the house snack.

·         Lunch boxes filled with neon or beige vitamin-free food like Cheez-its, gummies, cereal, and pop tarts. Talk about a sugar rush! Poor elementary teachers.

·         Sibling unrest escalates into world war three. The walls shake. The pictures crash. Mama has to referee lying down.

·         Sharpies magically appear and artwork shows up on the walls. In. Every. Room. Of. The. House. And on windows and furniture.

At least Gnome's color choices match the chair.

·         The movie Toy Story comes to life. Really. One thousand toe-stumping toys scatter across kitchen counters, living room floors, even in the toilet. This phenomenon continues with board games. Mama, if you feel a headache coming on, do yourself a favor. Lock up Monopoly and Candyland or you’ll be on your knees digging dusty Community Chest cards from under the sofa.
Yay me. Can't wait to sweep when I feel better. How'd Gnome get the scissors?

·         No one flushes and no one changes the toilet paper roll. What the?

·         When mama is well and out of town, the children automatically get sick. Automatically. Then, mama is answering phone calls from Dallas, TX, making appointments, directing daddy to the doctor’s office, then checking back to make sure daddy gave kiddo medicine after his lunch of Fruit Loops and soda crackers (which are also in the floor).

·         All the baby sleeping props disappear, because mama is desperate for sleep. The bottles are dirty. The blankies are forty miles away at Grandmama’s.

·         Why is there no gas in the car when I have to go to the doctor?

·         Bedtime is always late and a fiasco.  Funny how dinner/homework/bath time/bed time can run so smoothly when mama is home, but become a nightmare when mama is gone.

·         Daddy absentmindedly exposes children to scary movies, gives them routine wrecking naps, and feeds them what seems like energy drinks. Then, the children get out of whack and throw up in their beds, then mama’s bed.
Mama's gone = party time!

·         Children are late to school with clothes that don’t match/teeth not brushed/homework not done/no lunch.  Children call mama. Mama calls daddy. It ain’t pretty.

·         When my (Bug’s) cousin GT was sick, she directed her husband, Coach Bama, to handle dry-cleaning. She let him have it when she saw her Wal-Mart nightshirt in a plastic cleaning bag with a $4.50 receipt pinned to the $5 shirt’s shoulder

·         Gnome gets sugar cookies and milk for supper. He may be elfish, but he's not Santa Claus.

·         When my great grandmother died, her husband, “Pop” asked Delicious (his granddaughter), “Where are the knives?” He also almost burned the house down because he started a skillet of fried pork chops and then went to check on the cows.

·         If I (Bug) get sick, Tall Child starts coughing. We had the same illness once. A stomach bug. I literally put one of Gnome’s diapers in my pants and took the boys to school while Tall Child lay moaning in the luge position in our king size bed.

Dogwood Debutante closes out the list with this little proverb. Someone asked her a few days ago, “How do you juggle it all?”

She answered, “I just do, because I have to. I can't stop doing and doing. I can’t leave anything up to someone else. There is no one else. I’m a single parent.”

Did Red Hot Backspace, Dogwood Deb, and I miss anything? Readers, I’d love your input! Comment here or on the Theories: Size 12 Facebook Page.

~ ~ ~

In one of my pity-party I'm sick and tired of blah blah blah hissy fits, I challenged Tall Child that he was not doing enough housework. I like to use the phrase, "I am just feeling overwhelmed by having to do EVERYTHING!" Tall Child said, "You don't do EVERYTHING. I do the laundry and I pick Sharky up from basketball practice." In Tall Child's defense, he does take Gnome and Sharky to school almost every day. I hate dropping my Gnome off at daycare because he Velcro-clings to my leg and the teacher has to pry him off my mommy-soft thighs.  Then, I leave the office with a good old dose of working mother guilt to start my commute to teach other people's children.

Back to the battle. Sorry I’m rambling/venting. So Tall Child kept saying "I help a lot." Finally, I spit out a list (I prefer to complain in dramatic detail with stats to back up my claims). It began something like this (the Bota Box involvement fogs my memory a bit and, of course, also enhanced the argument):

Bug: You think you help a lot?
Tall Child: Yes, I do.
Bug: I do things here that you can't even imagine.
Tall Child: I can imagine. And, I do the floors, too. You forget about that.
Bug: When is the last time you cleaned the floors?
Tall Child: When Mom came at Christmas (argument took place in late February).
Bug: Gross! And I can tell. Have you EVER cleaned the microwave?
Tall Child: Yes, back when I lived on Stockton.
Bug: When you were single? Fourteen years ago?

 ~ ~ ~

Delicious isn’t a fan of this theory (even though she admitted she thinks everything I’ve written here is true). Thus my subtitle—"Go on and get mad, but you know I'm right." She said I’m male-bashing. I just know she is smitten with my husband. He is a good guy, and quite lovable; thus, his subtitle "Tall Child." I’m not a male-basher at all. As a matter of fact, next week’s theory is all about the gifts of the male gender. So, please find me online next week to read Theory 36: Men are easier to work with than women. 

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...