Gary takes charge of the house and kids while his wife has a well-deserved break.
Even though The Omnipotent One was thousands of kilometres away, enjoying a well-deserved break from her two children and occasional third child – me – I could still hear her voice loud and clear, and feel her eyes trained on my back. Make sure they wash their hands. Take a jumper for them in case it gets cold. They have to eat at least three quarters of their salad before they get dessert. Yes, that brand of apple juice might be cheaper but it’s got bad numbers in it. Do either of them have itchy bottoms? Do you?
It was the first time she’d been away from me and the kids, and the first time I was left completely in charge for more than a day. I was a little daunted, but let me say, completely in charge felt pretty good. Actually, it felt really good. Finally, I had the chance to put my mark on things a bit more. Only for nine days mind you, and I intended to follow the instructions she’d kindly left on the planner in the kitchen, and I certainly intended to heat up the meals she’d left in the freezer, but my brain was ticking over, identifying the areas where the rules could afford to bend a little.
There’s something about being left alone that triggers a rebellious switch in me. It’s remained with me since I was a kid, and my mate Vince and I used to steal cigarettes from his dad’s stash when he was out. And when my brother and I swigged sips from those obscure liqueur bottles in the liquor cabinet, finally old enough for our parents to leave us home alone to go out on a Saturday night. And when I first moved out of home and could finally put the music on full blast in my bedroom so I could hear it in the shower.
Being left alone reminds me of youth, discovery and opportunity. And now that The Omnipotent One was half a world away, I could almost taste the Horizon 50s and Tia Maria.
It wasn’t as if I was going to throw a party though. Given my primary, well pretty much only, responsibility was to keep our kids alive, the craziest I was going to get would have to be limited to putting my stamp on daily tasks.I would have to get my thrills from things like the washing. This I chose to do infrequently, conjuring up fond memories of the overflowing, broken-under-the-weight-of-dirty-clothes plastic laundry basket from my bachelor days. School lunch making would occur the night before, so as to generate an invaluable extra 15 minutes sleep-in each morning. Dishwasher stacking would be undertaken immediately upon finishing a meal instead of being left in the sink with water and bits of food in them.Being a hot sleeper, the kids would wear cool, summer pyjamas to bed like me, even though it was an unseasonably cold spring. I grew a beard, which I normally don’t do if I know what’s good for me. This is of course, not to say that the way The Omnipotent One operates isn’t right, or effective. Except for perhaps the dishwasher thing. It’s just not the way I roll, or would roll if I had absolute rolling discretion.
The Omnipotent One arrived back during the night, visibly impressed with the state of the house – better than just still standing, and the kids – not just alive, but healthy and sleeping soundly. I was congratulated and genuinely felt proud that I’d managed without her.
She lingered as she looked in at the kids. “It’s a cool night,” she said. “Why are they wearing short pyjamas?” I opened my mouth, but waivered. It didn’t seem right that I attempt to cling to power when she was the one who puts the majority of the daily effort into making sure our children are as happy, healthy and comfortable as possible, and does an amazing job of it.
The next day, I put them in their flannelette pyjamas for bed, and the day after, my beard was off. I had enjoyed my time in charge, but realised I just didn’t need it. Eventually, even the rebellious learn that the home is a place for harmony, not revolution.