Apocalypse this week: diary of a parent 'survivor'

SUNDAY

0800 hrs. My wife left on a six-day camping trip, leaving me to guard 4-1/2-year-old daughter, Sarah. This assignment should be routine.

1100 hrs. Supply of Disney videos exhausted. Boredom rears its head.

1300 hrs. In order to avoid terminal tedium, we attend Operation "Family Swim." A partial success.

1600 hrs. On our return to the barracks, we stop at the video store to stock up on more Disney films.

2100 hrs. Lights out for Sarah.

2200 hrs. Lights out for Dad.

MONDAY

0900 hrs. Sarah deposited in Camp Playcare at the Y while Dad engages in much-needed aerobic exercise.

1300 hrs. Military stroke of genius! Double troop numbers with Sarah's friend Mikayla and head for movie matinee.

1500 hrs. Declare partial surrender. Two trips to canteen and one to washroom deplete supplies and patience. Sarah is scared by movie; Mikayla gets legs caught in chair. Retreat home to await pickup by Mikayla's parents.

2100 hrs. After successful meal of hot dogs and viewing of new Disney video, lights out for Sarah.

2130 hrs. Lights out for Dad.

TUESDAY

0900 hrs. Spring surprise on troops with unconventional morning bath followed by expedition for more rations at supermarket. Succumb to Sarah's repeated requests for fruit rollups.

1300 hrs. Mommy had signed Sarah up for an afternoon field camp in arts and crafts. Unfortunately, camp is 10 miles away and lasts only two hours. I wander the halls aimlessly until it's time to go.

1600 hrs. Another military stroke of genius! I invite Sarah's friend Bridget over for dinner. While they practice maneuvers with Barbie dolls, I prepare macaroni and cheese dinner with chopped dill pickles, as requested.

2100 hrs. Lights out for Sarah.

2115 hrs. Lights out for Dad.

WEDNESDAY

0900 hrs. Mikayla's mom wins medal for taking Sarah for the morning.

1300 hrs. Much anticipated two-hour arts and crafts break fails as Sarah insists Dad stay for entire session. Dad reacquaints himself with the art of papier-mache.

1600 hrs. Sarah and Dad both take a much-needed nap.

2100 hrs. Advantage lost as Sarah wide awake at bedtime.

2300 hrs. Dad and Sarah finally fall asleep together on Sarah's bed.

THURSDAY

1000 hrs. Emergency excursion to Toys-'R'-Us outpost. After half-hour of negotiations, parties settle on shiny dress-up Barbie skirt for $5.99.

1300 hrs. Toys-'R'-Us purchase buys two hours of privacy during afternoon arts and crafts camp. Dad revels in rare chance to read grownup book.

1730 hrs. Grandparents invite troops to dinner, but allow Dad to retreat and enjoy dinner alone.

2100 hrs. We head home and it's lights out for Sarah.

2105 hrs. Lights out for Dad.

FRIDAY

0900 hrs. Take advantage of Camp Playcare for Sarah again.

1805 hrs. Mommy calls to inform troops that she will be later than expected. Sarah and Dad fight back tears.

2200 hrs. Mommy arrives to find Sarah asleep and Dad muttering line from "Apocalypse Now": ("Oh the horror!"). Sarah awakes and gives Mom heartfelt greeting. Dad joins in group hug and gladly relinquishes command.

David Martin lives with his wife and daughter in Ottawa, Ontario. Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting experiences, send an e-mail to home@csps.com.

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