WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Over Memorial Day weekend, my in-laws took our two young daughters on a five-day camping trip and left my husband and I home alone for part of the workweek and the long weekend. It was the stuff parenting dreams are made of, I’m telling you.
In our married adult life B.C. (before children), we took all those long weekends for granted, sleeping in, lingering over coffee, maybe tackling some yardwork before meeting up with friends or heading down to the river to catch some catfish. Oh, how I wish we could have seen what our future held back then.
If we could have, we would have spent more time on that chore list I concocted for us to tackle without our toddlers’ “help.” Then maybe we could have spent our long, childless weekend alone together catching up on sleep and movies like normal people.
But we are not normal people — we are the kind of people who tackle house projects DIY-style, and the long procrastinated basement bathroom tiling project taunted us with the possibility of accomplishing it without the presence of two children reaching for power tool buttons, sticking their little hands in the mortar and trying their best at defying death at every turn.
How a basement tiling project without the kids has become my idea of fun weekend plans is something I’m still trying to process. But while we were at it, we might as well take advantage of our free time and clean the garage, the car, the dogs and the dog kennel.
We should mow the lawn, spray the weeds, till the garden, replace our broken door, varnish the entryway steps, hang the new curtains, do some accounting, write a novel, build a new barn and corrals, start a new business, go grocery shopping and actually finish a steak dinner before it gets cold.
So when I strapped the girls in their car seats and kissed them goodbye, I walked into my house that was suddenly so quiet and looked around, excited at the prospect of what I was going to accomplish in the absence of my sweet, adorable, sticky, messy children. But without them here, I could suddenly and truly see just how disastrous they are.
Forget the basement shower project: I spent the next hour scraping fossilized strawberries off the floor under our kitchen table before moving on to the bathroom, where I spent another hour organizing the drawers my darling daughters make their life’s mission to rearrange every time I get ready to go to work.
Suddenly, the Zen I was feeling at the prospect of a quiet house turned into the anxiety of living with an eerily quiet ticking time bomb: It was T-minus 118 hours until my children's arrival back home, and if we wanted that date night and a tiled shower, clean floor, garage, house, dogs and mowed yard, we better stop at Menards along the way. Please tell me we’re not the only parents who have considered a solo trip to the hardware store a date.
Oh, but we did get that uninterrupted restaurant meal without having to locate the booster seat. And we slept in, until the very familiar hour of 7 a.m. And we drank hot coffee and talked about our plans and I only got annoyingly urgent about that list a few times, once, unfortunately before my husband was even able to finish the second half of his sandwich.
And when it was all said and done, we were reminded for a few days of a life we used to live, and as much as we missed our clean floors, we missed our kids more.
And so I went and got them so they could drag out all their toys and drop crackers all over and I could sweep up after them in the never-ending cycle of this new, beautiful, sticky mess of parenthood we are lucky enough to appreciate a break from.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.