Monday, June 23, 2008

The Best Laid Plans of Elastigirl

I remember the first time I watched the movie The Incredibles. I remember thinking how ironic it was that the mother's superpower was extreme flexibility and super stretchiness. It's not a very glamorous super-power. But then again, how else can a Mom manage all the different directions Life will take the family?

We had one of those weekends that had 8 million diversions from the path we set out to take. We rushed out the door to a baseball game -- five minutes later, lightning flashed and the game was cancelled. We had friends from out of town scheduled to come over for the afternoon and stay for dinner -- we had to cancel when my daughter woke up miserable with a high fever. ... It was one of those weekends.

Fortunately, the thing that usually stretches me to the breaking point wasn't a problem. My husband's ringing work phone only rang once this weekend. And he was able to solve the caller's problem without heading in to work. Hallelujah! Lately, that cell phone has been the enemy of our weekends, dragging him away in the morning, evening, and the middle of the night.

This weekend, thankfully, was different.

It was such a relief, even in the face of constantly changing plans and expectations, to have a husband and a Dad right here with us. He went out on Saturday morning to buy donuts for breakfast, and when he came back, my oldest son was so relieved. "I thought you had to work on a Saturday again," he said. The donuts were a secondary bonus -- what he wanted was his Dad.

Having another parent here to share the load -- even the load of 3 kids inside during a rainstorm and the load of caring for a sick toddler, on top of the normal cooking, cleaning, laundry, you-name-it that I do all the time -- helps me feel like it's actually the weekend. When my husband is on call or traveling, and I am the 'go to girl' for all my children's needs for weeks at a time, I don't get a weekend. I don't get time off at all. And as a result, I find I rely more on routine and rules and you-WILL-do-it-my-way than I ever do normally. I am less tolerant of messes and rude humor. Bedtimes are strictly enforced. We laugh less. Our lives become, in general, a lot less fun.

When I have to parent alone, I am less silly-putty and more like a sun-bleached rubber band that still has a little stretch, but could break any minute. It makes me wonder how single parents can do this at all. I couldn't parent full-time by myself, much less parent well. And single parents have to worry about work and child-care and keep up with what's going on with school and their kids friends... It would be too much for me, I am sure of it. I couldn't do this alone. I'm not SuperWoman.

I guess that's why I identify with Elastigirl. She has superpowers, but she's part of a team that helps her be her best. I need my team, especially Mr. Incredible. With him around this weekend -- even with the changed plans and sickness and constantly changing gears -- I felt stretchy and flexible enough to handle it all.

Midwest Mom

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