Time keeps on slippin’

Over the past few days, Lila-Jeanne our 16-month-old is calling me maman on a pretty consistent basis. There’s the odd token papa sprinkled in here and there but the indisputable default is maman. This is a heartfelt shout out for Mélanie aka maman who she clearly wants and pines for. I’m harbouring some warm and fuzzies too though. I figure that I must be an ok temporary stand in to get such honoured treatment with this most powerful of monikers.

Mélanie is off on a short, well-deserved holiday while I take on her 365 days a year role for the merest of mere four sleeps. For the past 16 months, maman has been home full time. We’ve also had the good fortune of my being able to take two parental leaves, for six and nine months respectively. For both parental leaves, the two of us were at home so there was always a chance for one of us to be off duty on occasion.

Well, that’s not the case when you’re running solo and have to juggle the needs, wants and schedules of three 5 and unders. Parents who care for their children at home are amongst the most prolific and sophisticated mutli-taskers in existence. Otherwise, given the evolutionary limitations of just two hands and two feet, how would they possibly get anything done.

The first couple of days were pretty standard fare. Noah was on his 8:15 a.m. to to 2:10 p.m. school shift. Nellie had one morning of pre-school starting at 8:45 a.m. I picked her up early for a medical appointment.

Both evenings there were commitments. Night one was Beavers. A family friend helped out by taking Noah there and back. Night two was an open house math extravaganza at Noah’s school. The three kids and I went and had a great time playing with numbers and eating ice cream. All three were tucked into bed much later than usual.

All this to say that it is a daunting and humbling challenge to step into maman‘s shoes. I’m keeping my head above water – meals made, kids dressed, stories read, taxi service on time and lots of hugs, cuddles and love but, and it’s a big one, I’m finding it difficult to to make the time for playing and playfulness. About the best I’ve done so far is making faces and singing while serving the kids their meals. There have been some smiles and a couple of chuckles at these slapstick antics but they are certainly not in the hilarity zone.

Fortunately, kids play independently. Some argue that this is when they put their best foot forward. I see this on a regular basis. Some highlights in the last few days in the we are inventive department are a beaver dam built at the foot of the stairs using toys, cushions and bric à brac, a snowman made of wooden train tracks and the tons and tons of playful fun during our outing to the local science centre that included ferry rides and a playground pit stop.

Try as I might, I’ve been unable to tame the domestic bliss monster. Laundry needs to be done, toys need to be picked up, dishes washed, floors swept, car filled up, groceries bought. There’s a lot from this list that I will be trying to cram into the last 24 hours.

I know it’s possible to do all these things and play too because Mélanie manages to do it day in and day out. There are always new crafts awaiting me when I get home from work and the retelling of adventures with maman. Since I’ve been in charge, I haven’t picked up crayons, glue or scissors unless they’ve been rolling around on the floor.

Thanks to twitter friend Megan Rosker, I came across one family’s journey into creating more play time with their children. You can read about their voyage of discovery in A Year of Living Playfully. That playful year with the objective of – one hour a day, for one year, making make-believe a priority – is just coming up for a wrap.

I will need to plan the play quotient in advance for my next solo to make sure that time doesn’t keep on slippin’ away. The kids aren’t bereft, they’re just used to a larger play palette and a longer play duration when both maman and papa are in the house.

There’s one sleep to go and our three babies are looking forward to maman‘s return. It will be a wonderful homecoming with much kissing, hugging and loving (with any luck, I’ll get some of that too). I’m sure the kids will recount some silly papa stories of where I wandered off the beaten path, where I might have lost my way momentarily in the fine art of parenting.

All in all we haven’t done too badly the last few days. There have been no unscheduled hospital visits. There is only one new visible scar (did not require any medical attention). Hopefully there will be no change in status to report after the skateboarding and tricycle expedition later today. Although the kids received daily TV opiates, there were no overdoses. We received one invitation out to friends for supper and had a great time. This visit was also memorable for Nellie’s spontaneous, surround sound entertainment – the loudest, supersonic burp ever to belch forth from a three-year-old that set the house rocking with laughter.

So like I said, room for improvement particularly in the play department but overall not too bad. Biggest lesson – you can’t make more time so don’t let it slip away. Today’s must dos are skateboarding and tricycling – outdoors in the brisk March air. Here’s how it’s tallying up at the beginning of Day 4.

Hats off to you Mélanie. These meanderings and musings are really a paean to you and all those other moms and dads at home and single parents who have so much to juggle yet still make the time to bring the magic of play into their kids’ lives each and every day. Thanks for all the hard work, fun play and joyful smiles that meet me at the end of the day.

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