In the 70’s when I started working, single career moms weren’t common in my part of south Texas. I was lucky to find Frances who provided affordable care for several children and who was willing to keep GE. There was a revolving door at her house with her grown up kids and grand-kids coming for soap operas, for gossip, or for the daily lunch special. The family welcomed GE like she was one of the tribe.
Getting GE to Frances’ house was a problem. That was in the days when my reason for being in a 12 step program was developing. I believe I was born an alcoholic but, like pregnancy, it took awhile for it to show. Natally speaking, I was in my first trimester of alcoholism. I could still party long and hard but waking up wasn’t easy. I raced out of the house many mornings, pulling GE along, fixing her hair at stop lights and tying her shoe laces in Frances’ driveway.
When JD came along, I wasn’t less chaotic, but I had plenty of help getting off to work. John had a flexible schedule at his work since he was the boss and did the morning go to work duties. GE was always ready to fill in the gaps. As a result, he was probably less traumatized by early mornings than GE was.
Today, I am a relatively organized morning person, putting our lunches together each night, coffee pot ready to go off 5 minutes before the alarm, clothes set out. A few weeks ago, I got a reminder of the working parent routine when Ashlynn, our favorite 3 year old, spent a couple of nights with us. Delivery to day care was complicated because I’d forgotten a 7:30 a.m. project meeting and her day care doesn’t open until 7:30.
Ashlynn wakes up pretty happy, but we normally have time for cartoons, breakfast, and cuddles before she has to get dressed. We didn’t have that luxury and I rushed her out the door with a smoothie and cereal cup to eat on the road. She happily sang “Wiggledy Woggledy Waby” all the way to the job. I stopped at the project and, since it was an undisturbed site, she was able to walk along with me, comparing plans with site conditions and talking to the general contractor.
Before I could take her to day care, I had to make a side trip. Our port project was dangerous with an excavation 14′ deep and heavy equipment rolling in all directions. She patiently waited in the car, coloring on a set of construction plans and talking to her doll. Before we got back on the road, I sent Bob a text and mentioned that I hadn’t dropped Ashlynn off yet. (You better hurry. She’s got to be there by 9:30 or they won’t take her. No big deal. It’s 8:45 now. We’ve got plenty time.)
Two minutes after we left the job, Ashlynn called out, Gaga, GaGA, GAGA! You forgot to let me go potty. And I HAVE TO GO. NOW!!!! (Can you hold it?) NO. I. HAVE. TO. GO. NOOOWWW.
We were on Joe Fulton Corridor which is deserted. No Stripes. I won’t use the job site portable toilet and I certainly wouldn’t let her use it. There was no place to stop. (Do you think you can go on the ground?) YES. I HAVE TO GO. I REALLYREALLYREALLY HAVE TO GO.
We pulled over to the shoulder and I made her a partition with the car doors. It was when we got to the squanting and going that we had a problem. I didn’t account for urine projectory and she ended up getting both of us wet. There was nothing to do but go home and change clothes. After a shower. I called Chelsea and asked if daycare was serious about the deadline. Yes, they are. But I can see if they’ll make an exception. They granted me a 15 minute dispensation.
I suspect Chelsea and Ashlynn had encountered the 9:30 deadline because Ashlynn said in a mournful voice: I might have to stay with you, Gaga. I can’t go to school if we get there late. (No, sweetie. We’ve got time.) I don’t think so, Gaga. If we’re late, we’ll have to go home. Or I could stay at your office.
The reality of day care and Ashlynn’s hopes for a day off collided when we pulled into the parking lot with 4 minutes to spare. The wails from the back seat started low and increased in intensity as I moved around the car to help her out of the car seat. She immediately clung to my leg, trying to drag me away from the day care. I murmured reassurances as I crab walked in a crouch with a crying 3 year old conjoined to my leg. We made it to the sign in desk with 30 seconds to spare.
The front desk attendant admonished me about timeliness as Ashlynn started walked toward her class with the speed of a death row inmate walking to her final destination. I watched her go with a sense of epic grandparent fail. It dissipated when Ashlynn turned and called out in a joyful voice, You’re picking me up after school and we’re going swimming today. Right, Gaga? Right?