I’m single-parenting this week. It’s turned out to be better than I expected. I don’t have to confer with someone about every little thing, and I don’t have to wait around for someone else to do what they said they’d do. I just take care of business.
The down side is that I had to perform the manly task of hunting down a dead rodent in the basement. There was an unmistakable smell wafting up through the heating vents. Shit, I thought, how come every time Matt leaves town I have to deal with varmints? (It’s true. The last time he was gone for more than a few days, there was raccoon issue and the appearance of a hornet’s nest in the tree overhanging my car). Armed with Matt’s yellow rubber dishwashing gloves, long tongs, a plastic bag, and a flashlight, I went down into the basement to investigate. My son trailed behind me, holding his nose closed, asking me what the rat would look like, or would it be a mouse, and why was it dead, and how did I know it was dead? I pulled up a stepladder to the aluminum heating duct where I could see the corner of the big wooden rat trap hanging over the edge. I grasped it with my BBQ tongs and pulled it toward me until I saw the sad little grey lump matted with blood lying on it.
“Is that it?” cried my son, hopping from foot to foot and craning his neck toward the ceiling.
“Jonah, get out of here,” I said. “This is gross. I don’t want you to see this.”
“Mommmmmm, I want to tell you something-"
“I mean it!”
He ducked his head and walked out of the furnace room. I deposited the poor rat and its instrument of death into a plastic Safeway bag.
“Mom, it still smells out here,” Jonah reported.
I raced past him to run up the stairs and lay the animal in its final resting place. Then I had to go back and swab up the leftover gore.
After it was all over I felt victorious. I texted my husband that I had succeeded.
“Did you find the new rat hole and cover it up?” he asked me later on the phone.
“What? No. The old crib is leaning against the wall, I can’t get into that corner to even look. “ Who cared? I was a pioneer woman for God’s sake! I could do anything! I could probably rope a steer.
I’ve been living with my husband for nine years. During this time it has become clear that he and I are not cut from the same cloth, especially when it comes to dealing with, say, pestilence. His response upon seeing a rat leap from the top of a heating duct to the floor, inches from his face, was to yell and then rush upstairs to call an exterminator. Mine was to laugh hysterically and hold my hand over my heart. Left to my own timeline, I’d have called an exterminator several weeks later after sweeping up rat turds for too many days in a row. In this case, I was all about putting out the fire, and he was all about preventing one in the future.
This is as good an analogy for our respective upbringing as any. It’s no mystery that we found each other. It’s really true that opposites attract.
So while I missed him this week, I also enjoyed being my freewheeling self. My kids and I ate a lot of food on the fly. We went for dog walks at night and watched an extra movie or two this week. I let bedtimes go long when it made the kids happy. I would never do this if I were a single mom for real, because that would set me up for a nightmare, but it was fun to let things go a little lax this week.
Another bonus is that I didn’t have the chance to feel guilty about not being a better mother. I wiped my kids’ butts, I made their food, I read them 1,000 stories, I put their covers back on them at night, and no one was here to do it better.
That feels good.