And just like that they were gone--my wife and daughter setting off for their very first girls' vacation, leaving me and the two boys in the lurch for (count 'em!) 11 days. Wait, did I say lurch? I meant home. Just me and the boys...for (did I mention?) 11 days.
Yes, yes—who was counting, but it was going to be 11 days of single dad parenting.
It had, to be certain, all the makings of a bad Adam Sandler movie.
See, I'm an active enough dad, if you define activity as playing catch, making jokes and coaching Little League. But actual true-blue hands-on care taking? When it comes to everything from making lunches to soothing tantrums, I exist in a state of befuddlement. Part of that is the stubborn natural state of man, even in light of evolution and wider progress in society. Part of it, too, is strategic: if you under function in areas you don't like, you are eventually asked to do less.
Things were about to change...and, standing on the lip of change, I was one scared little rabbit. Now, though, I have emerged from my toil (they came home yesterday, after 11 days, 4 hours, 3 minutes and 23 seconds) with a 7-point plan for survival as a single dad when your wife and a child go on vacation, without your house taking a barrel roll into the domestic abyss. Deviate from these guidelines at your own risk.
1) Joke incessantly about your predicament. Friends, neighbors and family will see it as the pathetic cry for help it is and invite you to barbecues.
2) Tell your mother, who hopefully lives in Katonah like mine, that everything is going great, but you've had some hard-bitten luck trying to feed the boys protein. It'll put you on the fast track to a pair of "surprise" Sushi dinners.
3) Transform from fun dad to dullard. First, fun dad gets kids wound up. If you don't want to deal with the fallout and resulting tantrums—well, no more two hundred pound man demonstrating good couch cushion jumping technique in a transparently sad pander for easy laughs. Plus, a kid can get hurt playing around. You are talking to a dad of a boy who placed a fabric cat tunnel on his head before sprinting around the house—a stunt that started well enough but ended on an emergency room gurney. The same boy, mind you, once jumped off the patio into a bush. So take heed and all but encase those boys under your charge in bubble wrap. A stitched child does not make a good member of the welcome-home-mom committee.
4) Television: it only gives, it asks for nothing.
5) Throw yourself at the mercy of the mom of one of your children's friends. You know the one I'm talking about—the super organized one, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Established Order--who can print out a spreadsheet of the car pool schedule for camp drop-offs and pick-ups. You will never remember and it's bad enough to forget your kids, but other people's? Been there, done that. Avoid it if you can.
7) More wine.
Marek Fuchs is the author of "A Cold-Blooded Business," called "riveting" by Kirkus Reviews. He wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column about life in Westchester for six years and teaches non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville. When not writing or teaching, he serves as a volunteer firefighter. You can contact Marek through his website: www.marekfuchs.com or on Twitter: @MarekFuchs.