Thursday, October 22, 2009

Looking into the Future (or Riding with an Imaginary Brake)

My husband trusts the brakes on his car, his reaction time, and in many ways, the intelligence of other drivers. I don’t put as much faith in the machine – or the human operators. Over the years my husband and I have argued about his driving, as well as my foot’s involuntary motion to stomp on the passenger floor in an attempt to brake the car. We will never see eye to eye on this issue because he is simply incapable of looking down the road as far as I can.

His nearsightedness is not uncommon in the male gender. Recently, as we rode to a Bruce Springsteen concert, giddy with the excitement of being with a group of friends sans kids, I listened with amusement to one of our group remind her husband of his upcoming kid-watching duties. It was Friday. She was leaving for a few days the following week. He had not adjusted his work schedule to pick up their girls from school that Monday even though he had known about the situation for weeks.

She pulled out her cell, punched in a speed dial number, and found a babysitter to cover.

This is what moms do. We have the ability to see into the future, make appropriate plans, and brake from the passenger seat to avoid catastrophe.

Early in September, I looked ahead to our family’s October schedule. The calendar was packed with events, many of which were adult-only. My work schedule included more days in the city than normal, and I had to arrange supplemental help for my regular babysitter. We are fortunate to have two sets of grandparents who are able and more than willing to help, so I started the kid-coverage plan. I asked my parents to cover two weekend events, and I arranged individual grandparent help for the weekdays.

The only event left uncovered after my round of emails and phone calls was the Bruce Springsteen concert. Despite my husband’s attempts over the last decade to convince me I am a “Jersey Girl,” I have not become enamored with the Boss. I appreciate his talent and his ability to engage a Jersey crowd, but I am not a true fan. Ironically, this year’s show was the 6th time I saw Bruce in concert. My husband is a true fan, and I have tried, repeatedly, to join his enthusiasm.

Because the concert, and the hours of tailgating preceding it, were my husband’s gig, I figured it was fair to ask him to arrange for his parents to watch the kids. I warned him six weeks ahead of time to set it up. I reminded him as I looked at our calendar that early September day. I asked him at least twice after that if he had talked to his parents.

Two days before the concert, as I was talking to his mom about the upcoming trip to Disney (also in October), I realized she had no idea that we needed them to babysit that weekend. In my mind my right foot searched for the brake on the floor, and my stomach tightened with the possibility of the crash to come. Luckily, my in-laws were free and willing, and my husband escaped a near miss.

I am testing my husband’s nearsightedness again as I write this post. This month has been incredibly demanding of me. Lesson planning, responding to students’ work, visiting schools, preparing and delivering presentations, and attending to other professional duties have kept my work schedule packed. The Bruce concert, trip to Disney, Halloween festivities, and local horse race have filled the weekends. We have also decided to renovate our basement so our evenings have been consumed with contractors and design layouts.

I’m exhausted – and not in party mode at all.

When I originally arranged for kid coverage for the month, I asked my mom to babysit Halloween night. There is a party in our neighborhood that will last well beyond our toddlers’ bedtime, and my husband and I planned to drop the kids with my parents at bedtime and head back to the celebration for some adult conversation. We knew that while the kids were with us, we would spend our time chasing the two of them with no opportunity to relax.

Recently, I found out that my work schedule would require kid coverage that I had not arranged for next week, the week prior to Halloween. I asked my mom to visit for a few days and released her from the Halloween night duty. In part I did not want to impinge further on her time that week. However, I also did not have the energy to party and decided that I would take the kids home myself when it was time to put them to bed, curl up on the couch in front of the TV, and let my husband enjoy the adult party down the street.

When I told him my plans, he showed disappointment that surprised me. After a somewhat heated discussion, I relented. I told him that if he wanted it to be a date, I would attend the party with him, but he needed to find a babysitter. He immediately suggested one of the teenagers we used regularly.

I looked into my crystal mom-ball and said, “It’s Halloween on a Saturday night. I imagine she has plans.” The conversation ended there.

It’s been over a week, and he hasn’t mentioned the upcoming party or the kid sitting needs. He also has no idea that we need to take food to the party, which needs to be purchased and prepared, or that our daughter’s costume needs to be hemmed, which I will probably have to do with duct tape because I have no idea how to sew a two-layered, satiny/netting skirt. (He was in charge of costumes, waited until the last minute to get them, had a limited selection in sizes, and now I have more work added to my list.)

Last night, as he looked over my shoulder at a flurry of email about the street party, he asked, “Who is babysitting?”

“You haven’t found someone yet?” I responded.

He rolled his eyes.

“Hey, this is your deal. All I know is that it’s not my mom. I already told her she didn’t have to do it.”

He changed the subject.

I’m not putting my foot on the imaginary brake this time. At worst, his parents don’t come through when he asks them late next week to cover, and I bring the kids home, put them to bed, and curl up on the couch in front of a chick flick. In my current state of mind, this vision isn’t an accident at all.