I’ll be the first to admit that when times get tough, I throw in the towel. I don’t mean literally. I don’t – like – leave and return a week later after a blur of booze, parties, and memories I pray were just nightmares.
I mean – like – I just give up. Mostly at being a parent.
It doesn’t usually last long. Typically an hour. Two, tops. Or it’ll last for an event.
Maybe the appropriate phrase is I give in.
Recently, my husband was working at a different company for a little over a month. Basically, his company hired him out for the duration of that period to do a particular project, in hopes it will bring the show he worked on to his facility later on down the line.
Blah blah more film industry jargon blah blah reality TV blah blah.
None of that meant a thing to me, beyond the bottom line: longer hours, longer commute, more overtime. Or, in short: Heather you’re a single mom for a while.
At first things went pretty smoothly. We worked through the upsettedness that Dad wouldn’t be home for bedtime some nights. He took a day off to compensate for the fact that he would be gone on Valentine’s Day.
And then, the hiccup. This is always what happens when he goes through a busy period at work: everything goes great until one thing goes wrong, and in an instant all hell has broken loose in our house. I become that mom that hides in the closet eating candy bars to calm herself before emerging back into the trenches. And, speaking of the house, it becomes such a disaster that people have to literally climb over piles of laundry (who knows whether they are clean or not?) to get to the bathroom.
From the time the hiccup happens, until my husband’s busy period at work is over, it isn’t pretty to be around any of us.
The hiccup this time happened about a week in; suddenly, and without warning, I threw in the towel without even realizing it.
“Can I have an entire sleeve of Thin Mints?”
Sure, why not.
“Can homeschooling today just be playing with Barbies?”
I’m sure that could be educational in some circles.
“Can we push bedtime back to oh say 2 am?”
By all means!
It isn’t that I depend on my husband, necessarily, to be the parent around here. I mean, really. He’s the most stereotypically aloof dad-figure out there; if we had $1 every time the phrase “go ask your mother” comes out of his mouth on a regular basis, we’d have the money to hire a nanny to do the parenting I don’t do every time I throw in the towel.
Nonetheless, he provides me with the back up I desperately need.
So upon coming to the realization that I had thrown in the towel so soon this time, I knew that something had to be done. Something drastic.
Something as drastic as Christmas.
Christmas is when kids are at their absolute best. Whether they believe in Santa Claus anymore or not, they know that good behavior around Christmas is rewarded with more presents under the tree.
It’s the law of the land, as far as childhood is concerned.
A few years ago, we started reinforcing the idea of the fat guy in the red suit putting you on the naughty or nice list with the Elf on the Shelf. It wasn’t that we necessarily agreed with doing the elf, and her subsequent elf friend – the reindeer; it’s that everyone else is doing it, why aren’t we?
And I will be the first to unashamedly admit that the elf has done even more than Santa Claus ever did for good behavior.
But as much as I can tend to be a Pinterest Mom (in between severe bouts of laziness), there was a cold chance in hell I’d be staging any kind of second Christmas around here. What would that even mean? How would I even justify that?
Then I realized that there already is a second Christmas, and it was already well on its way at that point.
So in my genius, just a little over a week into my husband’s busy time at work, a lightbulb went off over my sugary, candy-coated, closet-hidden mush of a brain:
The Elf on the Motherflippin’ Shelf will come back as the Easter bunny’s helper.
The Elf on the Shelf and her reindeer were sent by Santa to help the Easter bunny keep an eye on things, and to make sure kids are not only good and deserved of their Easter treats, but to make sure they understand the meaning of Easter. Brilliant, right? The lies have grown so deep in this house now, I don’t even know what’s true anymore. And I don’t care, because everything went back to normal as soon as Jem and her pet reindeer, The Hologram, returned. I also feel more as though we’ve gotten our money out of The Elf on the Shelf, and all it’s accompanying purchases. I mean, the tradition will only last so long before everyone decides to cut the bullshit on the whole thing. At least this way we’ve gotten more use out of it.
Anything to make myself feel less pathetic for needing a toy to provide discipline in my own house.
On the positive of this entire endeavor, things have gotten better.
There have been no more requests to eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting.
No more suggestions that homeschooling consist of playing with Barbies all day.
Bedtime went back to its normal (already too late) time.
So The Elf on the Shelf returned for Easter at our house, because I can’t parent. I’m sure worse things have happened; more egregious parenting faux pas have been committed. The end result is a happy, functional household; and a less-crazy mom. I make a terrible single mother. I’m OK with admitting that I need help restoring order around here.
Even if it’s from a stuffed Christmas toy that I glued bunny ears to.