Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Home Alone: The Critical Mom's Guide

You never leave them home alone, right?  Not when they're babies, unless they're sound asleep or zoned out watching Baby Mozart while you rush out with an armful of laundry, wait what seems like ten hours (but is really 79 seconds) for the elevator, and spend every moment you're putting the stuff in the machine wondering if they are staring around the room wondering where Mommy is, panicking, and screaming.
It never happened that they were.  You always came back to a sleeping or smiling child, who hadn't registered your absence.
Then they get older, and while the ten-year-old's sister is at ballet class, the ten-year-old goes to soccer, and that's good since that's the one day the babysitter can't come and you can't be in two places at once.  But now the soccer schedule is changed, so that he--and I tell myself after all he is now a  fifth grader--is home alone for two and a half hours, about seven minutes of which will be consumed by his "it's incredibly easy, Mommy" homework.
So you call to see if he is okay but also to ask him to put the meatloaf casserole in the oven and turn it on, so that when his father and sister come home in an hour, they can all enjoy dinner together. You rehearse with him before you leave the opening of the oven door, the removal of the casserole from the fridge, the removal of the plastic wrap from the casserole, the insertion of the casserole into the oven, the closing of the door, and the turning of one dial to 180º and the other dial to "bake," represented not with a word, as would be convenient, but by two parallel lines.   "Yes, Mommy, I heard you, now lea'meaahhhhlohhhhne!"
So this is how it goes when you call him from the ballet school,
Me: "Hi, sweetie!  Can I ask you to put that thing in the oven now?"
He: "You know, Mommy, the other day when I said that stuff about being a housewife was easy?  I was wrong."
Me: "Is everything okay?"  It couldn't be--that much I had figured out just from his voice.  He had complained about the food not appearing in front of him fast enough at lunch the day before, and advised me that Daddy did all the work but I did none.  I had muttered something about the tips in this restaurant being lousy and maybe I'd work elsewhere, and I'd told him that the food just cooked itself and jumped on his plate, the way his dirty clothes marched themselves into the washing machine, cleaned themselves, and jumped back out completely folded.  None of my speech had impressed him at the time.
Now he offers a giggle and asks if I remember the time he was two years old and he wanted to pour chocolate sauce on some ice and I wouldn't let him?  I don't remember the time and I do not want him eating chocolate sauce in the middle of the afternoon, and I let him know that.  Giggles.  "Don't worry Mommy, I kind of made a mess but it's okay.  Just kidding!"
"Could we get that casserole in the oven now?"
"Okay.  Mommy, I was thinking about what kind of apartment I should have when I'm eighteen.  Do you think I should have three rooms, four rooms, or five rooms?"
"How many rooms would you like to have?"
"I think I would need a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a bathroom, so four rooms."
"That sounds good.  Could we get your dinner in the oven now?"
"Yes.  Mommy, when I'm eighteen and I have my own apartment, can I come back and visit you and Daddy at Christmas?"
"Yes, of course you can!  We would expect you to!"  And I want to reassure him that we love him, but I'm distracted by the thought that if that meatloaf doesn't get in the oven there won't be any dinner.   "Could you open the oven door first?"
"Yeah, okay, Mommy.  I'm doing it now."  Feet slap across the kitchen floor. 
"And now put in the casserole with the plastic wrap off?"
"Yeah!  I did!"
"And now turn the first dial to bake, the one with the parallel lines."
"Okay, is that the second one down?"  He's sounding a bit irritated.  We talk about the dial.  Now the casserole is in and the oven is on.  The other dial is set, I think.
"And you did take the plastic wrap off?"  I'm afraid he's going to explode and tell me he already told me he did that.
"Oh, yeah!  The plastic wrap!  Okay, now I'll take it off."
I thank him and hang up.  Five minutes later I call him back and ask him about the apartment he wants to have when he is eighteen, and he tells me more about the layout, and I tell him I love him and Daddy loves him and we really want him to be with us for every single Christmas for the rest of our lives.
When my husband gets home there's chocolate sauce all over the floor and the inside of the microwave.  Our ten-year-old couldn't get the lid off the chocolate sauce, and thought it would be a good idea to put it in the microwave and melt the chocolate that was gumming up the lid so he could get the chocolate out of the bottle.  I panic and tell him please not to put a glass bottle straight out of the fridge into the microwave again and realize he has figured that one out.
But the casserole was delicious.  Perfectly baked.   Plus, he'd like it if I taught him to cook a few things, so that when he's eighteen he can make himself dinner sometimes. 


  1. That is so sweet. You are a fantastic mom. I love that you called him back to chat about his apartment!

  2. Yeah . . . and it is really so much fun to talk to him. He has so many ideas!

  3. Aw, I love this story. Go B.!

  4. Thanks. The child who loves trouble like trouble loves him . . . and usually, if it's a bad guy as opposed to a good casserole, he is right.