'So who's watching your kids next week?'
Those are seven terrible words when the person asking is your in-home daycare provider. She told me she was taking vacation, of course, with months to prepare for the absence. But that also is plenty of time for me to forget all about it.
I have the opportunity to spend every Thursday with my two kids, so I'm no novice at daddy time during the week. My wife coaches softball in the spring, which means she gets home around 7 p.m., so I'm used to long stretches alone with them the other afternoons, as well.
But this was going to be different – a week of work from my couch, with 4-year-old Owen and 2-year-old Lydia running around.
Have you seen the movie 'Twister?' It was just like that.
8:33 a.m. Monday: It's already on. How do you guarantee your 4-year-old will love a toy? You buy it for the 2-year-old. An argument over a vacant-eyed dolly named 'Jewelers' has led to crying from both parties. I should probably officiate this, but instead, I snap a picture of Lydia crying on the floor and post it to Facebook, notifying everyone that my week is off to a resounding start. Levity is the key to survival.
1:42 p.m. Monday: Owen sneezed into my open mouth as I tried to fasten his jeans. I'm not entirely sure he did it on accident. Then, he insisted that he have an old sports drink that had taken residence at the back of the fridge. When I relented, he promptly spilled it all over the dining room table. I suspect malice. It's too cold to go outside.
6:45 p.m. Monday: Lydia is standing by the window waiting for mama, mama, mama, mama. I'm right there with her in spirit.
7:12 p.m. Monday: 'Daddy, when can we go to the playground again?'
'Is that on Friday?'
(He's already thinking about the end of the week. You and me both, kid).
8:25 a.m. Tuesday: Today, blissfully, is a little different. Owen will be at school for most of the day, so it's just me and the little girl. I try grabbing an extra 30 minutes of relaxation on the couch while feeding Lydia her second cartoon of the morning. I doze off. When I wake up, she trust-falls from the arm of the sofa onto my face.
12:05 p.m. Tuesday: 'Mama, mama, mama, mama,' she says, pointing to a photo from our wedding day.
'Who's that guy?' I say, pointing to me.
'Can you say daddy?'
I video this for Facebook consumption. (She really is a daddy's girl. I know this because at 3 a.m., her inconvenient adoration of me requires solely my attention to calm her.)
4:52 p.m. Tuesday:After hitting up a playground that I thought would satisfy the beasts for a short time, an ill-fated attempt to see my wife's softball game goes bad. It's windy and way too cold. I have to take Lydia to the car, scaling a steep, wooded trail to get to my vehicle 300 yards away. Owen decides he'd like to stay and re-climbs the hill despite my insistence he not. I return to forcefully retrieve him. He cries halfway home, until he falls asleep. When he wakes up as I extract him from the car, he picks up the protest-crying almost literally where he left off. I find this impressive, though vexing.
2:31 p.m. Wednesday:Guys, I've discovered something. Kids in Motion in New Berlin is not only the perfect play environment for both kids, it also has plush leather couches, where I sit and read pretty much uninterrupted for two hours. Those couches are like a parents support group without the talking. I never want to leave.
5:15 p.m. Wednesday: Lydia wakes up from a nap, screaming. As I change her diaper, I realize she has stuffed a large quantity of dried beans (used as a base on the floor of one Kids in Motion play area) down her onesie. As I unstrap the onesie and dirty diaper, they come pouring out. I don't even understand how this is possible.
6:20 p.m. Wednesday: A quick run to the grocery store. I leave Owen in the frozen pizza aisle after he throws himself there in protest for my taste in snack foods. He finds me quickly enough and tells me I'm naughty.
8:15 a.m. Thursday:I'm the parent helper in Owen's 3K class. Because the best cure for too much exposure to little people is 17 additional little people. It's … actually, so much fun. I dance in music class.
12:07 p.m. Thursday: Lunch at Chic-Fil-A, and one of Owen's classmates is there, too. I watch the two of them and Lydia circulate on the play area for over an hour, laughing at them through the glass.
6:02 p.m. Thursday: Another softball game, one with a dramatic, positive ending. The kids are great. Dinner afterwards (across the street from Chick-Fil-A, no less). I might make it!
2:32 p.m. Friday: I'm back at Kids in Motion. You don't question what works. Two more glorious hours, and this time no dried beans mixing with a dirty diaper. They have a bubble machine that turns on every 20 minutes. One of life's great joys is watching the children flock to it, screaming 'Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!'
5:54 p.m. Friday: Yet another softball game, and Owen is playing on the hilly trail area. I turn around and see he's naked from the waist down. I had directed him to go potty outside the day before, because we were too far from the bathrooms. He has now decided this is the preferable method of potty.
6:36 p.m. Friday: Another win! Owen is celebrating by peeing in the great wide open yet again.
3:45 p.m. Sunday:I watched them all day Saturday, too, but my wife takes the kids to a confirmation party for one of her students, leaving me alone for three and a half hours. I walk to Belaire Cantina in Wauwatosa and pick up some tacos. I read. I sit. It's like breathing a different quality of air. I listen to a podcast about the TV show, 'Game of Thrones,' which is on later that night.
Spoiler alert: It's an episode where a major character returns from the dead.
You and me both, kid.■
JR Radcliffe is a father of two and the director of sports for Lake Country Publications and NOW Newspapers.