Incompetent Parental Sidekicks

Last week I took LP grocery shopping with me, just the two of us. We were at Trader Joe’s where they have a corner with a food and drink sample. We stopped for a taste of lemonade, and then continued on with the shopping. but soon LP kept saying he wanted the animal crackers. “We aren’t getting animal crackers.” I explained. He kept insisting there were “small” animal crackers he wanted. When I said they only had large containers of animal crackers he just looked at me, exasperated, and said “No, the small animal crackers that we ALWAYS get!” Now, I haven’t bought animal crackers in years, and I know the G-man hasn’t either. So I asked LP to show me where these elusive animal crackers were. He guided me back to the sample table. I looked around. I look at the shelves nearby. I looked in the freakin’ cheese section. No animal crackers. I turned to LP and said “sweetie, I’m sorry, but I don’t see the animal crackers you are talking about.” And the kind woman behind the sample counter heard me and said “Oh, I have them!” and proceeded to put a few animal crackers in a small sample cup. LP’s face lit up as she handed it to him and she said “He knows! We always have these back here for kids!”

Here is the thing: “Always” in this case means with dad. Because I almost never take LP shopping – that is something he and Dad do. Yet I’m the one who felt like the out-of-the-loop moron for not knowing the animal cracker secret.

There is a fantastic article that made the rounds on the internet recently entitled “Five Reasons I am Not Lucky to Have My Husband.” In the article Abi Oborne explains her frustration with the common occurrence of people telling her she is “lucky” to have a husband who is an equal partner in childcare, home care, etc. The article touches on a topic close to my heart, and I encourage people to read it. But I wanted to write about one line that I loved and has now become a catch-phrase in our house. When describing how childcare is actually a shared responsibility (not just Mom’s) she says this about her husband:

He is a father, not my incompetent parental sidekick.

I laughed out loud. And I immediately shared the line with the G-man. It resonated with us because we are both guilty of a) being the incompetent parental sidekick and b) treating each other like the incompetent parental side kick.

As a working mom it almost goes without saying that I feel torn, guilty, and struggle with the fact that most days I don’t see my kids for the first time until 4:30 or 5pm. I don’t take them to the doctor when they are sick unless it happens to be in the summer. I’m not the one taking them to the park in the morning and pushing them on the swings. And quite often that makes me sad.

But what is great is that the person doing all these things is their dad, my husband, who is a fantastic guy. But it also means that, when I am home, I don’t know the flow of the kids’ day. I don’t always know how things are going, what the new systems are, and yet I magically feel like I should because I’m their MOM! This has led to many “incompetent parental sidekick” moments for myself such as:

  • Messing off the VERY important drop-off routine for pre school (and more recently kindergarten) by either lingering too long, or forgetting the SECOND hug and kiss.
  • Forgetting to bring the travel potty somewhere (because that is not a routine item in my work bag).
  • Thinking we can walk three blocks in less than fifteen minutes right around lunch time
  • Using the crappy thermometer we have while LP had a raging fever, even though the good thermometer was “where it always is.”
  • Trying to tie LP’s shoes for him, only to be told he can “do it HIMSELF” and has been for a week.
  • And finally, not knowing the “animal cracker hack” at Trader Joe’s that LP ALWAYS gets

The G-man also has his incompetent parental sidekick moments, mostly around the fact that he pays almost zero attention to time and sometimes gets the kids out of the house for the morning just 30 minutes before they have to eat lunch. But I think I fit this role most often. And now it is nice to at least have a catch-phrase to go with it.

Gratuitous back-to-school picture for our "little" one!
Gratuitous back-to-school picture for our “little” one!

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