I’m an African man. Hold on, scratch that. I’m a Guinean man. No, even that involves some generalizations I’m not comfortable making. I’m a Maninka man, a Maninka father. I have been in America for more than half my life, but I am a Maninka at my core. This fact defines many things I am.
When I was growing up, and as far as I know today, in our culture, child rearing (at least the daily chores associated with this) are entirely the task of our mothers. Fathers are responsible for going out and getting the bread. The mothers take care of baking it, feeding it to the children, and taking care of the rest. Never in my entire life growing up did I see a Maninka father put pants on a baby, let alone change diaper. Fathers don’t know whether food is cooked with wood or charcoal. Needless to say, first giggles and first steps happen entirely in their absence.
Now I have two children, two American children. An eight year old girl and a two year old boy. Albeit when my son was born, my wife stayed home for six months and basically did everything, I have been very active in the domestic affairs related to raising them. Yes, I learned to change diapers, I knew and loved to cook long before they came in the picture, I learned and love to read them to sleep, give baths; I learned to make sure I cut fruits and vegetables in to tiny pieces before feeding it to them when they were younger. I even learned to take temperature and tell the difference between infant Tylenol and Children’s Tylenol!
Still I remember how terrified I was the first time my wife decided to go somewhere leaving me in charge. I had no idea the chemistry involved in feeding saved breast milk to an infant! But I learned. When he went to sleep, I checked on him constantly to make sure he didn’t suffocate himself to death. Not on my watch!
Things have improved much since that first time. But a month!? All by myself!?
Last week my wife took off for a month. Now, I’m at home with an eight year old daughter and a two year old son. Like I said, I’ve learned some things. But a month!? All by myself!? I was not freaking out by any means, but inside I was as terrified as that first day. How do I bus two kids; one to day care, another to school, before going to work? Then pick them up, go home, feed them, entertain them, put them to bed…just to do it all over again…for one month!? Keep them from setting the house on fire, or pushing me to the brink? I know lesser men have risen to bigger challenges, but in my book this is as big as Obama having to turn around the current US economy in nine month. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but good luck!
But I’m a man. An African man. No, scratch that, A Guinea man; a Maninka ke. So of course I don’t fall at my wife’s feet begging her to stay. I put on a straight face, drop her at the airport, and drive home with two American kids with not a slightest of doubt that this guy driving them might not be up for the job.
So here I am, four days into the challenge. And here’s what I’ve learned. Raising kids (or at least taking care of their daily living) is all about organization. So I have my day organized as such:
Wake up at 6am, get ready for work; at 630, start making breakfast and lunch; wake the kids up at 645, get them to the table by 715; eat breakfast, finish getting ready and be in the car by 745 latest; drop first kids off at day care hopefully before 800; drop second kid at school, and be at work at 815 or 830 the latest.
Work until 4pm, pick up first kid, pick up second kid, and head home. At home, heat up precooked meal, eat, do dishes, play with kids, do home work, play a little more, get ready for bed, and be in bed by 815pm. Only then do I have some me time. So I spend it on things like writing this piece. I do that until about 10pm. At 10pm, I start getting ready for bed (and the next day) and be in bed at 11pm.
Of course I expect the unexpected, but I figure if I have a handle on the expected, then at least I won’t be caught completely off guard when the unexpected arrives. But more importantly, I’m having a blast with the kids. And amazingly enough, I feel like I’m getting more done; around the house and on my personally projects. Usually, they get on my nerves with their childish things. But knowing it’s only me and them, I have made the conscious decision to ignore some of those things. So long as they are not hurting themselves, or lighting a match, we’re cool.
But tomorrow, we have piano lessons between school and dinner. Friday we have roller skating. Saturday and Sunday, we have other outdoor activities, laundry needs laundering, house needs cleaning, weeklong meals need preparing…and I still need some me time.