Many people who know me also know that my husband and I have no kids every other weekend. We call these “away games,” (thanks to a clever friend whom I secretly refer to as Metaphor Man because of his ability to create unusual and interesting metaphors for pretty much any situation. One day, this person said, “Home or away game this weekend?” I said, “Huh?” Then, he said, “Do you have children with you this weekend, or not?”)
Anyway, everyone with kids knows what home games are like. However, if you have fewer than four children, otherwise known as “in your right mind,” you probably can’t relate to what our home games are like, which means it will be difficult for you to appreciate what our away games are like. So, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s a little background.
Home games are a mixed bag. During “family movie night”, they are a dream: six people sharing a large couch, a few blankets, and a wholesome flick, like Dodgeball. (We love that our kids are getting to the age when we can expand the family video library to movies that do not include voiceovers, talking toys, or communities of backbiting lions.) The take away value of a movie like Dodgeball should not be underrated. Since viewing that movie, I need only whisper the word, “wrenches” and my kids are clamoring for more chores to complete.
Family dinners are also a bright spot to home games. We don’t ruin them with lectures, or ever give the kids bad news during dinner. Dinner is a time when we hear about who did what to whom, and why, on the playground, and allow them to complain about the food without being interrupted with silly admonishments to keep their room clean.
However, there is another side to home games. They can also be a little like Ultimate Cage Fighting, but with a ring full of stoned, idiot-savant badgers. Vicious, chaotic and brilliant one second, blissfully unaware of having any purpose in life whatsoever, aside from eating and sleeping, the next.
Now, for the away games. The kids leave us for the entire weekend. We don’t hear the word “mom” or “dad” for 48 long hours, save for through a cell phone, which is different. There is also much cussing on my part, just because I can. For me, saying “Now where the heck did I set my mother-fucking coffee cup?” just feels right.
The house is empty and silent. There is no sound of “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” or “OH MY GOD THIS GAME SUCKS!” coming from my son’s room, where he often can be found amusing himself playing video games online with unknown opponents. Nor do I hear the voices of two ten-year old girls arguing loudly for twelve minutes about who should shut the bathroom drawer – the one who just got something out of it, or the one who needs something in the drawer underneath it. I’m also not treated to the sound of TWO people trying to ask me a question through the bathroom door while I’m concentrating on a crossword puzzle.
One of the few things you can hear on away game weekends is the occasional, and by occasional, I mean every 15 minutes, sound of a cork popping. If you listen very carefully, you might hear muffled sniffles – not as I peer into empty little bedrooms, but while watching a poignant movie without interruption, including the tragic ending that I don’t have to pause in the middle of to gently suggest to the children that they go play on the freeway. I’m just kidding. Everyone knows we don’t have a freeway in our town. Drop in on us during an away game and you may be surprised (but probably not, by now) to learn that underwear drawers are about the only place where you won't find any underwear.
Sure, it gets a little bit sad at times, mainly around 5 p.m. on Saturdays, when we’re floating in the pool, by ourselves, and that garage fridge is so close, yet so very far away…
Let’s get one thing straight: we are not advocating divorce. It wasn’t easy getting to where we are in life. There were plenty of tears, frustration, even anger—until we finally found an affordable mini fridge for the patio.
Seriously, most of our friends have asked us how they can get in on our gig. Others sneer at us, as if we waved our magic divorce wand, and then sat down and wrote our bestselling pamphlet, “How to Get Out of Parenting Every Other Weekend.”
Because we are actually on speaking terms with our exes, friendly even, everyone thinks it’s been a piece of cake. The truth is, we’ve earned every minute of our away games, and if you don’t believe me, have a few more children. Then try step-parenting on for size while you’re at it, which eclipses garden-variety parenting tenfold in terms of difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m right where I want to be, and someday, I plan to look back on these days from my padded cell and thank the universe for everything it ever blessed me with. My grown children’s therapists will all point out that my team of therapists had it all wrong, and gave me a bunch of bum advice back in the day, which will probably lead to some kind of hideous intervention-style sit down with a future version of Dr. Phil.
Or, perhaps not.
Perhaps our kids will grow up understanding they don’t just have two people who love them unconditionally, but many others who are ready and willing to shed blood, sweat and tears to make them happy. Four sets of grandparents who have hundreds of years worth of combined experience in life, and can’t wait to feed them lollypops for breakfast when we’re not looking and take them to the movies whenever they can.
Therefore, whether you sneer, or are looking for an Away Game Action Plan, here it is:
1. Marry the wrong person. And by wrong, I don’t mean ever-so-slightly-not-suited-for-you-wrong. Really do it up right, and by right, I mean wrong.
2. Get divorced.
3. Work out, whether through mediation, court or via duct tape and a butcher knife, a thoughtful co-parenting schedule that everyone can live with.
4. Now for the tricky part: Meet someone who has completed Steps 1 – 3, fall madly in love, and convince your exes never to deviate from the schedule.
5. Love your kids like crazy when they’re home, have lots of sex and booze when they’re not.
It’s that simple! Be sure not to let me know how it works out.