Well, it’s finally happened. The “rapping mom from YouTube” has become a mom overnight.
I mean, not literally. Eventually I will yield these children to their actual parents and go back to New York to lead my very exciting* single, not-a-mom lifestyle, but for now I’m on mom duty most days of the week.
Almost two months ago I moved into my sister’s place in Houston to help with some family stuff. My mom, my sister, and my sister’s husband have been in and out of town taking care of appointments in Dallas, so while they’re away I’m basically a single parent to my six-year-old nephew and almost three-year-old niece.
The average single parent would probably roll their eyes at how easy I have it. The two-year-old is in daycare full time so they’re both occupied M-F 8:30-5, I don’t have to worry about money, there’s a full-time nanny I get along with really well, and there are two grandparents that live around the corner. Oh, and people come clean, mow the lawn, and check on the pool once a week. As far as being a single parent goes, I’ve got it pretty damn easy, but when you’re thrown headfirst into a totally foreign lifestyle you need all the help you can get.
For example today, I sent my niece to school wearing a swimsuit cover-up and a “cowboy hat” (she insists it’s not a fedora). If I’d been a “parent” for longer maybe I would have realized that two-year-olds have cuter cover-ups than I have clothes so maybe it’s actually not a dress. I’m also learning the art of food haggling (if you eat three more bites of broccoli then I’ll make sure you get to eat again tomorrow!). And at least twice a week I say things that I didn’t think anyone would ever say, like, “Please don’t tell her to punch you in the butthole.” Yeah, kids are… creative?
First and most importantly, my niece and nephew are incredible human beings. They are sweet, funny, creative, and genuinely kind humans (well, the two-year-old is actually a teenager, but the kind that you know is just going through a phase and is a really great person under the occasional attitude). My nephew loves making art projects and helping in the kitchen, and from day one he has loved his baby sister so much I sometimes can’t believe it. He does NOT like many vegetables, but he ate EXTRA squash just to show her that it actually isn’t that bad so she would eat a bite. What kind of six-year-old boy eats vegetables at his own free will just to help his two-year-old sister? My nephew.
My niece is crazy smart. At two and a half years old she was at the language level of a four and a half year old. I have a feeling she’s going to end up in the arts, but with her brains I kind of hope she decides to find the cure for cancer. She has a t-shirt with a bulldog wearing a tiara, and it couldn’t sum her up better. She will be the rugby girl in high school who gets out of practice and throws on a cute dress with heels and looks absolutely glam with just a little lipstick. She loves pink dresses but prefers almost everything else to be blue or purple, and when we looked at Halloween costumes the other day she was torn between being a Disney princess, Batman IN the Batmobile, or an eyeball (yes, they make a costume for kids that is literally an eyeball).
When they’re together they are the most adorable and terrifying pair I’ve ever seen. The big brother loves to teach her things and she appreciates not only the energy he can give her but all the creative games he comes up with. Games like, “Let’s run really fast and slam into each other as hard as we can!” It never ends well, but with how often they play I have to assume the game is REALLY fun. They also have a never-ending game of chicken except instead of cars, they’re driving their energy as fast and hard as they can until someone veers away and hits a wall.
The last month or so has been especially crazy. My nephew got his tonsils removed so we had to figure out how to keep him entertained but also still without just letting him watch Tom and Jerry all day. Two weeks after his surgery Harvey hit. My sister’s house wasn’t affected (the grandparents around the corner got four inches and had to rip out most of their walls), but we left town before it hit just in case. We (her family of four, me, my mom) spent four nights at a water park hotel before heading to my mom’s place in the Hill Country, then my mom and I kept the kids on our own an additional three days. That’s over a week with both kids together 24/7 running each other ragged but carrying on as if they weren’t running on fumes.
Now I’m doing the “single parent” (beginner level) thing during the week while the rest of the family is away, but in so many ways it’s a lot easier. The kids do SO much better with structure, and school does most of that work for me.
Here’s a sample day:
- I hear the two-year-old singing to herself at about 6:45am and use this three minutes of privacy to get dressed and pee without anyone watching and asking questions I don’t want to answer.
- Get both of them into the bathroom to brush their teeth, drop clothes downstairs to put on after breakfast.
- Cook breakfast while they play (hopefully nicely), finish packing lunch for nephew and fix niece’s hair while they eat.
- Grandpa John arrives at 7:30 to take my nephew to school at 7:45, I take my niece to school.
- I’m now “free” until about 5pm. Things I probably need to do include go to the gym, shower, get a vocal warmup/practice singing, practice looping, work on a monologue for my agent meeting next week, write a blog post, go grocery shopping, clean, make dinner so it’s ready when the kids get home, take a nap, and shoot and edit a video. No problem…
- Nanny arrives around 2:30 and can help with cleaning, grocery shopping, and light meal prep for kids. Sometimes we get ambitious and reorganize closets. It’s a thrilling life we lead.
- Someone picks up the kids at about 5:30 while someone else makes dinner. Ideally the kids get home, wash their hands, and sit down to eat. The two-year-old is related to both me and my sister so she gets really hangry, but at two years old she hasn’t learned to articulate it (luckily I’m quite familiar with the warning signs).
- Kids bathe by about 6:45 so they can be in bed for stories at about 7:15 or 7:30.
- The nanny and I clean up, start packing lunches, review the plan for the next day, then just shoot the shit like actual grownups for about an hour after the kids are down. We’re the same age and get along really well so we’ve actually become pretty good friends.
- I do my very interesting hygiene routine then climb into bed. I try to be productive and get work done for a bit, but sometimes I just give up and watch Game of Thrones, YouTube, or get sucked into Reddit.
- Fall asleep around 11 and hope everyone sleeps the whole night through.
Rinse and repeat.
The biggest thing I’m realizing is that my brain is so hyper-focused on planning that every few minutes or so I talk through upcoming events again. Like, “Tonight I need to go to the school’s open house so Kelly will pick up the kids, the grandparents will take care of dinner. Friday my nephew doesn’t have school, Saturday and Sunday my niece has birthday parties- no present for Sunday’s party but a present for Saturday.” Last night during our “grownup shoot the shit time,” I told the nanny about an old relationship of mine and realized, “Oh! I remember dating! Hmm…”
I’m not too worried about my current control freak tendencies. I’ve always been super organized, and now there are actual stakes involved because it affects kids, but I’m pretty great at rolling with the punches. Now that the kids have a routine I’m hoping to establish one for myself that doesn’t involve constantly planning for them. Gotta put that oxygen mask on myself first, at least during the day.
And with that, I think I’m going to go home and treat myself to a little internet TV and a nap. Because as I said, the grandparents are cooking dinner. And Kelly is picking up the kids and I’m going to the open house, but I’ll come home and pack lunch for tomorrow and make sure the vitamins are out so I don’t forget in the morning and WAIT. STOP. Okay, gotta go.
*I do not live a chic, exciting, New York life and I couldn’t be happier about it.