Any day now, I’m waiting for a phone call from our daughters’ school:
“Hello, Mr. Mendes. Is everything OK on the home front?”
“It’s just that your daughters have been coming to school with a hairstyle that makes them look like that creepy girl who came out of the well in The Ring. And we’ve also noticed a significant spike in the number of Bear Paws they are bringing in their lunches.”
“That’s because I’m taking care of them in the mornings now.”
“Ahhh. It all makes sense now. Have a nice day, and I’m sure we’ll be in touch.”
You see, earlier this month my wife went back to an office job for the first time since 2005. And in case you’ve forgotten, 2005 was a long time ago. People had MySpace accounts, Martha Stewart was in prison and Tom Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch. So needless to say, we’re all a little bit rusty at this.
And with my wife taking on a new job, it has put me squarely in the position of being in charge of the morning routine for the kids. By the time I’m up with the girls around 7:15 a.m., my wife has already left the house—often yelling “See you later, suckers!” as she walks out the door.
The morning routine can be hellish on school days. I’m now responsible for packing the lunches, which means I have to know which kid likes a dab of mayo on her sandwich and which doesn’t. Which kid likes cucumbers and which one likes red peppers. I figure that if I mix up their lunches, they can just meet in the hallway and do a trade, right? And thankfully, they both love Bear Paws, so that makes things significantly easier.
Breakfast often consists of something smothered in Nutella. As a side note, I’ve found that by leaving Nutella in the fridge overnight, it allows me to get in a good morning workout without going to the gym. (I should have the forearms and wrists of a lumberjack in a couple of weeks.) See, I’m learning about multi-tasking already.
Our girls are in charge of picking their own outfits, which often means our youngest comes downstairs looking like she's auditioning for the lead role in Punky Brewster, The Musical. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that she'll be wearing a striped blue-and-white shirt with leopard-print leggings. But since I have bigger things to worry about—like why I can't find a clean water bottle—so I’m usually pretty lax when it comes to the outfits they choose. The same goes with their hair. As long as one of their eyes is visible, we're good to go.
I’m also suddenly in charge of making sure all the proper paperwork goes back to school. Yesterday, I filled out a Scholastic Book order form for our daughter who's in grade two. I don’t think I had seen a Scholastic order form since I, myself, ordered a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book in 1989.
And last week, I hounded our oldest daughter because she'd lost her pizza order form for the second half of the school year. “Do you know how valuable that pizza order form is? That’s one less day a week that I have to make your lunches,” I yelled. After a series of texts with my wife, she pointed me in the right direction to locate the missing pizza form—which was naturally stuck inside a Garfield comic book.
Making matters worse is the fact this is the coldest stretch of the year for us here in Ottawa. Temperatures have been hovering around -25C to -30C in the mornings, so the whole routine to put on their snowsuits takes about 10 minutes. While they are fumbling with their outerwear, I’m outside warming up the car—because the 500-metre distance to the school is too far to walk with a pair of grumpy kids and an even grumpier dad.
I’m pretty sure we will get used to this new routine at some point over the next few weeks. And if it doesn’t work out, I’m thinking of home-schooling the kids, with classes starting around 11 a.m.