I fully expected this evening would be a disaster, or as close to a disaster as we get in our house. I don't mean that in a pessimistic way, but if your immediate future looks, feels and smells like trouble, you're better off engaging in preparation than avoidance.
When Katie called me at work to remind me she wouldn't be home until 8:30 tonight, that was my first whiff of trouble. When I began to mentally prepare myself for the night of solo-dad, I realized I'd been up since 3:30AM, a requirement recently added to the "Elliott's dad" job description. Now things began to feel like trouble. And on the way to grandma and grandpa's it began to look like trouble. Every car headed south out of Richmond felt obligated, all three lanes, to stop and take a casual look at a car fire. The fire was out mind you. All that remained were a couple of firefighters sweltering in the heat of Richmond's earliest 101 degree day on record. I felt bad for the car and its owner, but in some way I think I felt worst for the firefighters.
The adventure started with good news when I picked Elliott up. He had a great day playing with his cousins. He loves his cousin Erin (Elliott refers to her as Ernie) and grandma reported they played long and hard, which raised at least the possibility that he might lack some of the energy necessary to play the part of a normal 18 month old boy later on.
He was very quiet on the drive home. Less than 10 minutes from the house he fell asleep. This was not good. Quick naps usually equal an unhappy Elliott. We arrived home and as carefully as I could, I attempted the impossible. I would somehow try to get him in the house and settled horizontally on the first comfortable looking piece of furniture I encountered - without waking him up. I was a pilot landing a plane, trying desperately to keep the passengers from making that gasping sound that comes with that moment of wonder - did we just crash or land? Elliott hovered briefly, but without so much as a breath, landing quietly and safely asleep on the couch.
I was unexpectedly able to cook some dinner. This was actually a double blessing. I did not anticipate having enough hands free to cook. I was also able to actually cook dinner. With mama gone, I didn't have to worry about her pregnancy driven hypersensitivity to food with odors much stronger than uncooked oatmeal. With that in mind, it was fried chicken and rice. I made sure to get my weekly allowance of cooking oil.
I woke Elliott up shortly after I finished eating. He was happy and eager to eat. He also could not possibly be my son. He never wakes up happy and rarely wants to eat. In between bites of food, he periodically leaned over and gave me hugs along with the aahhh he likes to let out with his more meaningful squeezes. Somehow disaster had been avoided.
He managed to surprise me further by helping put dirty dishes in the dishwasher as opposed to taking them out as quickly as they went in. He immediately ran back to the bathroom when I said "bath time." He had a very pleasant bath. It was a very pleasant night.
To top it off, shortly after I got him in his bed, about the exact moment mama arrived home, he began to fuss and cry. As she walked through the door, he had a cry going that sounded like, well like he had been crying all night. For a moment, Katie had to think I had been through a rough night. And for a moment, it was OK to let her think that. I'm sure when she reads this she'll discover much differently.