Is this the Holy Grail of parenting?
I have done many things of which I am not proud. I have ignored Little Dude as he calls me from the backyard. I have hidden in the bathroom. I promise to come back and play in one minute and I leave the room for twenty. I let my boy watch hours of television. I tell my husband I'm running a quick errand and slowly wander the aisles of the local grocery store when all I need is a loaf of bread. On occasion, I pretend to be sleeping when my son wakes up a little too early. When my parents come to stay, I hand off my kid for their entire visit.
These might not be my most shining moments, but the truth is, I will do almost anything to get even five minutes to myself. Parents of young children know what I'm talking about. Sometimes, I have an almost primal need to escape.
Sadly, I rarely use this time to read a book, get my nails done or have lunch with a friend. You won't find me napping or going to yoga. I almost always use these rare breaks to buy groceries, do laundry, organise a closet or make dinner. I cobble together stolen minutes at every opportunity, but instead of living the glamorous life, I'm just trying to get everything done.
Last weekend, however, I needed more than a few minutes. I needed a few hours. I had to clean out the attic. I was in search of a pair of bargain bin sneakers I bought for Little Dude two years ago. Mummy loves a bargain. I knew I put them somewhere where I could find them. Unfortunately, I couldn't. In my pre-parent life, I wouldn't have bought a pair of sneakers for my kid two years ago "because he'll grow into them someday." Of course, in my pre-parent life I was organised. These days, I can barely hold it together. I have wasted days of my life searching for sunglasses, my phone and matching socks. My husband is used to my frantic scavenger hunts for keys, permission slips, and hidden Christmas presents. I squirrel things away, certain that I've put them in such an obvious place that there is no way I can forget where they are, only to spend a few hours scouring closets and cupboards and dark corners of the attic crawlspace looking for them.
Last Sunday was no different, except Errand-Running Husband was out. I didn't have a babysitter. The attic was dirty, dangerous and no place for a four-year old. To accomplish my goal, I had to do something drastic.
I had to get rid of Little Dude.
As I stood there wondering how exactly I could district a four-year old with the attention span of a flea for more than 20 minutes, he said the magic words:
"Mummy, can I go over to my friend's house to play?"
I had been waiting for this. It's not that Little Dude hasn't played at his friends' houses before. He has. But I've always been there -- sharing in the supervision, breaking-up squabbles, eating crackers in the kitchen with another parent. I had thought that four was too young for a drop-off playdate, but like most things I thought I knew before having children, I could be wrong. Today I was ready to throw caution to the wind. To risk being labeled one of those moms who foist their children off on other people. To boldly go where I had never gone before.
I arranged a Mummy-free playdate -- the Holy Grail of parenting.
I felt uncomfortable pawning an unpredictable four year old on someone who is not obligated to love him, but the guilt passed quickly. It didn't hurt that he wanted to play with K's son. K lives three doors down and her son and Little Dude can hold their own while trying to wrest favorite toys away from each other. K is also from Kentucky, so I know she will take me up on my standing offer to wrap my kid in duct tape if he misbehaves. I like that in a parent. She's also the friend who offers to take Little Dude to the pool, or for a weekend if we want to go away. She says, "I already have three kids, what's one more?" I think that's a trick question, but maybe she's just really bad at math. Everyone should have a K in their life. Especially if you want to clean out the attic.
I made the call. I dropped off the kid. I did not look back. I crossed my fingers and hoped that Little Dude didn't screw this up by throwing a temper tantrum or refusing to share. I was 90 minutes into my project (seriously, how hard can it be to find a pair of shoes?), when I heard Little Dude crying from K's yard. The guilt took over and I went to investigate. I'm sure a more experienced parent would have pretended not to hear the shrieks wafting in the early autumn air. As I walked down the street, I ran into K and her two girls heading out for a bike ride. I apologized for Little Dude's crying and said I'd take him home, trying to keep the disappointment from my voice. K laughed and told me it was her son having a fit, not mine. She was leaving her husband in charge and heading out. If she was fine leaving the boys, so was I. I headed home.
This playdate thing rocks.
Thirty minutes later, the attic was clean and I had the sneakers. I collected Little Dude. Everyone survived. I found out later that K. had, at varying times, hosted nine children that day. Either her math skills are even worse than I thought, or she has a high tolerance for chaos, noise and destruction of all types. I feel a tiny bit guilty about taking advantage of my lovely neighbor. But only a tiny bit. Whatever qualms I may have, it certainly isn't going to stop me from trying it again. My basement is a mess.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post here and has been republished with full permission.
Devon Corneal is a lawyer, mother, and step-mother who lives, outnumbered, in a loud and wonderful home in Montclair, New Jersey with her husband, two boys, and a dog named Max. You can and should follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here