brucekluger.com

    Parenting Magazine, January 2003

    A Father's Days
    Home Alone
    A dad lets loose when the family's gone. Sorta.

    By Bruce Kluger


    I could hardly believe my ears.

    “I booked the kids’ and my tickets for Friday
    morning and yours for the following Monday.
    That means you’ve got the house to yourself
    for three days.”

    So said my wife, Alene, breaking the news to
    me that she and our daughters—Bridgette,
    four-and-a-half years, and Audrey, eleven
    months—would be starting our annual trip to
    Cleveland without me.

    “Are you sure you can handle the girls alone?” I asked, praying that she
    understood the question to be a courteous gesture, not an actual offer.

    “Sure,” she responded. “My Mom and Dad will be thrilled to help out with the kids.
    We’ll all be fine.”

    Say, amen, somebody.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, and I love my wife. But the concept of not
    being awakened at 6:30 AM—by a baby elbow to the eye, or a little girl pounce on
    the abdomen, or a wifely admonishment of “Get your butt out of bed”—not just
    once, but on three consecutive mornings, was the stuff of fantasy. Afternoons
    alone. Whole dinners without flying French fry detritus. Long evening stretches
    unbroken by cries or calls for water. It was all too much to absorb.

    “That’ll be fine,” I calmly told Alene, then walked back into our bedroom, shut the
    door and promptly kicked my heels in the air.

    Only seven years ago I was a single man—an editor at Playboy, in fact—whose
    enjoyment of the bon vivant lifestyle (from movie premieres to black tie galas) was
    matched only by my equal fondness for spending the night knocking ‘em back with
    pals at the neighborhood bar. It was a life so foreign from the one I lead now (a life
    brimming with crayons and Diaper Genies and sippy cups) that it may as well have
    been someone else’s.

    Consequently, I began planning my long-weekend hiatus from fatherhood almost
    instantly. It would be, I decided, a 72-hour homage to my bachelor days: I’d stay out
    late, I’d sleep till noon, I’d play my music loudly, I wouldn’t change out of my robe,
    and when I did manage to drag myself from the house, it would be straight to the
    movie theater (a place as alien to parents of youngsters as Six Flaggs is to the
    Pope).

    Oh, and those nights. What was the club scene like these days? Does the Village
    still cook after eleven? Or maybe I’d just invite my buddies over for an all-night
    poker blowout. (Forget the fact that I’ve never organized a poker game in my life,
    and that all my buddies are married.)

    It all sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It was. Here’s how my return to
    singledom actually shaped up:

    Sunday morning, 6:00 AM: Get up, carry suitcases to sidewalk. Load Alene and
    the kids into car. Go back to bed.

    9:00 AM: Wake up. Not exactly the all-day crash I imagined, but still okay. Make
    coffee, turn on the tube, collapse onto couch. Try to read the paper, but from the
    TV, Arthur catches my ear. It’s the episode in which Binky finds Arthur’s lost library
    book. I like this one—seen it with Bridgette a thousand times. I watch.

    10:00 AM: Pass Bridgette’s room on the way to change. Too many stuffed animals
    on her shelf, and not enough space for Audrey’s toys when she makes the move
    from our room (any week now). That won’t do.

    10:15 AM to 12:30 PM: Clear shelf space, rearrange Bridgette’s room.

    12:45 PM: Excavating Bridgey’s closet produces unexpected load of tights, Barbie
    socks and princess costumes. Drop in a load of laundry.

    1:00 PM to 2:45 PM: Sit down to pay bills while clothes wash and dry. Feign
    amazement at how much I’ve spent on kids books at Amazon.com. Vow to be more
    frugal in the future.

    3:00 PM: Leave apartment, go to photo store, pick up pictures from Christmas.
    Stop by grocery store, buy Cap’n Crunch. (I’d stopped eating cereal in college;
    parenthood reintroduced me. I’m now hooked. At least I was able to wean myself off
    Bridgette’s Cocoa Puffs-and-Apple Jacks combo. Nasty little concoction there.)

    4:00 PM: Back home. Sort Christmas pictures. Work on photo album, send leftover
    shots (including the Thanksgiving pictures) to relatives. Sure glad we have a
    computer. Mass mailings are so much easier this way.

    5:30 PM: Take a walk before dinner. See adorable red hat in window of Baby Gap.
    It would look precious on Audrey’s mammoth head. I buy it.

    5:45 PM: Feel guilty for slighting Bridgey. Go to Noodle Kidoodle on next block, buy
    Bridgette Blue’s Clues CD-ROM.

    6:15 PM: Back home. Suddenly tired. Never realized I got so beat at dusk. Usually
    too busy making dinner and quelling meltdowns.

    7:00 PM: Call my girls in Cleveland. Bridgey’s wired—jacked up from being doted
    on by Grandma and Grandpa all day. Audrey gurgles into phone, then breaks into
    the I’m-deliriously-tired babble. I know she’ll be down for the count in minutes. Alene
    sounds up—chirpy and laughing and livelier at this hour than I’ve ever heard her. I
    hang up—or, more precisely, Audrey disconnects us.

    7:30 PM: Too tired to go back out. Order Chinese food.

    8:00 PM: Watch Eleanor Roosevelt documentary on American Experience. (Note:
    Simultaneous programming includes a Victoria’s Secret special on E! and a
    basketball game on ESPN. It doesn’t even dawn on me that I’ve just passed up
    panties and hoops for a tall lady with a funny voice.)

    10:30something: Fall asleep during FDR’s fourth term.

    11:50: Wake up to Charlie Rose. Think it’s a nightmare. Flip to Leno. Whoa—that
    gang’s way too peppy for this hour. Flick off tube, head to bed. Check in Bridgette’s
    room for no reason at all. Quieter and darker in there than it’s ever been.

    11:56 PM: Brush teeth. Get in bed. Scan the room. Alene’s travel guides to Italy (no
    trip planned, just fantasy reading) on the night table. Audrey’s fuzzy blue rabbit in
    the port-a-crib.

    11:58 PM: Put my head onto pillow and flick off the light. Make mental note to call
    Continental in the morning to see about earlier flight to Cleveland, preferably by
    mid-afternoon.