After dropping Ben off at the airport, Sophie and I went to Trader Joe’s for single-parenting supplies: frozen tamales, frozen meatballs, frozen fish, frozen berries, dehydrated berries, extra cereal, pasta-sauce, korma-sauce, and mac-and-cheese. Of course we got the basics, too, fresh fruit and milk and yogurt and what veggies we could find at TJs, but we also got more packaged food than usual, because I’m going to be a single parent for the next 6 weeks, until I finish teaching the spring semester and then Sophie and I will join Ben in Europe.
I realize this is nothing like what true single-parents do, or what, say, any military spouse has to do. But it’s my own little marathon.
Day 1 of single-parenting was actually fairly pleasant, to my surprise. There was some traffic on the way to the airport, so we got to watch planes coming in for a landing right over our heads. This excitement meant that Sophie truly understood where we were. All day long, Sophie kept announcing, “Daddy airplane.” She said it with enthusiasm, like it meant, “Daddy’s having an adventure.” She’ll probably get moody in a couple days when she realizes quite how long this adventure will separate him from her, but, for now, she and I had a pleasant day, and she seemed to understand that he misses her, even though he’s gone.
We invented new games with her tunnel and her flute. We hid and then found her plastic easter-eggs, again and again: a week since Easter, that game still isn’t old. We went to the park, but it was 86 degrees, so soon enough we just went to Trader Joes for all that packaged food.
Then I actually did manage to cook dinner from scratch because I propped Sophie in front of her 21-minute DVD of Elmo in “Musics Works Wonders.”
This is the only thing that Sophie watches on television. I bought it a month ago at the used-cart at the library, for 75 cents, and I’m embarrased to admit that Sophie has watched that Elmo DVD at least four times a week since then. On the plus side, she lived almost 23 months without seeing any tv, except for an occasional surf-video glimpsed in fleeting moments. She’s still not interested in tv in general: I tried a Dora DVD and some other underwater-adventure-thing that I borrowed from the kid’s section of the library after this Elmo DVD became such an obsession for Sophie, but really all she wants to watch is Elmo. Occasionally she’s even managed to turn on the tv and video on her own. I know every word in that darn blessed 21-minute Elmo video. I don’t think those songs are ever going to come out of my head.
The video is actually pretty well-done, even if it does start to grate on adult ears after a month of repetition. Every time she watches it, Sophie sits on the couch with her tambourine, triangle, drum, and kazoo, eagerly making music with Elmo and his friends. She sings along. She chats with me about what she’s seeing. She says “bye-bye,” when it’s over, and then she wants to make up new music-games like the ones on Sesame Street. It’s not as passive as tv could be.
Today, after the video was over, we invented the game that I would dance ridiculously as long as she played the recorder, then freeze in some crazy dance-pose whenever she stopped tooting. This made her giggle so hard she almost couldn’t play the flute enough to get me out of a few contorted moves.
Watching her clap and dance and even try to snap her fingers every time I play music in the car has made us both enjoy our recent car-trips much more. I credit Elmo for teaching her all this relish for music that she’s had lately.
Still, I feel guilty that my baby has become a tv-watcher.
We started with the rule of One Elmo a Day, but it turns out that Elmo-in-the-morning is a wonderful way for me to take a shower and get dressed. Then Elmo-in-the-evening is a great way to get dinner cooked. And it’s just so hard to resist when Sophie exclaims, “Elmo! Elmo!” while scrambling onto the couch and then concentrating furiously on pushing the buttons of the remote-control with one hand, while grasping her drumstick in the other hand, eager to play along with Elmo’s concert.
I’m less intimidated by my next 6 weeks of single-parenting because I’ve got Elmo. How sad is that?
And yes, more Sesame-Street DVDs are in the netflix queu. They should be arriving shortly. We don’t actually have tv reception, only movie-watching capability. That and frozen tamales and good friends should get me through the next 6 weeks of single-parenting fairly well. I’ll see. I’ll keep you all updated, of course.