It came from married moms who I thought were practicing perfect parenting-work-self balance. Oh no, they were perfectly practiced in hitting the help button.Read More
I came home from a relaxing, luxurious weekend away at a spa. The house was relatively neat. There were no dishes in the sink or laundry left unfolded. It was warm and cozy and quiet.
Except for the sound that makes me cringe several times a year — the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! of the smoke alarm in my hall. Or was it the one in the stairwell? Or the carbon monoxide detector outside my bedroom door? Who could tell? I couldn’t catch the sound quick enough to decipher which alarm it was and with ceilings far higher than my sole step-ladder can raise me up, I couldn’t pull them down myself to investigate.
What does a single mama do when a smoke alarm beeping crisis occurs? She calls her dad. Mine came to the rescue with a pocket full of batteries in various sizes and stood patiently beneath each alarm in the house until we were satisfied, safe and beepless.
“I knew you wouldn’t have the right battery,” my dad winked at me. He is right. It was a C-battery, and although I am stocked for the Armageddon with AA and AAA batteries, I do not have the arsenal of Cs and Ds that I should.
I’ve added those sizes to the ongoing shopping list on my phone (it’s own mysterious battery included). But just to assure myself of why I am over-prepared with batteries in tiny sizes, I did a quick inventory of what my son and I use regularly that require AA and AAA juice.
This list is long, but not exhaustive. With a little more digging, I am quite sure this single mama and her son can find more items that need battery power. If only batteries could re-set me back into work mode like a bucket of coffee can.
20 Super-Important* Things Powered by AA or AAA Batteries in Our Home
1. Wireless doorbell – My doorbell is one temperamental old lady. So to be sure I catch the UPS guy, I installed one of those fantastically handy wireless doorbells from the hardware store. Even better than the fact that the ding-dong chirps from a cute little plastic bird perched by my desk? It’s ridiculously simple to install — just place battery, adhese, ready cash for the pizza delivery.
2. Remotes – Drained from all of the clicking over from “iCarly” to “Phinneas and Ferb,” I am quite sure. And somewhere, a third one has been hiding for seven months — lucky dog.
3. Digital camera – Remember those? Me either. But when I pull mine out for a refresher in non-phone photographer, it better be ready with batteries.
4. Kid’s digital camera – My son thinks this item is used for spying on adults and for playing the strange app-like game embedded in the giant unbreakable thing. Regardless of what the real purpose is, the kiddie camera takes 67 eensy batteries.
5. Lego clock – Critical since it keeps my kid from calling out to me at 6:15 on a Saturday if he can get out of bed yet.
6. Star Wars game controller – The Wii is safely housed at my son’s dad’s place, so we go old school with a Star Wars game that plugs right into the TV. If we go though scads of batteries on that retro baby, I can only imagine how many are being used up at the Wii HQ a few miles away.
7. Face scrubber – My very favorite way to try to scrub away the stress and seven layers of makeup is a whirly-brush device that is heaven, powered on seven batteries. Maybe four. Could be 12. Who cares?
8. Cordless phones – Another near-obsolete item that I keep around specifically for my kid’s calls with his dad. I just don’t get why a phone that sits on a charger all day, every day also needs batteries. Alas, they do.
9. Clocks – Kitchen wall variety. Something has to keep it tick-tick-ticking loudly enough to be heard 300 feet away.
10. Flashlights – For freak power outages and Lego guy hunting under car seats and in heating vent crevices.
11. Spinning toothbrushes – Times two, minus thousands in cavity fillings.
12. Digital bank – How else would my son track all those dimes he nicks out of the cup holder in my car?
13. Talking United States map – This educational toy was kind of a bust until my son figured out he could make the state announcements sound like rap music by placing the state puzzle pieces in the appropriate place and quickly pulling them out over and over and over again. Hilarious. And semi-educational.
14. Remote-control cars – We have a long, hardwood floor hallway that I knew the first time I walked in this place would be perfect for racing cars. I was right. Many miles have been logged with the mini-Hummer and big, hauling recycling truck and smaller, cheaper race cars — all courtesy of a Costco of batteries.
15. Coffee bean grinder – This may be the only one in existence that doesn’t plug in. But it’s right there, on the counter.
16. Travel alarm clock – I have one tucked among the jars of cotton swabs and fancy-lady soaps on my counter even though I always have my phone handy for checking the time. But it is pink. And so cute. How could I not keep it ticking?
17. Trimmer – Lady-style. You know what I’m saying.
18. Outdoor holiday lights – Battery-powered so I don’t have to allow the elements and all of God’s creatures into my home by leaving the porch door even slightly open to accomodate an indoor/outdoor power cord.
19. The Christmas village – You know the kind with little tidy houses with twinkling lights and ice-skating kids and old-timey cars carrying trees? The kind of place none of us will ever live? I light that pretend town up every year thanks to a few well-placed batteries.
20. The dancing Frosty the Snowman – Inducing giggles in the kid and Scotch-drinking in the grandfather since 2005.
A big thanks to Energizer for sponsoring this campaign.
What are AAs and AAAs powering in your house?
*obviously relative to age and level of procrastination.
This post originally appeared on Babble.com.
It was my son’s “sophomore year” of preschool.
He was four and felt good about returning to the classroom where he’d have one more year to practice tying his sneakers on the shoe board, spend lots of time at his favorite math center, sing songs about loving all kinds of people, put the Wheel of Choices to use when there were tantrums and grabbing blocks and tears, and would somehow get through the nap hour every day. He loved that classroom, had oodles of friends and was led by an amazing teacher who lapsed into cheery, accompanied sign language, even while talking to parents. Big things happened in kindergarten, he’d heard, and he was still very happy to be back in room 008.
The teacher pulled me aside that first week of his second year.
I’d been talking to my group of mom friends, women I’d developed a relationship with the previous year and had spent time with over play dates and Friday night dinners where the juice boxes and wine flowed freely. We were a tight-knit circle of working mothers who helped each other out when babysitters cancelled, traffic was horrific and when we really just needed a few child-free hours to go to Target or dinner. Those moms had become a social and support network for me during the critical months of my early divorce. With one conversation with the pre-K teacher, the circle was about to expand by one mom.
“I want you to meet another Jessica,” she said. “She’s a single mom, too. I think you two should know each other. And I think your boys will get along well.”
That one insight, and the sensitivity to bring two women going through similar stuff, both with boys, was one of the kindest, most supportive school moments I’ve had as a parent. The teacher had so many gifts to offer my son, and in this interaction, she was also tending to me, maybe more than she knew.
At the restaurant where we like to meet, four or so years since that introduction, the staff sometimes puts “The Jessicas” on our bill. And although our sons now go to different schools and only see each other every few months, there is a shorthand there that they both can read.
The first time we went to their house for pizza and a playdate, this single mama’s son greeted mine at the door.
“So,” he said, trying to act casual, “I hear your parents are divorced.”
“Yup,” my boy answered, no frills attached.
“Cool,” the other kid responded. “Want to see the tons of Legos in my room?”
And then they were off. And we were left, the Jessicas, standing silent and teary and a momentous meeting at the front door that neither of our sons saw as anything at all outside the norm.
The preschool teacher who facilitated that meeting also listened attentively and compassionately when I let her know we were moving, that my son was struggling with visitation transitions, and other unfoldings of our home life that I could have kept private. Sometimes she offered information on child development, other times she offered to incorporate those issues in anonymous ways in class lessons, and she often reassured me that, despite the turmoil of the divorce, where my son was showing signs of thriving.
She was, in my experience, the ideal teacher for a single parent. In the years since, she and other teachers have offered other kinds of support that have made the classroom a kinder place for both my student and me to be. Here are a couple of shining single-parent supportive moments:
1. Adding “two-home” books to the unit on families. When the preschoolers were studying how families work as a part of their social studies curriculum, we donated a copy of My Two Homes to the classroom. When kids had questions about how it worked for my son, he had the opportunity to answer and the other students then felt free to bring it up. It normalized a situation and now his friends think it’s no biggie that his mom and dad don’t live together, that the Not Boyfriend is often around and that Santa has two stops to make for him.
2. Agreeing to separate parent-teacher conferences. No matter whether I’m in court or on civil terms with my son’s father or not, scheduling our own times to meet with the teacher has made a big difference in how much can happen in that ten minutes twice a year. I’ve been grateful when teachers are willing to add more time to their packed-full schedules to accommodate our situation and our very different work hours. Most importantly, it allows me to focus in solely on my son, to get through questions I have and to really hear the teacher’s assessment.
3. Alerting me if we’ve both signed up to volunteer for the same event. I’ve let teachers know that I am happy to chaperone on field trips, set up for assemblies and get as room-parenty as they like, but it’s not best for me to hold small hands through the zoo if my ex-husband is also present. I don’t want to put my boy in an awkward which-parent-do-I-stand-with? situation so I am happy to bow out until another field trip, International Fest or field day. I simply say, “Can you please let me know if his dad raises his hand to volunteer and I will happily sign up for another time?” and they have most often helped.
In a perfect co-parenting arrangement, this wouldn’t be an item on the list. None of these items may need to be on your list at all, in fact. If you have that, more power (and co-chaperoning to the planetarium and pumpkin farm) to you.
For us, for the last five years, I’m grateful for the gestures teachers have made to support a single mom’s kid being in and being comfortable in their classrooms. It’s not necessary, not required, and has made a big difference with a book, an introduction or ten more minutes of time.
How have teachers supported your unique family situation? How would you like teachers to support your single-parented family?
This post originally appeared on Babble.com.