Single Parent Panic Attacks: When Overwhelming Moments Overwhelm
As a single parent, I feel overwhelmed about as often as I take out the trash.
I’m not a fan either because I’d like to think that after 8 years of doing this thing on my own, I’d have it down to something automatic. With a cute name and maybe adding style points in the process.
I feel frustrated with myself when I get it wrong or the wheels seem to come off around a bend I didn’t foresee. I should see those things coming by now, have a plan, and execute the manoeuvre with flair.
Know what? It doesn’t work that way.
Here’s a little story called The High Heeled Chase Round the Hood…
It was a quiet morning, mostly. Not without the typical hiccup, but hey we were on time. With no wiggle room, I sang, “Time to go-o,” and walked through the kitchen to retrieve my tank of caffeine without missing a step in my walk to the car. My son stood in the open doorway, frozen and staring at me with a look of something between terror and OhCrap. It didn’t take long to figure out why.
Me: Where’s the dog?
Him: (Only his eyeballs moved, rolling ever so slowly in the direction of out the door.)
This is not how I needed the morning to go. I had a Very Important Meeting with a Very Angry Person, and running in late was not on my To Do list.
I drove him to school while reciting the now-memorized Youhavetobemoreresponsible Speech, followed by the ritualized but ever sincere have a great day/I love you. Then I prayed the dog would be panting on the front porch like a good fur baby when I arrived home.
He darted around my car, then around me, across the street, and we were off to the races. He was headed for a major street when I pulled over, left my car running with the driver’s side door open, and started after him on foot. Well, on heel. Sensing I might be closing in on him, the furry bandit high-tailed it between two houses, and I was back in my car tracking him down.
This went on for the next 40 minutes.
Taking pity on me, one neighbor brought a treat to entice him. When he would get close, the hairy Houdini sensed my grip coming and took off again. An older man on his morning walk tried to get Cujo to come to him. We worked as a good cop-bad cop team for a little while until it was clear to Stabler & Detective Benson here that the four-legged criminal on the loose had already seen that episode of Law & Order. I offered my sweaty yet heartfelt thanks as the gentleman went on his way.
Meanwhile, a truckful of workmen watched these antics over their morning coffee at a house on my street where the Great Dog Chasing Caper was going down. I don’t know if they were routing for me or the dog honestly. I mean, here is this mom-mobile-driving woman wearing a sheath dress chasing an Australian Shepherd in four-inch heels. By now, the heels served as cleats in the rain-soaked lawns. Did I mention it was raining? Yeah, raining.
While the workers tried not to laugh, another woman and her dog Max happened on the scene. I broke the treat in half and fed part to Max the neighbor dog. My dog looked at me, head cocked sideways–Et tu Brute? Yep, buddy. Me too.
The wise owner of the house whose yard served as the scene for this modern comedy of errors emerged toting a toddler on her hip. She graciously offered to open her gate for the whole motley crew thinking my little rebel might follow.
One hour and 46 minutes later, I had that rascal by the collar.
With my dog’s collar in one hand and my mud-covered Michael Kors black patent heels in the other, I thanked the Dog Squad, plunked him in the car, and drove home. The workmen waved with their coffee cups in the air as we drove down the street. I rolled my window down just enough to extend my fist of victory.
I’m not gonna lie–I was an off the chart level of irritated that my morning was waylaid by a wayward dog and a kid that wasn’t paying attention. And then the conversation started.
You know the one. The one that starts out with This wouldn’t be so hard if you weren’t pulling this thing off solo… In the past, and honestly on not my best days in the present, that internal monologue would have me convinced that being a single parent caused the current quasi-crisis or at least made it worse. Don’t married people have 24/7 back-up? You know, like one morphs into Batman and speeds after the runaway four-legged child while the Robin-parent gets the human child to school as if this is just another merry day in Mayberry.
This isn’t helpful. Not only isn’t it helpful–it isn’t true. Batman probably left for work an hour ago and Robin starts crying while rocking back and forth in a corner of the garage wondering what to do.
I actually said something along the lines of “Oh just shut up. So it’s a bad hair day. Everyone lived.”
In the end, I met four neighbors I didn’t know before who stopped their busy mornings to help a crazy lady chasing a hyperactive dog. I needed their help, didn’t ask for it, and they jumped in without reservation when they saw the need.
I wonder if I would’ve done the same for them or if I would’ve been so focused on my own plan that I wouldn’t have had time to be helpful. Four people and a crew of construction guys stopped their day’s To Do lists to help me when I needed help.
My earlier frustration evaporated, I went on to my meeting, and checked off all of the other things on my list. And then I looked for someone else who might need a hand.
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