I applaud all of you single parents. I don't begin to understand how you do what you do, but you do it, and for that you deserve all the credit in the world.
There are certain parenting situations that, to my mind, require two people to handle. And here I'm thinking specifically of those inevitable times when a child throws up in the middle of the night.
All of the kids' rooms are upstairs in our house, while the master bedroom is on the ground floor. Therefore, Terry and I never actually hear it when someone blows chunks in their bed. Instead, we are jolted awake when they come into our room and say those terrible, terrible words: "Mommy? Daddy? I threw up."
Whenever this happens, I try to lay perfectly still for at least five seconds. My dearest hope in the world is that it's all just a dream and I can fall back asleep peacefully. But it never, ever happens that way. It's always real, and Terry and I throw off the soft, warm covers to head upstairs and survey the damage.
This is when we fall into our assigned roles. As I've mentioned on Facebook before, we are a top-notch Puke Response Team. Neither of us has to say anything like, "OK, you do this and I'll do that." We just know.
Terry's job is to attend to the Vomiting Victim. Are they OK? Do they feel like they're going to throw up again? What is the condition of their pajamas? Do they need to change? Did any of it splatter into their hair? Do they need comforting? Terry runs through this mental checklist in about two seconds. It's beautiful to watch.
I, meanwhile, am in charge of crime scene clean-up. This generally involves three things:
(1) Cleaning as much of the excess vomit -- solid and liquid -- off all surfaces with which it has come into contact, usually the bed or the floor.
(2) Taking soiled sheets and clothes (which Terry will have quickly removed from the child and passed on to me) downstairs to the laundry room so I can throw them into the washer.
(3) Dealing with any vomit stains on the carpet. On my way back up from the laundry room, I'll grab a bottle of spray cleaner from underneath the kitchen sink and apply it to all areas of the carpet that have been violated by barf. As I'm waiting for the cleaner to soak in and do its job, I will sometimes fall asleep as I stand there in the child's room. This has happened several times.
Having taken care of the immediate needs of the little horker, Terry must now make the decision as to where the child will spend the rest of the night. If they seem to feel OK, and her motherly intuition tells her it's safe, she will throw a comforter over the now-stripped mattress and let the kid sleep in their own bed. If there seems to be more imminent danger of pukage, she will put the comforter on the living room floor next to the couch and have the child sleep there. In either case, a bucket is kept close by the would-be upchucker in case of a repeat incident.
By this time I usually have sponged up any floor stains and returned the cleaning materials to their proper place. We meet back at the bed and discuss vomit-related strategy for the rest of the night. Then we put our heads down and are both asleep in seconds.
All of this happens quickly, but it's exhausting. It interrupts the whole sleep-cycle thing and takes away several precious minutes of shuteye. And that's with two of us on the case. I can't imagine doing this myself over and over again, yet you single parents do just that. You all deserve a medal.
And a clean set of child-sized bed sheets, too.