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I am impatient by nature. Sometimes I stop pumping gas at $10 because standing there ‘til the meter gets to $40 is a fate worse than death. Sometimes I even cut off my pee before my bladder is fully emptied. TMI?

Max has been the biggest indicator of this and many other character flaws. When he’s a teenager, I’m sure he will readily point out even more.

So part of this post is written by that tragically imperfect part of me, but most of it is inspired by simple logic: how do single parents do it? Those solo flyers who, regardless of how impatient or frustrated or overwhelmed they are, have no second-in-command to take the helm. No one to relieve them for a moment, let alone an hour or a day. I am mystified by this. Discombobulated. Flummoxed. And other big, impressive words that help emphasize my wonder – how the frig do you do it, people?

I have just one toddler, and, luckily, a very competent partner. But, on occasion, it’s just me and Max – at the doctor, or the swimming pool, or the mall, or the restaurant. And while at the end of the day it feels good to have spent the precious time together, while it’s happening it’s a little bit of a bloody nightmare.

Case in point: last week’s trip to the ophthalmologist. Daddy was working, so Maximus and mama went as a duo. Dynamic? Not so much. But I thought – it’s a simple eye appointment, how bad could it be? The answer: pretty freakin’ bad. I mean first of all, this was going to entail poking at his eyes. Not his arms or his legs or his ears – his eyes! The part of him that sees what you are trying to do to him. Considering I can’t even deal with that puff of air blown into my eye at the optometrist once a year, how could I expect Max to allow some white-coated stranger to poke and prod and squirt a foreign substance into his baby browns? Exactly. I can’t blame the little guy for his behaviour. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t drive me to drink.

First of all, let me rewind 25 minutes. Just in case the parking situation was the usual calamity, we showed up a little early for our appointment. You’d think this would be a good thing, right? Think again, foolio. The lesson of the day: never show up early for anything with a person under three feet tall. Unless he’s a funny and candy-filled midget. First of all, the clinic is never going to be on schedule; we’re in Newfoundland, remember. And the earlier you are, the more destruction your child will do to the waiting room and your sanity.

I had cleverly brought Max’s stroller – a child-size straightjacket on wheels. But once I let him out of the damn thing, it metamorphosized into a steamroller. Max had turned on the Turbo Ginger, rolling over people’s feet with the stroller, bumping into other strollers, and slamming it into the fish tank while shouting “Crash!” I would have taken the thing away, but there was nowhere to put it except in the ever-widening furl in my brow. I tried to distract him with juice, with raisins, with my iPhone, but even the most kickass Thomas app could not charm him. A too-relaxed-looking father nearby casually remarked that I had my hands full, then proceeded to advise me. “I just let them go,” he said. “Just let them do their thing; everybody understands.”

Oh really. So everyone just smiles with understanding when my kid crashes into their shins? Is that why that woman just glared at me – because she understands? Is that couple over there cool with my sticky-fingered son poking their newborn baby in the eye? The mother of the little girl who was touching the train sticker on the wall whose arm Max was swiping at angrily because that sticker was “mine!”… She enjoys seeing her kid mauled by mine, does she? Yeah, okay buddy. Thanks for the tip. I’d love to get your wife’s take on your easy-going philosophy.

Finally we hear the magic words: Max Murphy. Thank you, baby Jesus in the garden.
I grabbed the stroller and proceeded to pry his fingers from the handles. Ouch – he bit my hand. I won the battle, of course. Then, out of pure spite, he took a bite out of the foam handle of the stroller. (I am not making this up, I swear.) I scooped the black chunk out of his mouth with one swift swoop of my finger, grabbed up all our stuff – stroller, coats, purse, diaper bag, pile of rubble – and dragged the little demon by the arm toward the doc’s office. He fought me every step of the way, his head thrown backward toward the sky, his back arched toward the floor.

Before we saw the doctor, the nurse had to put some “preliminary drops” in Max’s eyes. Oh great, so we gotta endure this twice?! We pinned him down and forced his eyelids open; mission accomplished (so far). Then we had 20 minutes before we saw the doctor. So I did the only logical thing. I b-lined to the cafeteria and bought a bag of two-bite brownies. Maybe, if he was chowing down on some sugary sweet chocolate, he wouldn’t notice us prying open his eyeballs and squirting liquid in there for a second time? It was worth a shot.

As expected, the appointment with the ophthalmologist was intense. My boy’s no dummy; he had learned from the first encounter in this office and had since evolved into a superior being. He tried to escape the room immediately. I had to stand in front of the door because some genius had installed those flip-handle doorknobs that a fetus could open. And since we’re talking design flaws, the floor – could it get any harder? Great for cracking the skulls of thrashing toddlers. Might as well have chairs made of plutonium and sledgehammer chandaliers dangling from the ceiling. (One sec, I gotta run to the vending machine for a bag of glass shards.) Hey, if there’s gonna be injury, this is the place for it to happen, right? Bring on the danger.

When I laid eyes on Dr. Bautista I was disappointed; she was a Lilliputian for Christ sake! I was hoping for a hulk-like creature who could pin Max down with his pinky finger and get this thing done and over with. The good doctor and I used every ounce of our combined strength to get the fluorescent orange drops into Max’s eyes. I pinned his feet between my legs and held his arms with my hands, while she tried to steady his big ol’ flailing head. The Turbo Ginger would not relent. I remember when Max was born, the pediatrician wrote “excellent tone” on his chart. And not because he was a good singer. He was pure muscle, eyelids and all. I asked Bautista if this behaviour was normal. She replied, “yes, we get about one a day.” Well then, considering she sees dozens of kids every day, that’s comforting.

When the worst was over, she tried to explain Max’s tear duct problem to me with the use of a lovely diagram. But it’s a little hard to focus on the science when the subject is freaking out, still reeling from this cruel and unusual punishment. I took a mental snapshot of the moment: Max, two eyes trimmed with bright orange like he had lost a fight with a pumpkin, gripping a brownie so tightly it’s crumbling all over the floor, flashing chocolate-covered teeth and sobbing angrily while grabbing at zillion-dollar gadgets on the doctor’s desk. What a beaute. I pulled him away from trouble with every third word out of the doctor’s mouth. She may as well have been telling me “The brown fox jumped over the white fence.” I nodded and thanked her and got the hell outta Dodge.

As I wheeled my tiny terror away (oh yes, he was in that stroller and staying there until we reached the far end of the parking lot), a couple things hit me.

My decision to not have another child right now. Yup, good call, Self. If I had had a second child with me just now, someone would be going up for adoption.

And I could not stop thinking – how the hell do single parents do it? Kudos, also, to those whose spouses work offshore or out west half their lives, and those who are raising families far away from the helping hands of other family members – that much-needed relief from time to time. Wow. Parenthood is a tough job at the best of times. I can’t imagine doing it all alone. Without someone to take over while I recharge the batteries to my patience machine.

So to all you solo acts out there, I say this with the utmost respect and admiration: See ya, and I wouldn’t wanna be ya.

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