These nights test my stamina as a Kitchen Widow. Mostly, I do all right: the kids always get fed, bathed, read to, pajama-ed, and tucked in. If it is sometimes 10:00 before the toddler actually stays in bed, so be it. But I had a moment tonight that brought me to the edge of my tolerance for the aloneness, a moment when I briefly considered asking Matt if he knew of any cooking jobs with bankers' hours, and it had nothing to do with our kids and everything to do with a small brown rodent that scurried past my feet as I was starting dinner.
I am the cliche when it comes to mice. At the first sight or sound or sign of a mouse, I am perched on furniture and leaping from chair to chair to avoid the miniscule possibility that I might come in contact with the critter as it runs past. Usually, Matt is home to reassure me that my cowardice is unfounded, and he charges bravely in, armed with traps, to save his damsel in distress.
Tonight, our baby was in his high chair and our daughter playing outside when I spied the mouse and immediately took a flying leap onto our center island, where I sat for ten minutes, formulating a plan. I stared at the corner where the mouse had fled, and while tossing baby treats at our son to keep him happy, I snatched up our Swiffer and advanced on the corner. For me, this constitutes the height of bravery.
The mouse reappeared twice, both times sending me back up onto the island, and tried to get out the back door. Finally, I opened the back door wide, still blindly throwing snacks at my poor baby, and waited for him to try one more time to get out. I did not want to use the Swiffer as a weapon if the mouse went anywhere but outside, but I steeled myself nonetheless. Finally, after 30 minutes of my glaring at the corner and calming a fluttering heart, the mouse snuck out the back door, and I slammed it shut behind him.
The great casualty in all this was the lovely dinner I had planned. There was no way I was going to mash potatoes and saute mushrooms, when such inattentiveness might allow the mouse to escape to another part of the house. Instead, I threw a frozen pizza in the oven without ever taking my eyes off the corner. Thoroughly tweaked out, I hauled the kids upstairs immediately after dinner, where we hid the rest of the evening.
It may seem illogical that I felt the aloneness more acutely tonight with the appearance of a mouse than I do when handling the necessities of home and family by myself. But I think it is merely an issue of practice. I handle the solitary feeding/cleaning/bathing just fine alone because I do it almost every day. If I had to combat mice every day, I might be less of a shrieking little girl. As it is, I'll just let Matt handle it, by himself, when he gets home.