Every once in awhile, usually while Jane is away for the weekend with her girlfriends, I wonder what it would be like to be a single parent. Suffice it to say it’s a good thing for my kids and for me that I am not a single parent. I don’t know how single parents do it, but they do, inevitably, for better or worse.
There are the obvious issues. I wonder how I would have any life of my own between the homework, the housecleaning, the getting them to and from school (which likely would also require either before-school or after-school daycare because obviously I would have to work full time), and the meal prep, to name a few. (And by “meal prep” I mean deciding where we would go buy our meal. It’s not that I can’t prepare a meal, I just don’t want to most of the time.)
Then I think about all the ways my kids’ lives would be less than they are today if Jane wasn’t around. There are so many obvious ways that Jane impacts their lives; it all adds up real fast. But some things aren’t so obvious.
Like tea sets.
Not being British or a girl, I’ve never given tea sets a second thought. I don’t even like tea. I prefer Coke from a fountain. But apparently having a tea set is a big thing in a girl’s life, and Jane, being a former girl, knew that. One day she came home with this fancy china tea set for Lily and acted like it was some big deal. I was like, “Big deal.” Then Lily saw it and acted like it was a big deal. Linus, to my knowledge, had no opinion on the matter.
Weeks passed. The tea set resided somewhere in the house unused, forgotten by me and presumably everyone else until the day of Lily’s birthday party arrived. It was a tea party. She had several little girls come over, all wearing party dresses, and they used the tea set.
It was a Very Big Deal.
Weeks passed. The tea set returned to wherever it is the tea set goes, forgotten by me until the day last week when Lily brought home her first book from the school library, A Bargain For Frances. Frances, as all lovers of children’s literature know, is a badger. And like all badgers, she has some sibling problems, some picky eating problems, some problems with boy badgers, and of course, problems with bedtime. In this installment, Frances enters the world of barter with an unscrupulous friend, and ultimately Frances ends up with an inferior (plastic!) tea set. Naturally, being Frances, she sets things right in the end and she and her friend learn a thing or two along the way.
Suddenly, after reading about Frances’ tea set Lily’s tea set started appearing again. It seems our cat Buster and several dolls around the house, in addition to invisible entities I cannot see or hear, have been enjoying some delightful tea parties with Lily and her real china tea set. I got pulled into one for a time, and frankly, found the conversation lacking. But then I started closely inspecting the saucers and cups, with their sublime colors and gold rimming, and it got me thinking: Of course a plastic china set isn’t as good as an actual china set. And those silly badgers from the 1960’s know that just as much as my silly daughter from the next century. And her silly mother.
But somehow I didn’t know that. I didn’t know having a tea set mattered at all. But it does. I politely finished my tea and bade the party farewell, thankful that somebody in our house had the sense to get our daughter a fine china tea set.