"An Aerial Disaster" is an excerpt from Amy Wilson's book When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, The Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be (amazon.com).
One evening last fall, my husband was packing for a weeklong business trip while I was in the kitchen watching our three kids eat wagon-wheel pasta with their fingers. Happily. It was one of those strange moments when I had, for an instant, nothing to do. When I picked up my cell phone absentmindedly, I saw a voicemail message from that morning.
"Amy, I have to leave the country," my babysitter, Jenny, said in her plummy British accent. "My mum is sick. I don't know for how long, I don't know what to tell you." Click.
I put down the phone and looked at my children -- Connor was 5, Seamus 4, Maggie barely a year. Of course I was concerned for Jenny. But I was more concerned with getting through the next week. David's business trip, Jenny's unexpected absence, and the preschool fall break were aligning just so, creating a six days' duration where I would be alone with my kids.
I was panicked. I could also see that was kind of pathetic. My mother had managed six of us when my CPA dad went underground for tax season. My grandmother herded eight without breaking stride. I should be able to handle my three all on my own for a week, right? If only to get back in touch with my masochistic side?
After David left for the airport the next morning, I gave the kids a speech on how there were three kids but only one mommy, and how everyone was going to have to step up his or her game. To my astonishment, they did. For the next five days, all three of them were troupers. And yet: It was I who was great. By telling myself I was sort of in an extended X Games mothering competition, I managed to avoid flipping out even once, even when all three children were crying at the same time. I breathed deeply while Connor sobbed, 15 minutes past bedtime, about how "not tired" he was. I remained calm when Seamus covered his palms with a uniform coat of his own orange poop, like a pore-tightening clay mask. I even kept it together when Maggie crawled in the shower with me at 5:45 a.m. and dumped out my makeup bag. My execution had been flawless, and so I decided to finish my performance with a double Axel -- triple Salchow combination sure to impress the mothering judges: I would fly from New York to Florida alone with all three children.