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Instruction manuals not required

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, July 7, 2011, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, July 7, 2011, at 9:48 a.m.

The note is clipped to the refrigerator door with a Dave & Buster's magnet:

"So you've been left to parent your children alone," the first line reads. "Here are a few hints for you ..."

The accompanying page details the care and feeding of two young children, those belonging to a friend of a friend whose husband was left to care for the kids while she went on a girls-only getaway.

"You like to eat? So do they!" the note continues. "Please give them breakfast and dinner."

I laughed out loud when I saw the note, e-mailed as a photo from my friend. "You'll find this amusing/interesting," she wrote.

Did I ever.

Impressive, hilarious and slightly unsettling, the note amounts to a modern-day mom's manifesto, proof that while we may trust our partners to feed, bathe and clothe the children in our absence, we also presume they're going to need help.

Sometimes lots of it.

This mom — we'll call her Jane — typed out instructions and designed them newsletter-style, capitalizing and boldfacing crucial lines such as, "THEY MUST BE IN BED BY 9:00, OR YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO WAKE ABBY UP!"

The sheet includes the girls' favorite breakfasts and dinners: bagels with cinnamon, fish sticks with carrots, Kid Cuisines ("They both want spaghetti"). Should hubby decide the menu was too much trouble, the sheet features a list of the kids' favorite restaurants.

It has phone numbers for the doctor and emergency contacts. It includes the address, phone number and hours of the school where both girls were enrolled in a day camp. It notes that one girl would have a field trip on Monday and the other on Wednesday, and that Dad should "Make sure you know what time they have to be there so you are not late."

And the piece de resistance: nine color photos of suggested outfits — T-shirts and tank tops matched with little skirts and shorts, like a fashion spread in Real Simple magazine. A hand-written note in the corner adds, "Izzy needs deodorant."

Funny, right? Interestingly, Jane didn't see the humor. When my friend asked why she had gone to so much trouble to direct her smart, professional, trustworthy husband, she said simply, "I want him to be successful."

I get it, that drive to protect our children because we're convinced that we know best. If you are your child's primary caregiver, whether a mom, dad or someone else, it's tempting to go heavy on the "helpful" advice.

Change throws things into a tizzy, right? Bedtimes are critical. So is deodorant. And the bagels must have cinnamon, by God, or someone will pay!

Here's a tip: Breathe.

Realize that once you're gone, you're not in charge. As long as you leave them with someone you trust, things can be different and still be OK.

I don't know Jane or her husband, but I like to envision him taking the girls out for sushi or frog legs and rocking their world. I imagine them staying up late, sleeping in and skipping the field trip, wearing blue T-shirts with black shorts, stinking up a storm. I see them pulling the instruction sheet off the fridge and scribbling this note on the blank flip side:

Dear Mom,

Missed you. Had fun. Welcome home.


Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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