I like to think I’m prepared. Ready for anything that might come my way. I can fix it, make it better. All will be OK because I AM PREPARED. I feel like a walking textbook of DIY and home hacks. I should have a Lycra jumpsuit with a thunderbolt across the chest saying I Can Do It.
I have my trusty tools and hardware stored in cotton lined wicker baskets. I own three hammers and two electric screw drivers. I know where the Allen Key set is. I used to read my Dads DIY manual. Yes, my Dad owned an actual manual. I thought it came with the job and that he was gifted it by his father when my older sister was born. Isn’t that how these things work? Become a parent, be gifted with the worlds knowledge?
Turns out a manual and a handful of tools does not permit me to wear my Lycra suit with pride. I’m not always prepared. I can’t always do it. I don’t have the answers (neither B nor I were offered the Dummies Guide or even a bonus fact sheet when A came home with us).
And when I’m stuck, when the answer isn’t forthcoming, boy do I feel shit. That Lycra suit disintegrates and I’m stood there wide eyed and feeling an impossible nakedness, almost transparency that’s searching in gauzy pockets for answers that slip through.
There’s the initial panic followed by a rendition of swear words on loop that play in my head. I may look calm, not necessarily in control, but a level of “Hey, it’s cool, I’ll handle this.”
Most of the time I want to call my Dad and beg him to travel the 18km to our house and make everything alright. You’re an adult! Stop relying and depending on someone else. You are prepared!
Yeah, I’m not prepared.
Last night, after A had drifted off dreaming of Pinkie Pie and Spike the Dragon, B and I glued ourselves to our respective armchairs with a hot cup of Assam tea and hit play on our latest box set re-run. (Men Behaving Badly, so much funnier than you’d remember but poor Gary!)
Nothing new here. We’re lucky that when A goes to sleep, she’s out for the count until the morning except for a possible late night waking a couple of times a week. So we might watch TV, or take time to indulge in our hobbies – jewelry making or writing for me, and gaming for B all the while interspersed with conversation and me begging B to make another cup of tea. It’s who we are, it’s what we like to do.
Until the electricity goes off.
I was browsing on the internet and B was gaming and POP, everything went off.
“Shit, shit shit” my head played in loop as I calmly looked at B and said, “Huh the electricity’s gone.” (Pointing out the obvious makes everyone calmer.)
While B is amazing and I love the bones of him, he’s 100% not a DIY guy… or a gardener, or a general “maintenancy” type of person. And that’s fine because I like to think I am and often summon the DIY Mommy for inspiration (thank you Christina!). Remember, I have three hammers! But I also feel the weight of responsibility of having to fix the issues that pop up unexpectedly even though I simply can’t or don’t know how. This is nothing against B who hammers away and gets stuck in but rather it’s my own attitude that I’m the mom, I’m supposed to have all the answers.
We sat in dusky darkness. It was still relatively bright out at 10pm thanks to daylight savings so there were no lights on in the house anyway, but the TV, PlayStation, internet and baby monitor zipped off with a low diminishing whirring sound. We had been lit up by the TV and now that it was off the shadows looming on the walls felt oppressive along with the gentle rise in my heart beat and expletive soundtrack in my head.
Cursing the third power cut in six months (we have just moved to the countryside and it’s a by product we are still getting used to – but I am prepared) we both searched powercheck.ie to no avail. Nothing reported. Well, it had just happened so of course at that point you wait and see and listen out for the tiniest hiss of electricity wishing it would turn back on like magic, like a switch.
Like a switch, for gods sake, of course. How many of you are laughing at our rookie mistake? After twenty minutes of sitting in brewing darkness and increased anxiousness (what would we ever do without power) I thought time to check the trip switches.
Shouldn’t that have been my first thought? Wasn’t I prepared for this sort of thing? Didn’t I just know? Did I not listen to anything my Dad taught me or remember anything I read in that ring bound manual from the 70s?
I grabbed my trusty torch (I knew exactly where it was because I was prepared for power cuts remember). Of course, this is a man’s job. B grabbed the paint stained Ikea stool and stepped onto the wobbly first step while I held the torch to the fuse box and craned my neck up and of course a fuse had tripped.
Flick it up and watch the switch drop back down again in a second. Why won’t it stay up? Be quiet, lets not wake A.
Stress, stress, stress. Turns out we don’t deal well in these situations. The Five Stages drop by every couple of minutes in our 40 minute long ordeal. But hey we thought we had a power cut. We thought our little one would waddle down the corridor in pitch black darkness at 2am and crash into the wall, tripping over her own feet because she couldn’t see them and knock the world down on top of her (first time parent over reaction comes with the territory).
Anyway, a trip had gone so of course try the light switches. For the love of god. Naturally, the hall, the sitting room, all blare in yellow light, the night time darkness dissipated. Why we didn’t just try a light switch first is beyond me rather than bump our way from room to room for the first twenty minutes. But we genuinely assumed it was a full on power cut. We didn’t think it could be isolated. In fact, we’ve only lived through a handful of power cuts even less power surges so I think we can be forgiven for overlooking the fuse box. And maybe, just maybe, I’m not as “know how” as I make myself out to be.
Google it. YouTube it. Found it. See I am prepared. I do know what I’m doing. Well….
It’s always simple when you know how.
B resets the trip and Ta Da we discover the problem… we’re not electricians. The switch drops back down.
We’re not prepared. We don’t know everything. We can’t do everything. We’re still learning.
But we isolated the tripped sockets and got the rest of the house going. Didn’t we do well?
I was happy to go to sleep knowing that the lights were working, the majority of the sockets were working and chances are it’s a power surge to one socket and hopefully when we get home from work, B will successfully try the trip again and it’ll all be ok. If all else fails I’ll call an electrician (or my Dad first).
So, I’m not prepared, or am I?
Maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up. No, I don’t have all the answers but we can find them. Or if we can’t, someone else can. Yes, I make mistakes, overlook things, but that’s allowed. We might feel stupid coming to that conclusion, but we’re not. We can’t expect to know how to do everything. We live and learn. We can be as prepared as possible, but sometimes we need a little help.
So, I am prepared. I am prepared and ready to ask for help, to ask those questions, to make those mistakes and rookie errors just once. I am prepared to not be frazzled, to tame the heart beat and silence the damning profanity in my head and say “OK, we have this. Let’s check it out.” Next time, and there’s always a next time, no matter what it is, I’ll quell the stress, take things in my stride and be prepared… to ask for help.
I don’t think Lycra would be too flattering on me anyway.
Soothe my ego and tell me I’m not the only one out there who thinks they can handle it all. Has anyone else sat in the dark only to figure out they didn’t have to?
If only there really was a manual.