In 2003, when I went on the road with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, my husband and I took a leap of faith. We agreed that my participation on the show was bigger than both of us, and that good things happen when you get involved and help others. Our biggest hurdle was child care, as I had been a stay at home mom for seven years, working out of the house through my business and raising our three kids. My son was 8, and my daughters were 4 and 2. We decided that it was my husband’s turn to have time with the children. He quit his day job and operated a small independent company from the house while taking up where I had left off.
Jevon was well versed in the day to day needs of the kids as far as meals, activities, bedtime, and school were concerned but, like every challenge he takes on, he was determined to streamline the process when I was not around. A friend gave me an easy cookbook the previous Christmas, and my husband clung to it while he practiced healthy and appetizing meals for the kids. When it was time to get dressed, he mastered the race against my daughters, thus inspiring them to do it themselves with ease. When a boo-boo occurred he was ready with the Bactine and the kisses and a warm cuddle with Daddy. I definitely babied the girls before I went off on the road, and when I returned they were buckling themselves into their own carseats. My son fed the pets and read to the girls often.
One of the hardest challenges, familiar to single parents the world over, was when the flu struck our house while I was working on an Extreme house in Purdys, New York. I called home to check in after pulling another all night build/paint project. Apparently my daughters were both very ill, and consequently sleeping with their daddy. During the night, one of them threw up in the bed. My husband got them out of bed, stood them up on the rug and stripped off their wet nightclothes. He then gathered up all the sheets and blankets and headed to the bathtub to dump the mess for the morning. When he turned to head out of the bathroom, the nausea hit him like a freight train and he promptly spent the next 5 minutes throwing up. By the time he returned to redress the bed and our girls they had vanished. He walked into their bedroom and found them curled up together in the older one’s bed. My daughter told him that the little one was okay; she had dressed her sister and was taking care of her. My husband, sweating from a fever and wiped out, kissed them both tenderly and went to bed. When he told me this I knew how far away I was, how helpless I was, but how loving my children and husband were toward one another. It was terribly sad and tremendously beautiful at the same time. As I worked on the house I was reminded of a family in Suffolk County whose mother died very young of cancer. I was getting a glimpse of the fallout after a mom is gone but I was so grateful my absence was only temporary and my husband was pulling all the weight of our child rearing with such grace.
But my favorite story from Jevon’s early Mr. Mom indoctrination came when I was home and picking up the girls from preschool. Their teacher shared the attached photo with me. I brought it home and asked my husband about the day it was taken. He said it was Dad’s day at the school and he was reading to the girls in the classroom. It was June and I was curious as to why they were in ski hats. “Oh that”, he said, “I couldn’t get a brush through their hair, so we decided it would be a perfect day to rock the beanies. If you say that we are going to rock something, instead of just wear it, the girls will put a ham sandwich on their head and be happy about it”. I always smile when I see this photo.