Trading Places

Kara said it 100 times a day.

“When I grow up, I’ll stay up late.”

“When I grow up, I can see what I want online and watch my movies.” 

“I can’t wait to grow up and do whatever I want.”

She thought growing up was the ultimate utopia of unlimited freedom where she could follow her own whims without rules or restrictions.

Anytime Kara and her mother had an argument, her angered reply, right before storming off to her room in frustration was, “When I grow up…”

Kara’s mother, Janet, knew better, as she recognized a similar anthem echoing from her youth. A sentiment she remembers well by just how wrong she was. But instead of the “I told you”so her mother gave her, this time, she thought turnabout may be the answer.

“Kara, I have an idea. How about for one whole day, you be the mom and I’ll be the daughter?” she proposed.

“Does that mean that I can do anything? No rules?” Kara asked with curious interest.

“Yes, but it also means that you have all my responsibilities,” Janet said. “On Saturday, we’ll trade places for one day.”

“Be a grown up for a day – I’m so in,” Kara said with excited anticipation.

That night, Kara dreamed of all the things she’d do on her free day and Janet made a list of all the things Kara had to do on their switch day.

Saturday morning, Janet woke Kara up at 8am.

“No, it’s Saturday, I don’t have to go to school,” Kara sleepily mumbled under her covers.

“Wrong, you’re me today, remember, here’s your list things to do,” Janet said pulling back her covers to let the bright morning light beam straight into her dozy face.

Kara wiped the sleep from her eyes and read the list. Her eyes grew bigger as she read further down the list.

It read: Make breakfast, make snacks for soccer practice, take Pat to soccer practice, clean up breakfast dishes, do laundry, pick up dry cleaning, shop for groceries, pick Pat up from soccer practice, make lunch, clean up lunch, put Cami down for a nap, finish laundry, clean out laundry drain, make dinner, clean up dinner.

“I’ll do the driving, but you do everything else. I’ll wait for you in the parking lots and play games on my phone, like you usually do,” Janet smiled and left her room with a satisfied grin.

Kara quickly got dressed and started to make breakfast.

“I want pancakes and cinnamon toast,” Pat demanded.

“I want chocolate chip waffles,” her little sister Cami screamed, then giggled thinking it was a game.

“Now, go easy on Kara, you guys. I don’t let you order different food. Kara, just make chocolate chip pancakes. And don’t forget the coffee. I’ll set the table and pour the juice and milk. Then I’ll be playing these games I downloaded while I wait. But we need to leave in less than an hour,” Janet said.

Kara knew how to make pancakes from her girl scout cooking badge, but never added chocolate chips. The chips were frozen, so she put them in the microwave to defrost, but they melted completely. With no time to redo them, she added them to the batter and put them on the griddle.

“Chocolate is good any way you can get it,” she reasoned.

Since she forgot to preheat the griddle, the pancakes took a while to bubble and then when they did, they were extra brown on the bottom and misshapen from her haphazard flipping.

“These aren’t like mom makes,” Pat grimaced.

“Just eat,” Kara pursed her lips and shoved the food into her mouth.

She barely ate a few bites of pancakes when Cami got up and started running around taking her clothes off.

“Change me,” she giggled.

Within a few minutes, she whisked Cami up to her room and changed her clothes.

“Come on, we have to go,” Janet said. “Where are the soccer snacks?”

Kara flipped back her head in frustration and ran into the kitchen and threw an apple and juice box into 10 paper sacks, while Janet was beeping the horn.

She got into the car and shook her head, realizing she had two different sneakers on from dressing in a hurry.

After they dropped Pat off, they went home and she began the list of chores. She cleaned up the breakfast dishes, but before she started the laundry, she heard saw Cami drawing on the walls with crayon and had to clean that up and get her settled into another activity. She sighed as she saw Janet on the couch, vigorously pushing buttons on her phone while electronic bings and bongs sounded.

She went into the laundry room and began resorting the bins to ensure there was no mixing. Janet left her labels on everything to help. Several grass and food stains had to be pretreated.

And just as she got the first load in the dryer and second in the washer, she heard Janet yell.

“Watch the time, we need to go shopping and pick up the dry cleaning and Pat before lunch.”

Kara hurried to get Cami in the car to go to the grocery store. When they arrived, Janet gave Kara the list and she left the car.

“Don’t forget to take Cami with you,” Janet reminded.

“Can’t she just stay with you?” Kara whined.

“I’m only here because you can’t drive. You’re me, remember? Take her in,” Janet said and pressed a button on her phone releasing the opening sounds for Candy Crush.

Kara huffed and took Cami from her car seat to the grocery cart.

As Kara navigated the aisles, glancing through the shopping list, she heard a thud, then another. Cami was giggling after knocking a couple cans off the shelf.

“Don’t do that Cami,” Kara scolded.

On another aisle, she was reaching for a cereal box when she heard a shushing noise like rushing waterfall. She looked down to find a box of cereal dumping out on the floor.

“Cami!” she yelled then quickly moved the cart over to the next aisle before anyone saw them.

With Cami giggling again, Kara opened the car door to find Janet laughing, accompanied by a canned laugh track streaming on her phone.  

“Oh hi, how did it go?” Janet smiled.

“Don’t ask,” Kara frowned.

They darted by the dry cleaners and picked Pat up from soccer. When the were home, thinking she was smart, Kara made quick sandwiches on paper plates for lunch and finished the laundry. Now for the drain. She put on gloves and pulled back her hair.

She dug into the slimy drain and pulled up all kinds of greasy and grimy sludge for what seemed like forever.

“Yuk,” Kara said pucking her face. “That is disgusting.”

Taking pity on poor Kara, Janet decided to order a pizza for dinner and give her a break. After she cleaned up dinner, Kara threw herself on her bed limp from exhaustion.

“I thought you were going to stay up late and watch your movies. I’ll make the popcorn,” Janet said.

“I’m too tired. If this is what being a grownup means, I can wait,” Kara said and drifted to sleep.

(c) Suzanne Rudd 2022

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