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News & Features » April 2019 » “Single Parent’s Guide to Practically Parenting” by Ren Walt

“Single Parent’s Guide to Practically Parenting” by Ren Walt

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Ren Walt takes his daughter to work.

Single Parent’s Guide to Practically Parenting
by Ren Walt

Your little one needs an established routine. Sufficient carbohydrates, calcium, iron. Limited sugar. Sufficient sleep: eleven to thirteen hours a night. Limited screen time. All of this according to the book your mother gave you as a parting gift before moving to Vancouver, right after your divorce settled. All of which you keep in mind as you get home to your apartment late from tending bar at Walt’s Grill, one of the various side jobs you do to supplement your limited and insufficient child support. All of which you keep in mind as you quietly unlock and open your door to find your little Ellie awake, on the carpet, rubbing big little eyes, face caked in crumbs from an empty family-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, static-charged hair radiant with red and blue light from the TV on which there are police with guns.

The babysitter, Isabelle, a gangling, tight-jeaned, freckled teen is slumped over on the couch behind Ellie, out cold, smelling of pot and something ammonic that you can’t place but for some reason, the word “crack” comes to mind. You gasp and let drop: “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Ellie, looking vexed, responds, “Quack, quack, quack?” 

It’s important for your child to develop a sense of control, and of cause and effect. At age two, kids get this by playing with switches and buttons. Keep this in mind in the morning, when you wake up still panicked about the sitter, and let Ellie push a button in the elevator on the way down to the building’s laundry room (both of you still in pajamas) to check the bulletin board for less delinquent babysitting options. Pick her up when she chooses the emergency alarm button which rings loud and makes the elevator stop for a second with a brutal thud which makes Ellie cry.

Now you are the one who feels delinquent. Keep it together as you hold Ellie, still teary and sniffling, in one arm and scan the bulletin board on which is pinned a business card, one athletic sock, and two tear-away flyers advertising sitters, neither belonging to Izzy the inert. Leaving Ellie with another stranger now seems indefensible, but you only need someone for a couple of hours tonight while you clean the little Scotia bank on Balmoral Street, another one of your part-time gigs (on the weekend you do in-home tutoring while Ellie naps). Analyze the remaining flyer for signs of reliability and/or cracklessness.

Read: Babysitting! Fifteen, CPR Certified. Call Krystal Meth.

Read: Need a sitter? $5.00 an hour. I heart drugs.

Through mimicry or “parallel play” kids develop social skills, dexterity, and language. Ellie is coming to clean the bank with you. She’ll sleep on the bus on the way home. You pack up her doll, her pop-o-matic toy vacuum cleaner, snacks. And while you vacuum the little back office, Ellie vacuums under the bank managers desk. She dusts and helps clean the bathroom mirrors (both of you stopping to look solemnly at your reflections). Tidy the kitchenette while she sits at a desk with her doll watching Dora on your phone. Juice box. Cool Ranch Doritos. There’s something baked on to the inside of the microwave which takes a minute. You look up to find Ellie—gone. Crushed juice box on the desk, doll and toy vacuum on the floor.


You can hear her little vowels ricochet from out in the big lobby where the teller stations are. It’s dark out there, but she finds her way by street light to a place behind a counter where there’s a little red button precisely at her eye level. “Push a button!” says Ellie, gleefully. And that’s what she does.

Ellie pushes the button.

Cause and effect. Established Routine. Carbohydrates. There is no alarm, but you can hear sirens getting louder almost immediately. Cognitive development. The word: sensorimotor. Pick Ellie up and hold onto her as police cruisers screech and squelch to angled stops in front of the bank. Red and blue light fills the lobby followed by policemen with flashlights. And guns. A flashlight in your face as one of the officer’s surprises you by not shouting “Freeze!” but by instead asking calmly if you’d “Ah… care to explain?” The book your mom gave you does not cover this. In lieu of a sufficient explanation, you go with, “. . . she pushed the button,” and let Ellie take it from there. “Quack, quack, quack!” says Ellie. “Quack, quack, quack!”


REN WALT has written articles and film reviews for magazines in Japan and Canada. He studied literature, rhetoric and creative writing at the University of Waterloo. He works and writes and sometimes plays baseball in the fictional little village of Ayr, Ontario where he lives with his wife and kid.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 2, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,