If you have any conversation with friends and family right now, you are likely to hear stress, fear, confusion, maybe anger, definitely fatigue. But it’s mostly fatigue, I think. I had the week off and I’m more tired now than before.
But the kids? One of my main parenting tenets is to do my best to model the behavior I want them to learn. In this case, I might need to learn from them.
The girls are aware of what’s going on but they remain energetic and excited most days. They tolerate the homeschooling but after that it’s all about the green screen, inch worms, unrolling the slip ‘n slide, and the weird egg they found outside. It’s also mostly about when they can have their next snack, but they manage to stay remarkably present. There is something refreshing about their narrow views, ordinary complaints and not being overwhelmed by the relentless negativity and uncertainty of world events.
Maybe I can tap into that. Maybe I can be a little more like a kid. I’m not abandoning ship. I’ll still monitor the cheese stick consumption but I’ll try to also enjoy this strange, surreal experience. Or, at least not let it grind me down.
Just about a month left of homeschooling. Hooray! Maybe? I’m starting to worry about the summer. There are certainly a lot of challenges to remote learning but it has provided a structure to the weekdays. Yes, it’s sometimes chaotic and stressful, but it has given a definitive shape to our days where we can count on at least four or five hours to tag-team our day jobs.
How will we handle the transition from teachers to camp counselors? Camp Cul-de-Sac may not hold their attention for more than a week. Zoom canoeing seems…terrible. What then? There are only so many times I can sell washing the cars in their bathing suits as a fun activity.
I think we are going to seriously test the theory that curiosity and imagination blossom from boredom. I’m thinking one part free-range parenting, one part planned activity, one part Netflix, 6 parts grapefruit shandy (for me, not the kids). If they aren’t bleeding, it’s all good.
What are the rest of you thinking?
During a rough patch, that is becoming a bit of a predictable pattern in our quarantine weeks these days, Ally miserably told us she feels like she is ‘living in the shadows.’
How do you respond to that as a parent? Later that same day, Ce had a meltdown over a piano piece that was clearly not about the piano piece.
We are all going to need so much therapy when this is over.
The toughest thing about being a parent many times is that you can’t just throw up your hands at intractable, difficult issues. You need to face them and I didn’t think my usual trick of deflecting the kids by telling them it was really spicy would work. We decided to try empowerment instead.
We all find ourselves struggling in the same mess together. But each of us has agency too, even, or perhaps especially, during adversity. Our job as citizens is to seize our own agency and help others realize their own. In this way, we can help others and ourselves. So if you feel like your living in the shadows find your own way out in whatever way you can.
After this stump speech, she promptly went upstairs and took an hour-long nap and was back to dancing in the kitchen that afternoon so perhaps I overshot the mark? She might have just been tired.
Maybe I should have stuck with the spicy line.
The girls still have so many questions about all this. So many that I can’t really answer. Not in any satisfying way. That’s what I find so strange and disconcerting about this whole situation. There are no simple answers or precedents or plans that we can follow. Any wisdom or experience I have from being older, being the Dad, is tangential at best. It often leaves me feeling a bit adrift. Though that could just be the daily physical and mental exhaustion I constantly feel. It’s totally normal for an adult to need a nap by 10:30 a.m., right?
I know that they don’t really need any exact answers. They are really looking for assurance or some perspective that things are going to work out and get back to some semblance of normal. Or maybe they just want to hear that story about me eating the Nerf ball again. That always seems to help.
I don’t really know how to help them but I know they are watching. I don’t want to teach them anxiety and fear. Or to be selfish. Or reckless. The best I can do is teach them to be courageous. To keep going forward even when they don’t have all the answers. That’s what Mom’s and Dad’s do.
We walked in on Ally playing ‘food bank’ with her Barbies this week and it stirred up about 27 different emotions. Most involved crying either out of happiness or frustration. This is a messed up time.
Our two kids are very different. Cecilia is internalizing all this, like me, and I’m sure it will all come out in three or four years. Probably through an angsty self-penned trombone concerto. Ally is, obviously, more immediate.
Even if we are all trapped in our houses, it’s still a noisy world. Maybe even more so now. We make noise on social media. We talk on the phone. We gather on Zoom. We’re getting more emails than ever.
And the kids…are always listening.
It’s worth remembering the old saying for parents, too. Two ears…one mouth. They are always trying to tell you something.
Jan really didn’t get to do much in this week’s episode and, according to Amazon, my copy of 1,001 More Glitter Jokes won’t arrive until late May so I am fresh out of material and turning over the Saturday post to Michelle this week. I’m sure she’ll continue to reinforce the perception that our house constantly smells like fresh bread with micro-climates of rainbows and kids conjugating verbs in ancient Greek.
Someone at work this week told me that the pandemic experience is like being on a red eye flight where you lose your sense of time, you can’t sleep, your seat doesn’t recline back, and there’s occasional bouts of stomach-dropping turbulence.
This week was difficult for me. There were tough decisions to make at work, the official announcement that the kids would not be returning to school came out, the rapid pace and constant engagement had me feeling exhausted, sad, and overwhelmed.
Those of you who know me, know this is NOT my normal disposition, but this week it all caught up to me.
So what did I do? I went to bed early and woke up and went back at it the next morning. I know the family pokes fun of me for never being able to be still, but I feel best when I am engaged and know my purpose.
We may not ever fully understand the “purpose” of this pandemic, but I know my role with my family, with work, with myself and that is what keeps me going.
All that and the arrival of Saturday. We all know our roles on Saturday…
You know what I’m struggling with most during the lockdown? It’s not the separation of work and home. As a WFH veteran, I had already learned that lesson. It’s the lack of garbage time. Those little pockets throughout the day to just decompress and hit the parental reset button. I’m not talking about Netflix time, either. I’m too tired by the end of the day to make it farther than scrolling through the menu.
As an avowed introvert, having the family constantly underfoot can get…challenging by the end of the day. I need at least one cup of coffee’s worth of quiet. I converted the small cedar closet in our basement into a little recording studio to work on some audiobooks. It was quiet in there. For 37 seconds. Then Dash and Ally found me. Whatcha doing in there, Dad?
Despite not going further than five miles from our house in the last six weeks, the daily schedule feels even more grueling. The house is a mess. I’m hearing conference calls in my sleep. Michelle’s email notification sound makes me twitch. I fear my kids can no longer do basic arithmetic. And please tell me what can I make for dinner with corn meal, nut butter and hot dogs?
Where did my garbage time go? A lot of our household equanimity depends on me not freaking out.