Will They Ever Be the Same?
The days all run together. I selfishly long for a time when things will return to normal. When my mind will be free from the 24 hours parenting has become. Don’t judge me if that sounds horrible. I’m well aware that parenting has always been a 24-hour job. I have a type 1 diabetic son. I never not think of parenting, but at least before there were moments of reprieve, silent moments to myself. Now to settle my mind I have to runaway to Costco and drive extra slow. Because my son has type 1, we opted to keep my three kids, ages 6, 8, and 10 home. It will be over a year this month of them and us in this house. There’s been no soccer practices. No religion. No get togethers with friends, barely even family. They have been doing virtual school from my kitchen. One semester, turning into two, then three, and finally a year. There have been no date nights. No dancing. Only two nights in a year where we slipped away for a few hours to ourself. The noise rattles the house from 7:00 a.m. until their heads hit the pillow at 8:00 p.m., which sometimes drags out to 9:00 p.m., even 10 p.m. I’m yelling constantly. I can admit that this pandemic has exacerbated my ability to scream instead of talk. I know some other mothers have an inside voice, but I have yet to find mine. We all have our moments, or at least that’s what I tell myself after being caught on Zoom losing my shit because my son won’t stop banging his chair against the floor, or his feet against the cabinet. To be honest, I’ve been caught losing my shit on Zoom for other reasons as well, but always fully dressed so for that I’m grateful.
I’m not saying my kids are bad. They are darling. But they are kids after all. So along with their adorable faces and quick wit comes raised voices (no clue where they get that from), paper and toys littered everywhere, and a virtual path of chaos constantly meandering through my house. There are days I think I’m losing my mind, and I crawl into my closet for a minute to myself to eat Fruit Loops while tuning out everything else. The noise is so constant. My thoughts ramble. I cannot focus. I love them so much. But I need a minute away. I long for pedicures and manicures. For my eyebrows to be two instead of one. To be fair, I have done my toes twice in a year. My eyebrows once. We all have a breaking point. Unibrow is not a good look on me. I long for cocktails by a hotel pool under the hot sun where no one is calling my name or asking for me to upload or to download. My skin bronze and glowing, my body long and lean, my hair cascading beautifully around my shoulders, accentuating my perky bosom and small waist. Yes, in my alternative world where everything is back to the way it was, I am suddenly young and luscious again, and look fantastic in my bathing suit. It’s a pandemic. Let me hold onto that dream.
I miss school in a way I never thought I would. I’m not implying that school’s a daycare, or that I have ever looked to it as one. I had never wanted them to all leave. I just wasn’t prepared for them to all stay, all day, for a year. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and my daughter just started kindergarten this year. This was going to be my first year with an empty house, and I was terrified at the thought of not having her little feet pitter pattering across the tile floor. I’m resentful some days that our last months together of just her and I were stolen from us. No brunches where we sat eating chocolate pancakes, her twirling my hair, our heads side by side coloring. No gymnastics classes or swim. No story times together at the library or Barnes and Noble. I had envisioned savoring every second of those last months, before she started school and I returned to work. But it ended so differently. Her brothers virtual schooling in my kitchen. Me trying to figure out how to download, upload, print, and email for two children, while she played silently to herself day in and day out. I never sent her off with tears in my eyes, holding her little fingers until that last goodbye. I never sat outside the school in my car waiting a couple of hours just in case she needed me. She just added her computer to the counter in August, and began chugging away like them. Honestly, that part I didn’t mind.
Even though my mind wanders to how hard this year has been for me and for all parents, working mothers, non-working mothers, and the 3.5 million women who were forced out of the work force, what has this year meant for my children? What will their young minds think of these days and this time? Am I doing the right thing keeping them home? It’s hard to balance their physical and mental health. My son has never done well sick. My other son has one of the markers for type 1 what if he gets Covid-19 and is fine, but it triggers type 1 in him. These scenarios always play in my head, as I’m sure they do for a lot of parents. I don’t know if I’m making the right choice. I judge no one for theirs so don’t judge me for mine. I’ve tried to give them some normalcy. We took an extended drive to New York to see my husband’s mother for her 70th birthday, although we could only spend a few hours with her outside because of New York’s quarantining rules. We drove 40 hours in four days. We stopped in Washington, D.C., and walked all over its empty streets. I took them to Georgia to the mountains. We learned there are so many things you can do outside. We have cuddled together watching movies, and spent hours playing Mario Kart. Well, my husband plays anyway. It’s also been nice for them to have my traveling husband home for the first time in their young lives. To have dinner as a family every night. We take them outside on long walks, play basketball on Saturdays, and kickball during the week. They developed elaborate made-up games and worlds, including a whole “stuffy government” for their stuffed animals, complete with a President, Supreme Court, and ruling legislature. Elections were held. It was all very contentious.
They are okay, I thought. I tricked myself into believing that they didn’t even notice they were isolated. They have us and each other. But during the Christmas season, I found a handwritten note from my son to Santa sitting next to their Elf on the Shelf. He asked the Elf to take a note to Santa. The note said: “In addition to my toys I want for Christmas, I also want you to try and end this pandemic. It would end this nightmare for all of us. If you can reinsert magic in Scout elves, than you can do this. I await your reply.” I cried when I read it. So did my husband. I cried right now rereading it. I might want to run away and hide some days, and they do too, but they never complain. My children are so wonderfully brave. They are in so many ways stronger than me. I’m trying to feed off their resilience. The other day, I took them to a restaurant to eat outside. I let them get fries and milkshakes. Then, we went to the Lego store, and they said it was one of the best days of their lives. Things that we once did all the time have become moments to treasure.
My grandma says after living through a World War, a depression, Vietnam, and fighting for civil rights and gender equality, this isn’t so hard, and it will teach us gratitude. Just like how she can never leave a crumb on her plate after being hungry during the depression, I will never take for granted being able to hug my grandmother, mother or step-mother again. None of us will. And my family has been lucky this year to be financially okay so far, which I know hasn’t been the case for everyone. Some people are praying for jobs, for food, and for housing, and that’s so much more important than me needing a pedicure. We will get through this. I will one day have two eyebrows again. The end is near. And even though I’m whining right now, I do so because I know other parents can relate. Being honest can open you up to being judged. But I do count my blessings, and I’m mindful and empathetic to the 500K families who have lost a loved one during this pandemic.
And as much as I want them to go back to the real world, when I think of all the empty chairs at the dinner table this Easter, I also want to stay in my house cuddled with children forever. Parenthood is after all the most co-dependent functional dysfunctional relationship of my life. Next year, I will be writing an article about how emotionally empty I feel now that my children are back at school and have no time for me.