Oh it’s on. Everything is closing, worldwide. It’s heartwarming, really, how several billion human beings are shuttering things so that fewer people will die of the novel coronavirus. It’s a sign of caring, community, connection.
It’s almost enough to give me hope for humanity, except that I keep reading the news. Toilet paper hoarding and big corporate bailouts. Somehow it feels like the same trend of greedy behavior, just for different types of asses.
My kids are home full-time now until their schools open up again. I have breathed my way past panic over the last few days. I went and picked up their interim schoolwork today and shuffled into the house with it. They swarmed me, excited and energized to be getting back to academics. They raced off with their school materials and I didn’t hear a peep for an hour.
No. That is not what happened.
Today, it’s a fortnite marathon, for real, while I work on a 1500-piece jigsaw puzzle. I even forgot to feed Nick lunch. But that’s okay, he’s got extra and he was happy until he realized he was super hungry, and even that admission only came after I pointed out we had forgotten to eat lunch. The fortnite thing has been good. My kids have been playing together happily for hours. It’s as surreal as this whole shut-the-world-down-for-a-bit thing. I don’t intend to interrupt, other than to send Jesse out of the room for a bit occasionally, when her tics get to be too much.
Lots of folks in my orbit are getting very intense about the “school away from school” thing — strict sleep and wake and daytime schedules and workloads, no electronics until after school would normally let out, keeping up with academics, and so on. I’m not judging. That’s obviously what you need if that’s what you need. But I am in a different group of parents who are thinking, “nah.”
I don’t want my kids to experience home as school. School is a place where my children experience almost non-stop stress and anxiety and social confusion; a place where kids are mean to each other, sometimes even on purpose, and teachers don’t have time to look kids in the eyes and connect one-on-one, and kids are unjustly called out for misconceived wrongs; and there is lining up and waiting for Godot, and shuffling in silent lines from one room to another, and then eating in a cafeteria where the noise level constitutes a 15-minute scream, except when it’s silent lunch and then the kids are mute seething prisoners; and there is the rot of having to sit silent and still, moment after moment, and then not getting to go outside for recess because weather; but then when you can go outside for just 15 or 20 minutes, the lunch ladies at recess make you sit down for 5 minutes because you went where there is mud, oh my god, 5 minutes on the blacktop for you naughty boy!
No. I do not want my sacred home associated with any of that. Right now especially, I want my home to be a space of safety and radical acceptance and anxiety reduction, a place where I will smother my babies with cloying love and spoil them with treats and encourage them to go get muddy out back and feast my eyeballs on all their young, glorious beauty — because as we are being reminded right now, life is short and fragile, and whether my son fully grasps fractions in two months, instead of one, is just completely irrelevant to me. So we are sleeping in.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going completely belly up. I’ll give the kids access to their schoolwork and encourage them to do it, but I’m not going to push or create any stress about it if I can help it. I think they’ll want to get it over with every morning – maybe half an hour? – so that we can get on with fun, but then again, maybe they won’t. It’ll be fine, whichever way it goes.
Also I labeled journals, one each for Nick, Jesse and me.
Option one: use these journals to track our rectal temperatures daily.
Option two: Aimless ruminations. This seems better.
I’ve slated us for three dailies. One, what’s one thing I’m going to do for someone else today, and why? Two, what are five things I’m thankful for? Three, what will I practice today so I can be happier and easier to get along with?
I also told the kids they need to do a chore, read a bit, and get outside every day. That’s right, I’m bringing down the hammer: A CHORE. Every day. One. Entire. Chore.
I give us maybe 20% probability of sticking to all of this every day. We haven’t started yet, of course, because I’m a lazy bum and a terrible mom. But I can dream.
In the meantime, having nothing to do is good for the creative juices. It’s the only explanation I have for this crown, which Jesse made out of a glue gun and some craft sticks we had lying around.
A month together is a long time, when everywhere is closed except the great outdoors. I anticipate a lot of tantrums and screaming, arguments, boredom, fortnite, iPads, naps, sugar, and generalized being together too much syndrome (GBTTMS, it’s new in the latest edition of the DSM in case you missed it). But I hope, somewhere in the midst of the mess, my kids and I will find some deep connection during these weeks when we will unexpectedly have no real worries, apart from sickness and death.