Thursday, May 14, 2020

In this new normal, I have never parented so fucking hard



Only one day left until the weekend — which more and more feels like a safe island refuge between tsunami-ravaged weekdays. 

On weekend mornings, in our house of three school-aged kids, there is rare quiet.

The kids can sleep as late as they want. They can play video games and stare at their devices for as long as they want. They can do whatever the hell they feel like doing. I don't care. Chuck doesn't care. Simply, we don't have the brain cells left to care.

The first few weeks of Covid-19 were so strange, but so liberating. There were no after-school clubs or baseball practices or lunches to pack or soccer clinics or band concerts. We have three sons, age 5, 9 and 12, and we had been living on a hamster wheel of "We just have to..." for years.

"We just have to cram down sandwiches in the car on the way to practice so we can get home and do homework."

"We just have to drop off Kid #1 here then drive here to get Kid #2 then get back home so Kid #3 can get to the doctor's."

Then BAM, Coronication, and all the have-tos were gone.

We were, simply, home, and the possibilities of what we could accomplish seemed endless. I bought paint and crafts and books. Bins for organizing Legos. New ingredients to try new recipes. If Shakespeare wrote during the plague, I would too! Chuck was working from home, too, so I wasn't trying to accomplish my own work plus the kids' sports, homework and meals by myself. In those first few weeks, we did virtual yoga and baked cookies. We had game night.

It seemed strangely peaceful and ideal. We were finally off the hamster wheel.

But now, months into this new normal of work and school and laundry and dishes and bills and isolation and life, I find myself, like most other parents, utterly burnt out.

I scoffed this week at Teacher Appreciation gestures because just once, I'd like for someone — anyone — to acknowledge what parents are going through right now. Parents have become teachers, on top of everything else. We have lost childcare, grandparents, and babysitters. We navigate business meetings and deadlines alongside math homework and reading logs. We worry we won't be able to feed our family.

We are one big amalgamation of everything we were and are and don't yet understand. There aren't enough hours in the day — and there isn't any help.





Every morning, Chuck and I look at the day ahead and strategize like fucking crazy people.

"I have a Zoom at noon and something due at 3. Or was it due Tuesday? What's today?"

"Wednesday, I think. Kid #1 has an assignment due at 4 and a virtual classroom at 9."

"Can you help at 9? I have a Zoom at 10 and 2 and a call at 1."

"Kid #2 has a live stream Google class at 2 and didn't finish his work from yesterday. What's the login for Koala classroom again?"

"Ok, you take the 2 and I'll change my Zoom to a phone call. Or was it a Teams meeting?"

"Can you finish your work and jump on his virtual class? Don't forget he has art class too, and then independent reading."

"Yes, but then I need an hour to prepare for my Teams meeting. Or was it Whatsapp?"

"Hold on, my boss is calling."

"KIDS! QUIET! Dad's on a work call!"

"My laptop is frozen!"

"QUIET! His mic is on!"

"I can't get into Google classroom!"



There are passwords and logins and technical problems. Kids can't sit for hours staring at computer screens. They need help. They need someone to decipher assignments and answer questions. It doesn't matter if you have your own shit to do. You're supposed to be 100% on board for your child's education, right?

And don't forget to get them outside for fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Oh, and to make a sign to let their teachers know they miss them. And put those hearts and thank you signs in the windows. Oh, and upload a new video so their friends can see them. Make them nutritional meals. Try to learn to cut their hair and teach them French. Don't forget to make them turn off the TV. Oh, and schedule a video call with the dentist so he can be sure they're still brushing their teeth.

Then, there are the emotions. Don't forget to console your kids when they miss their friends and have nightmares because you accidentally left the evening news on. Try to keep their spirits up, even though your own are fragile and annihilated. Try not to let them hear you bickering with your spouse, even though you've been together for a zillion hours a day and just need a minute to yourself.




Try to be everything you can be every second of the day, every day of the week. Oh, and by the way, it may be this way until January 2021.  

I keep thinking about my co-worker. She tried to attend a mandatory Zoom meeting this morning from a commuter parking lot. She'd been driving her toddler around for hours and finally got her daughter to fall asleep. Her daughter, of course, woke up just as she turned off the engine. 

"I'm sorry," she said, shouting over her screaming toddler. "I have to go."

I keep thinking about her car ride home. The inconsolable child. Driving around. Praying for peace. Dreading the work that would be waiting at home. Knowing the next day would be more of the same.

Like so many of us, moving but going nowhere — and the real shitter is, gas is so fucking cheap.

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