Married to a lady with no memory

This year, the first day of school happened to fall on a Wednesday, which is also Robbie’s day off. I was an absolute wreck worrying about sending our three children, two of whom are too young to be vaccinated, off to school during this catastrophically huge surge of the Delta variant.

In the days leading up to last Wednesday, it felt like my stomach was chewing itself from the inside out, my hands and feet were constantly sweaty, and I found myself walking in circles around the house, unsure of how to go through with the act of sending them to school during a pandemic. At the same time, thanks to years of therapy and ass-busting work, I managed to project a calm, cool demeanor when I wasn’t sobbing in the bathroom or cramming taffy in my mouth in the pantry. Staying calm on the outside is a skill I’ve worked hard to perfect, and it’s vital in our house because Maverick in particular picks up on my worries and tends to take them on.

Robbie’s way of managing me when I’m panicking like this is to suggest food. The last thing I felt like doing is driving downtown to have a nice lunch — OUR CHILDREN ARE SITTING DUCKS, ROBBIE — but I could see the value of a temporary distraction.

The thing about sobriety is that every so often, things come up from the past. For example, there are times when we’re lying in bed looking for a movie to watch.

“Let’s watch that one,” I’ll say.

“We’ve seen that already,” Robbie will answer.

“What? When?!”

I check the release date: 2015.

That’s when he will sit up a little straighter in bed and tell me exactly where we were and what was happening on the day we watched this movie that I have zero recollection of. And I always feel this strange mixture of sadness, shame, and gratitude because at least if we watch it this time, I’ll remember it.

On Wednesday of last week, when we had lunch at Cecelia’s downtown and he opened the car door for me and held my hand so I didn’t stumble in my wedges, I had another one of those moments. He was backing out of the parking space to begin the drive home and I was staring at my phone when he said something about how public bathrooms are never fun to use, but “nothing will top that time I had to poop in the one with the saloon door in New Orleans.”

I looked up from my phone. “What?”

He stared at me. I stared back.

He cleared his throat and raised his voice, probably thinking I obviously didn’t hear him the first time. “I SAID, NOTHING WILL EVER BE WORSE THAN THE TIME I BLEW IT UP IN THAT HOTEL BATHROOM IN NEW ORLEANS WITH NOTHING BUT A SALOON DOOR BETWEEN ME AND EVERYONE WHO WAS WALKING BY.”

I racked my brain. There was the faintest trace of a possibility that I might recall this happening, but I couldn’t be sure.

“Can you tell me this story from the beginning?” I asked, turning my entire body toward him to make sure not to miss any of the details, because let me tell you, it was the funniest thing I’ve heard in the history of ever.

One of the best parts of being married to a man I enjoy hanging out with is hanging out with him, making fun memories I don’t recall, and then getting to experience it all over again with a clear head. He humors me, and I hope it’s more fun than sad for him to get to re-tell these stories to the woman who lived through them with him the first time, but doesn’t remember a damn thing.

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The catalyst

Oh, hi.

Want to know the truth?

Since March 2020, I’ve really struggled to write freely, especially here on my blog. How can I, when what I want to write about involves other people? The old Harmony wouldn’t have given writing about other people a second thought. She was haplessly selfish. The new me tries really hard to be truthful, but also careful. And sometimes those lines are blurry and hard to decipher.

So here’s the truth: aside from therapy assignments, and freelance work for Upworthy, I haven’t written anything at all since I don’t even know when. A writer who isn’t writing is either struggling with depression (check), overwhelm (check), or panic (double check). Weirdly, writing is part of what keeps me grounded and relatively sane, so not writing for long stretches of time is a sign that I’m not doing very well.

It’s time for me to start sharing again, telling on myself and getting my thoughts out because it helps keep me accountable and healthy. Also, I started seeing a psychiatrist. I’m doing light therapy which involves shining a very, very bright light at my face for 5 minutes per day until I no longer hate my fellow man.

Happily, I am still sober. This is nothing short of miraculous, and I’m here to tell you that recovery from addiction works if you do the work. Now, let me tell you: the work SUCKS. I simply cannot stress this enough. If you expect sobriety to be an easy ride, you’re gonna be pissed. However, the payoff to this is the ability to make it through a shit show of a year in one piece while the people and systems around you fall apart. Does it suck to be keenly aware of how bad things are? Absolutely yes.

So what keeps me moving forward?

My kids.

In March 2020, just before Covid-19 hit the United States, my oldest child tried to hang himself.

It was a perfect storm: he was stressed out over things that were happening at school. I was stressed out over things happening at school. Tensions were high, and when he’s anxious, he acts out. Even though I know better, sometimes I forget that when Maverick acts out, I have to look beyond the behavior to see the child. In March 2020, I forgot. I was frazzled and exasperated. I yelled at him. Robbie also yelled at him. The entire family was mad at him on that morning before school. His ADHD medication hadn’t kicked in yet, and the thought struck: they would be better off without me.

Of course it’s not true. The thought that entered my son’s head on a loop was a lie, but the voice was loud enough and strong enough to propel him toward gathering a stack of books while I was in my bedroom getting dressed. He took a belt and looped it through a pull-up bar that was in our living room, stood on the makeshift pillar, and put the loop around his neck.

My daughter, who was 6 years old at the time, came running down the hall shouting. I opened my bedroom door and asked her what was wrong.

MAVERICK’S TRYING TO HANG HIMSELF.

That is what she said.

Nothing made sense. That sentence didn’t make sense. Maverick’s trying to what? I don’t know how I got from the hall to the living room. My heart was in my throat. My face was stricken. White as a piece of paper. I caught a glimpse of myself in the round mirror on the wall and I didn’t know who that pale person was. There she is, the lady whose brilliant, creative, amazing kid tried to hang himself.

I couldn’t find him in the house. I was screaming his name and my throat was closing up. He wasn’t standing on the now-scattered stack of books that Pepper was pointing to.

I told her it was going to be okay, even though I had no idea if that was true. I still don’t. I told her she did the right thing and she was an excellent sister, the best sister. She knew to tell me, and I told her over and over, and have many times since, that she did the right thing.

She saved his life that day. She told him not to do it; her yelling at him to stop is what snapped him back to reality.

I found him sitting outside on the driveway, no shoes, holding his belt. His face was also white. We stood in the bathroom together, two matching white faces.

“Brush your teeth,” I said calmly, because even people who are contemplating suicide need to make dental hygiene a priority. He and I robotically got through the next few hours and days and then there was a pandemic that people still seem to be ignoring almost a full 18 months later.

Pepper started eating her feelings and then she started eating her hair. Everyone needed therapy. No one could sleep. And for the first 6 weeks of quarantine my life was a living hell. But then, as you may have read in my last blog post, it eventually got better.

It keeps getting better.

It’s been months since Maverick had thoughts of suicide, but sometimes the voice comes back. Sometimes, it’s louder. He trusts me now enough to tell me the truth.

My thoughts are scaring me again, Mom.

Children who are on the autism spectrum often have co-morbidities. What that means is, they almost always have another diagnosis like ADHD or OCD. Maverick has ADHD and anxiety, which he takes medication to manage. Often, when kids hit puberty and especially if they’re on the spectrum, they struggle with self-harm and/or thoughts of suicide. Multiple studies have been done on the subject and I can tell you from personal experience that my kid is a spectacular human being who also happens to want to end his life from time to time.

This was probably the catalyst for a lot of things I’ve done since then, namely cutting a lot of extra drama out of my life. I don’t have the bandwidth or the tolerance for anything even remotely toxic and I think right now, that’s appropriate. I have to stay sane and sober and strong and present so I can, you know, help my kid stay alive. This situation forced me to create a fortress-like set of boundaries around myself and my family.

Today, we are doing well — all of us. We’re grateful that our support system rocks. I want to stand on the roof of our new house and scream PSYCHIATRY SAVES PEOPLE! Because it does, and also I wish more people who know this amazing fact would talk about it. So many people, including myself, resist the idea of seeing a psychiatrist because that’s for crazy people. Well, no. It’s really not. Because my son isn’t crazy and neither am I.

We have crawled through this difficult time one day at a time, using all of the tools at our disposal. Therapy, meditation, sunshine, exercise, talking, resting, medication, giving each other grace. Every day that Maverick didn’t want to hurt himself and I didn’t drink or punch anyone in the face, we marked a success.

Because it was.

And now we are here, in July 2021. All in one piece. And I still can’t find the words to adequately express my gratitude.

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I have done everything and nothing all at once

This morning, I received an email from the assistant of a person I admire, like, A LOT, asking what projects I’ve been working on lately.

Because I’m neurotic and very judgmental of myself, I immediately started to panic. What have I been working on? OMG, NOTHING.

I’m 41 years old, still have not queried any agents, and have accomplished exactly zero since the last time we spoke months ago. In fact, as I pondered her email from the floor of my closet, which is where I go to freak out in private, my hands shook as I texted my best friend Audrey.

This perfectly nice assistant is asking me a completely sane and reasonable question — what new projects are in the works? –– and all I could think of was every missed opportunity, every day that I have not written a single word, everything that I have not done.

That’s it: I’m a failure.

“I’ve literally done nothing but move to the new house and keep myself and the kids okay,” I texted Audrey, in all caps to convey the magnitude of my distress.

“OMG HARD STOP,” she replied. “That is ALL you have to do right now. Period, the end.”

Why didn’t I feel like that was enough?

***

Robbie and I bought a house and it’s beautiful. The first and only house we’d ever owned before this one was in Alabama, and we left it to move back to our hometown of Baton Rouge when Asher was born in 2011 and cried for 7 months straight. I needed my mom and his mom and anyone else who would hold my babies for a few hours at a time so I could sleep.

The dream of home ownership remained out of our reach for almost exactly a decade, until one day I got a text from a friend saying that her neighbors were about to put their house on the market. The neighborhood was perfect, 3 minutes from the kid’s school, on the bus route, in the middle of town but also in the woods, with a tight-knit community and a swimming pool. I’d brought the kids trick-or-treating there with friends last Halloween, and the freedom there was palpable. Children ran through yards in herds, ahead of their parents who trailed behind with wagons and flashlights. No one was concerned about their child getting lost because everyone knew everyone.

All I could think was that this was a magical place I didn’t know existed: an actual neighborhood inside the city limits where people cared about each other. It was so refreshing, especially after the difficulties of the pandemic.

“We could never afford it,” Robbie said.

So I put it out of my mind.

One of the things I was told when I first got sober and started working a program of recovery was that I would comprehend the word serenity and that I would know peace. EYEROLL FOREVER. I hated hearing that. I hated knowing that what I was doing, which was slowly killing myself, was no longer working. I hated being wrong, I hated being told what to do, I hated being out of my comfort zone and having to do things I didn’t feel like I had time for like helping another alcoholic.

I mean, seriously. I’m a busy person.

There was so much work to do before I found true serenity, and even longer before I found peace, but I’ve continued to show up and do the work and suddenly I think I might understand what those elusive things mean.

We were able to buy this amazing house with a sprawling backyard and covered patio because Robbie and I have worked our asses off for the past 4 years. I didn’t just get sober: I re-learned how to exist as a human, as a wife, as a partner, and as a mother. At first, I didn’t see how that would translate into concrete life changes. I just thought, okay, I’m happier and my family is healthier, so I kept doing the deal.

But it’s more than that. Not only am I emotionally healthy, but I’m able to show up for my kids when they encounter hard things. Because I’m able to do my job, Robbie has been able to more fully focus on his. And even though the past two years have rocked our family to the core, I remained sober. I kept seeing my therapist. I used all my tools, even the ones I didn’t think I needed, and marveled at how well it all actually worked.

So what have I been doing?

I have been carting myself and my three children to various forms of therapy. I’ve been paying our bills on time and answering the phone when it rings instead of letting calls go to voicemail and not checking it, ever. I’ve tried really, really hard to connect with my children in ways that matter.

They tell me things that matter to them, and they tell me because they can trust me. They’ve had enough positive interactions and enough consistency by now to know that there is no longer a scary mom and a sweet mom, there’s just one person all the time who tries her best.

The answer to the question is that I have finally found serenity, that slippery thing that I wasn’t sure existed.

Hanging out in the hammock.

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Everything you need to know

How can I sum up the events of Election Week in the year of our lord 2020?

Here you go. Click, press play, sound up, enjoy.

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This is Why Women Seem Angry.

My friends and I have a working theory that women generally run out of fucks sometime after midlife and that’s why there are so many old women roaming around who simply do not care. I’ve long wondered when I would stop worrying so much.

That time has arrived.

We believe that our fucks ran out ahead of schedule, and the reason why has three main anchoring points.

ANCHORING POINT ONE: The last 4 years.

“What do you mean, Harmony?” Allow me to clarify. THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF LIVING IN TRUMP’S AMERICA.

I have lost respect for so many people. Social media provides a place for literally everyone with internet access to state their opinion and now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are surrounded by racists, people who don’t think racism is a deal breaker, people who grandstand about wanting to close abortion clinics (but don’t want to care for the women and children who are in need), hypocrites, bigots, and religious zealots who cloak all of these things and more under a coat of righteousness.

Clearly, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the past 4 years have been depressingly eye-opening, horrifying, and my circle of people continues to grow smaller — which is a good thing. Before 2016, I was living in an alcohol-induced fog where it was easy to pretend that nothing was wrong. I didn’t want to look at anything that made me feel uncomfortable feelings.

That’s gone now. I’m awake, and I’m sorry it took me so long to get here.

ANCHORING POINT TWO: The pandemic.

I mean, what else is there to say? The isolation, the fear, the outrage, the pressure cooker feeling of being in a house for months with three children, only to realize (months later) how much I actually enjoy being at home all the time with my kids BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS STUPID.

“But that seems harsh.”

Yeah, it’s actually not. Because a lot of people actually die of this virus. Over 180,000 and counting just in America — and if you try to tell me the CDC cannot be trusted then just do me a favor and never, ever return to this website again because you are shitting on the expertise of every scientist and doctor who have devoted their careers to finding the best ways to care for YOU.

Back to why I hate the general public: why would I want to go anywhere when people don’t even believe that Covid-19 is a real thing? Those dumb motherfuckers could sneeze or cough their ignorance onto one of us and we could become asymptomatic carriers and infect my mother or one of my in-laws and then they would end up dying alone in a Covid unit and we wouldn’t even be able to have a funeral.

So, yes. The pandemic used up the remainder of the tolerance I used to have.

ANCHORING POINT THREE: Racial issues.

See my previous blog post.

Now, I realize this all sounds very gloom and doom and perimenopausal, but it’s actually quite liberating.

For example, I put a Biden/Harris 2020 sign in the front yard. My husband is still arguing that Biden isn’t the best choice and he plans to vote third party, but don’t worry, I’ll keep working on him.

In the meantime, our sign blew over in the wind so I went out to stand it back up. Two doors down from us, a tree service was removing one of our neighbor’s rotting trees. There were about 7 (white, very strong-looking) men standing around on the sidewalk staring at me while I adjusted my sign. I looked over at them and waved hello.

Not one of them waved back.

They just stared — not with interest, but with disgust and possibly disbelief. I actually delighted in knowing that I was ruffling their feathers, because yes, I am a white woman who refuses to accept our current administration’s vision of “Making America Great Again.” In fact, it turns my stomach.

While I’m sharing about things that turn my stomach, I’ll add to my list the people who think it’s okay to shame women who visit Planned Parenthood.

“Why is that, Harmony? Have you had an abortion?”

No, thankfully I have never had to make that impossible decision. However, I believe that Planned Parenthood is an important organization and here is why: when I was in my early twenties, not in school, and working a minimum wage job without insurance coverage, that is where I had to go in order to get a prescription for birth control pills. It was $80 to see a doctor and it was a struggle for me to scrape that money together.

Also, every other woman I saw in the waiting room was white, just so you know.

Had I not had Planned Parenthood, what other choice would I have, really? I’ll tell you. I would have had to depend on my partner to always wrap it up, and I wasn’t willing or able to believe that he would. Most men from my generation were brought up to believe that birth control is the woman’s problem and their thought process ends there. Kind of like how dinner is also the woman’s problem — same school of thought. As an aside, my sons already know that where their ejaculate goes is actually their responsibility, but that’s another topic for a different day.

Some people would say I shouldn’t have been having sex outside of marriage, and to those people I’ll say this: that archaic, Bible-based idea is something I one hundred percent reject. I won’t even have the discussion.

Had I not had Planned Parenthood and I did accidentally end up pregnant at that really stupid age, I would not have chosen to get married before I was ready to, nor would I want someone else to decide for me whether or not I was going to carry a child. Because no one can make that decision for another person.

Even people who think they are ready to become parents (exhibit A and B, Harmony and Robbie) aren’t ready to become parents. People who never wanted a kid in the first place? Those children are the ones who truly suffer. I hope that all of the staunchly pro-life people out there can find a way to band together and figure out how to give unwanted babies safe and secure homes, because the government has FAILED AT THIS.

(See also: the foster care system.)

So back to the fact that I am out of fucks. The longer this pandemic drags on, and the more people continue to refuse to do basic things like put on a damn mask to keep other people safe, and the more I notice how people mistreat those who are different or speak about them in a way that’s really not okay, the less I care about what any of those people think.

And it is awesome.

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Removing Body Parts During A Pandemic

Okay … having Asher’s tonsils and adenoids removed during a pandemic was not actually a “nightmare.” It was an intensely stressful experience that likely aged my appearance several years.

The nightmare was the part where our recently-paid-off, 2-year-old refrigerator stopped working and Robbie had to run out and buy a mini fridge literally the night before the surgery so that we’d have a place to keep our popsicles. But before that, I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with a Customer Service representative from LG. During that time, she took down my name, address, phone number, email address, the model and serial number of the refrigerator, and the information on the repair company who told me the compressor was out.

Why did giving LG that information take almost an hour?

GOOD QUESTION.

The second part of the nightmare occured when Robbie (pictured below) dropped me and Asher off at the house after his surgery and immediately went shopping for a new refrigerator and did not return for the better part of the afternoon.

It took much longer than anticipated because Robbie is in sales and therefore he takes no bullshit from sales people. I genuinely feel sorry for the sales people who come into contact with my husband. He not only takes their tactics, twists them around, and somehow turns the situation in his favor, but he can also do math in his head at a startling speed and often calculates the prices two steps ahead of the person who is supposed to be “helping” him.

After spending a significant amount of time dealing with a salesman that Robbie later deemed to be incompetent, he took our business elsewhere to Best Buy where he found a unicorn of a fridge with all of the things we wanted for a way low price because someone stuck the wrong price tag on it. Until it is delivered, we’re making it work.

This thing is housing all the ice cream.

Asher is 8 years old. He is a quirky conundrum — delightful, but puzzling. He requires patience like all children, but I’m learning that there is a very specific brand of patience that he needs from me and it’s the kind I don’t come by naturally.

He is a quiet little guy. He shuts down if people are too loud, look too long, press too hard with questions, or are in any way aggressive. So that’s tough, because I am kind of aggressive when I’m under stress. It’s one of my biggest hurdles as an adult because when I’m agitated, I just want to burn shit down. I am extreme. I’m working on it, so moving forward, let’s just call it “passion” and “energy,” okay?

Right now, during the pandemic with all of the uncertainty which is another thing I don’t deal with very well, I have to work really hard to stay calm and even and kind and keep my voice at a normal level instead of screaming WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCKING HELL IS HAPPENING NOW at my laptop or cell phone screen.

Because I have passion and energy.

I was prepared for the worst. I expected Asher to hemorrhage from the throat or come out of anesthesia throwing up and I thought everything at home would be terrible.

None of those things turned out to be true, thank goodness.

He’s been a really, really easy patient. His brother and sister have been SO sweet and kind and my belief in our ability to raise good people is bolstered.

We finally figured out that mixing his pain meds with Sprite is the easiest way to get him to cooperate. He’s been eating a tiny bit, mostly ice cream, smoothies, and yogurt, but mostly he’s just drinking water because my second biggest fear after throat hemorrhage is dehydration so I push water on him passionately and energetically.

I’d like to give a shout out to my friend Jess, a working mom of 4 whose husband also works in the car business and is not home much, for bringing that yellow ice chest full of ice to our home. I wanted to hug her, but instead I smiled and waved and prayed that our family doesn’t end up giving her family the virus.

I prayed both passionately and energetically, so I’m sure it worked.

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Pandemic Parenting

I’m one of those annoyingly literal people who struggle to comprehend abstract ideas, so the concept of a pandemic is like, really hard for me to understand. Everything has a beginning and an end, yes? But we have no idea when this thing’s gonna end?

Bullshit.

I do not accept.

For real, give me an end date. I need to put it on my calendar.

I’m wearing a mask. I’ve been wearing a mask, and the people who claim that they can’t mask up because of their “rights” make me want to scream. Sometimes, I do.

I don’t bring the kids anywhere that I don’t absolutely have to, and when I do bring them out in public, they are also masked. They’re also kids, so it doesn’t really matter that they’re masked because they shove their fingers underneath the mask to dig around in their noses, so there’s that.

We go to the pool. I go to yoga, keeping my mat sort of away from other people. In a desperate, dark moment, I signed all three kids up for a variety of summer camps which they’re attending on a rotating basis, giving each child a week at home with just me while the other two go to camp.

I am walking the squiggly line of following the rules and keeping myself sane because parents, the only way we are going to make it through this nightmare is by taking care of ourselves.

I have always said I could not homeschool.

I never should have said that.

The truth is, I can homeschool, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to with every fucking fiber of my being. My entire system rebels against the mere thought of it. Absolutely nothing could possibly displease me more, except for the idea of living without electricity. And yet, here we are! WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.

I’m resentful. I’m bitter. I hate everyone and everything, A LOT. But this post isn’t supposed to be about my irritation. This post is about self-care.

We will not make it to the end of this journey if we don’t put ourselves first. I don’t mean “after the kids start school.” I don’t mean “once Maverick gets braces” or “once I lose 15 pounds” or “after Asher’s tonsillectomy,” which are all actual excuses I’ve given.

I mean today. Now. Right after you finish reading this blog post, you need to take care of yourself. Take a bath. Lock yourself in a room and watch all 5 seasons of The Affair. Pluck your eyebrows. Organize your underwear and throw out the raggedy ones. Set boundaries and stick to them. Feed yourself things that will boost your immune system. Go outside and breathe.

If you think my ideas are stupid then just think of something not harmful that makes you happy and go do that thing. Ignore your family. They will be fine.

Last week I managed to attach magnetic eyelashes to my face and went to dinner for the first time with my husband since Valentine’s Day. It was nerve wracking and I feel like it should have been more romantic than it was, but he’s been working like 72 hours a week and neither of us are great company right now, just FYI.

I’ve seen articles about mom rage in a pandemic and I’m like damn, that’s me. That is all of us. We’re going to all explode into bloody pieces if we don’t figure out how to mother ourselves so we can turn right back around and be a not shitty mom to our progeny.

My therapist has been on my ass about self care for 3.5 years. I blow it off — I don’t know why. It’s HARD to learn how to genuinely care for a body that I abused for so long. When I think of self care, I think of vodka and cranberry and a crushed up Adderall, but that’s because I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict and my thinking is warped.

Actual self care is softer. Gentler. Easy on the liver. Most of it sounds boring, I know. But if we don’t do it, we’re going to lose our shit and I don’t mean in the comical way. This situation is a pressure cooker, both on a very nuclear level (in our homes) and on a majorly large scale (the entirety of America) and I don’t want to see it get any worse. And yet, somehow, it is.

Welcome to 2020.

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Sobriety is tough right now

A producer from Nightline reached out a few months ago and asked if I’d be willing to keep a video diary of my daily life as a mom hanging onto my sobriety while in isolation.

The piece they created and put out into the world is ACCURATE. I’m so, so grateful that I was able to be a part of it.

If you need help, reach out. Tell on yourself. Trust me, you’re not alone.

Parenting Quirky Kids During A Pandemic

Last night, I leaned against the counter in our hall bathroom with my arms crossed, watching my 11-year-old brush his teeth.

I choose to watch him mostly because if left to his own devices, he only cleans the right side of his mouth, completely forgetting about the left. Kids on the spectrum — who also have ADHD — are like that. It took me a long time to understand and accept this behavior as something other than carelessness.

As he brushed, I noticed that his height likely surpasses 5 feet and made a mental note to measure him. He’s all arms and legs; even though he’s one of the youngest in his class, he will never be the smallest.

Out of nowhere, he blurted, “Sadness is going up, isn’t it?”

I wanted to make sure I’d heard him right, since he was talking with a mouthful of toothpaste, so I asked him to repeat the question.

“Sadness. It’s going up, huh? Because of the virus.”

That is when my child looked at me with genuine concern and asked if the rate of suicide will increase because of what is happening. Because of the number of businesses closing their doors. Because people are losing their homes and their livelihoods and their loved ones.

Oh.

I had to answer him honestly. I told him yes, he’s right, a lot of people are sad and a lot of them are ending their lives. I think I tacked on some stuff about the importance of mental health and how there is ALWAYS a better way out, that there is ALWAYS hope, even if it feels like there isn’t, but I’m sure I bungled that part up because of what I’m going to go over with you in a moment.

So, he’s not the kind of kid who blissfully be-bops through life, and he’s also not the kind of person who is willing to accept what you tell him at face value. He’s going to sniff out a lie — or even a glossed over, watered down version of the truth — like nobody’s business, and if he thinks you’re not telling him the whole truth? HE WILL NEVER LET IT GO.

I don’t even try to skirt issues anymore; I address them directly and to the best of my ability. Maverick just knows things, no matter how much I try to wish away his level of awareness. He notices every slight change in my mood, even when it’s imperceptible to others. All that hyper awareness is exhausting — I should know, because I’m the same way.

Before the pandemic suicide rate discussion took place, we’d survived a typical evening at home.

The first time I typed out that sentence, I’d used the word “enjoyed” instead of “survived.” That was a lie, so I changed it.

My husband arrived from work around 7 p.m. I was hanging by the very last shred of my sanity after helping our 8-year-old assemble his Nintendo Labo. I peaced out for a walk to clear my head, slash, talk myself out of running away from home for good, during which I discovered one of our neighbors (an elderly man wearing sweatpants) playing bagpipes on the sidewalk.

The music was so hauntingly beautiful that I captured it with my phone, although I stayed far enough away so that he wouldn’t be in the video clearly enough for people to know who it was because I’m polite like that.

When I got home, our 6-year-old was insisting in her screechy-screech voice that we all participate in something I can only describe as Hobbs Masterpiece Theater — she wrote a script, we all had lines, and there was singing and dancing involved.

Then there were baths and pajamas for the two younger kids, the usual reading/playing/screaming for no reason combo that our children love so much, an episode of our favorite show, cuddling with Robbie, and at the end of all of that, exhausted, was when I stood in the bathroom with my oldest.

The discussion with my son happened at the end of a very long day of pandemic parenting. And this is why all of us are so beyond over this shit.

Not our kids. We love our kids. But the confinement, the isolation, the “distance learning,” “crisis schooling,” mask-making, scary news bullshit? DONE. WITH. IT.

None of us are doing great. I mean, maybe some people are, but I don’t know those people. Every parent I know well enough to have an honest conversation with is slowly dying inside from the agony that is modern day parenting and working whilst isolating because there is a pandemic out there.

So, if you are wondering if you’re the only person out there who is struggling … you aren’t. (Insert something uplifting here, like “WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!”)

Deep breath.

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