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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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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Well, It’s Monday Again

Because when there are no words, there is almost always the perfect GIF. Hello from Groundhog Day #31.

I got some backlash for my latest post, which you can read here if you missed it. If you’re offended by a lot of profanity, I’d advise you to maybe skip that one. Listen close, cats: I love my children. Really. I also realize that I’m fortunate to be married to a man I still enjoy being around. We have a roof over our heads, and I know this won’t last forever. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be mad about it.

My challenges are mostly due to the fact that I’m

A.) Trying to remain sober, while

B.) Raising two children with very different, very challenging, issues. Plus a third kid.

These facts do not mean it can’t be done. In fact, the reason why I share my experiences is to hold myself accountable as well as help other women in a similar situation see that there really is hope for anyone who is struggling with any kind of addiction disorder. If you don’t struggle with addiction, it might be hard for you to understand why LOSING THE THINGS THAT KEEP ME TOGETHER while at the same time PARENTING CHILDREN WHO ALSO LOST THE THINGS THAT KEEP THEM TOGETHER feels so damn impossible.

If you have not been in this position, please don’t chastise me for freaking out about it, because all that does is make you an asshole.

The thing is, that the feeling of impossibility is actually probably a lie. The truth is that deep down inside of me there is a strength that I can tap into — but only if I choose to.

Every day, I get to make that choice.

So, in the spirit of choosing to be okay when very few things are actually okay, here are a few things that are bringing me joy — or at the very least, a chuckle? — during this very challenging time.

  • This post from McSweeny’s, OMG. Funniest thing ever.
  • I’m growing plants! This orchid has been with me since November, and I just bought the rosemary plant. So far, so good. I’d like to branch out to growing things in the yard, but I’m paralyzed by the fear that I’ll invest a ton of time and energy and then everything will die. Suggestions are welcomed — I live in South Louisiana, so the climate is tropical(ish).
  • I found a bra so comfortable that I went back and ordered two more. Dillard’s is having a great sale on loungewear, and since that’s what I’m living in now I decided to stock up. My curvy sisters, may I present the Natori Bliss Contour Wireless Bra. I am a 34 DDD and am forever in search of support and comfort. This bra is so comfy that I SLEEP IN IT.
  • Videos of hedgehogs as pets. Just trust me on this. I spent several hours watching hedgehogs taking baths, hedgehogs taking foot baths, hedgehogs playing in their spinny wheels, and on and on. My friend Rach (of the blog RachRiot) has a pet hedgehog named … wait for it … Quillie Nelson. Read all about it here, if you are so inclined.
  • Bob Dylan. The calmness of his music makes me happy.
  • And finally, we made names for our alter egos. Example: when Pepper loses her shit, we call her Janice — as in, “Uh oh, Janice is here. Everybody scatter!” Something about referring to our Quarantine Selves as alter egos makes us laugh, and laughing is exactly what we need right now to get through this thing.

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