Is Santa still coming?
My eight year old asked quietly as we walked back from the swing set. Our family was outside when the governor announced Ohio’s mandatory shut down. My husband and I read the breaking news on our phones. We didn’t say much out loud, but what our kids saw on our faces was enough to rattle them, deeply.
Both Nick and I are on the ‘essential’ workforce list. Like so many quarantined Americans we are still going into the office. Him at his headquarters and me remotely from home. With all three kids—8, 7 and 4–floating around. Picking up on every single detail: the angst, the frustration, the uncertainty. My inability to do common core math.
My daughter and I made the pretty schedule. Had to dust off a ruler to make it presentable. But I quickly realized a few days in that ‘creative play’ doesn’t come from the paper taped to my shaker cabinet. The lessons are happening in real time. My kids don’t need a homeschool teacher. They need their mama.
We are in uncharted territory. Just like me, my kids are cut off from every comfort but home. So home needs to be their safe haven. A place to ask questions. A place to be distracted. A spot where the people they trust aren’t giving them more restrictions.
Do we get our school work done? Sort of. Are they learning? More than I possibly could have imagined.
Recent lessons include:
Home ec: sandwich making, cucumber cutting, following a recipe, dish management and fort building.
Technology: kids messenger, online learning, how to mute a zoom conference during virtual cheer practice when mom is yelling.
Hostage negotiations: including, but not limited to, every interaction with their 4 year old brother while mom is on conference calls.
Friendship: taking care of each other. Listening. Connecting with the people who need to hear their voice and send them rainbow piggy drawings.
Patience: that you don’t always get what you want immediately. Even if you exhibit A+ behavior. Even if you really, really want something. Unless it’s carry-out donuts.
Grace: that it’s ok to be upset. Even if you’re a grown up. There’s no schedule or age limit on when meltdowns can happen. Don’t be so hard on yourself or the people around you.
Relaxation: I’ll admit my guilt in having to learn this one right now. The truth is, I’ve been driving the overscheduled, hot mess mom suburban for a few years. From practices for multiple sports to games to birthday parties to cheer competitions. With crushed cereal bars and empty chip bags flying out of the car every time the doors open.
Perhaps the difficulty of navigating where we are right now is because we don’t know how to let sh!t go?
And so I did. I took down the schedule and opened a beer before 5. I sat on a swing and pushed my kids. We started a 500-piece puzzle that we probably won’t finish. We played Sorry and I realized my pre-schooler can play his own pawn. We baked, and continue to eat an absurd amount of quarantine-only food.
My house is a mess. (Does no one follow the nesting bin system?!) And it’s not important. Because at the end of the day when their piggy toes are tucked into their blankets, I’m checking work emails. Worrying about my husband’s company, my parents, my friends who are nurses that deserve a unicorn and a really long nap.
At night, when it all sinks in, I am sad and nervous and really want my mom and dad here. Just like my kids do.
They want me.
The disheveled, needs more coffee, dry shampoo, sorry for swearing in front of your friends (again) mom. The one consistency that my kids have right now is me.