This new normal ain’t so normal and normal never was
If there is thing I can be thankful for in today’s current flaming shitstorm hell vortex, it’s that the boys are older. Both teens, both with a decent head on their shoulders, considerably less likely to argue with me over basic issues of safety and cleanliness. Except for their bedrooms. Lord love a duck, why are boys’ rooms just one step from the crazy cat lady hoarding level of of disaster area? And why must my loft office be right outside them?
But flashback a decade or so and things would have been very, very different. They would have been 9 and 6 and my god, those were the hard years. The years that are painful to remember, the years that make today so sweet. I’m glad they’re behind us, and I really feel for the families that are trying to navigate this new <gesticulates wildly> thing that is trying to pass for life these days. I can’t help with your own individual situation or kids, but I can share what I would have and could have done with my boys in this situation, with the hard earned years of perspective I now have.
• I’ve learned that I need to care for myself first (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually) so I have half a chance to care for others. I didn’t do that back in the day, and spent a lot of time and energy (over)reacting instead of calmly managing what was going on. Caused me to crash from exhaustion more than once and I carry that with me still. Ironically, as I was writing this a friend on Facebook mentioned that she had a long talk with herself about self-care: “Last night I had a good long sit down with myself: Self, we are in this for the LONG LONG haul. Snow will fall and you will still be inside with these people… You need a better plan, self.” And while I intellectually knew this to be true, it didn’t hit my soul until I read this. We are in this for months, if not (gulp) years. My go-to self-care toolbox items are not available (massage, time alone in my house, playing in band, going out with friends). I need to develop some NEW! AND! IMPROVED! self-care action items before I need them, because by the time I do I’ll be half-gone with stress. Self-care first, always. Trust me on this.
• Pick your battles. Fewer. Keep going. Even fewer than that. There. Those battles you decided to keep? Those are the hills you die on. I can’t decide those for you, only you know the topography of your life and the battle plan of your family. Looking back, there are SO many things I would have just let slide in the situation we’re facing today.
• Masks. If you’d care to read my opinion on masks, here you go. When Andy was younger, four or so, he hated wearing socks. Hated. I hadn’t yet learned the “turn them inside out” trick, nor discovered Boy Scout crew socks. He has since found socks he can tolerate and even likes, so now it’s a much more minor problem. There are a million and one masks out there. They all have different fits and fabrics and ways to attach to the head. What one person swears by could make another lose control in the condiments aisle. I’m fine with said person streaking through the store stark naked and screaming, just preferably behind a mask. Or please scream in your heart. I’m so grateful that his sensory issues have ebbed enough that wearing a mask isn’t a huge issue for him. It’s a nightmare for me, but that’s because I apparently have a face that masks don’t like. I’m dangerously close to making a papier-mâché replica of my face and sewing something that doesn’t try to stick my nose back up inside itself while simultaneously fogging up my glasses, causing me to collide with the naked guy in aisle five.
• Andy decided he was done with naps the very week we brought his brother home from the hospital, 16 years ago this week. Great timing, kid, thanks. As there was no freaking way I was going to survive unless he took a nap, I instituted afternoon quiet time. You can read, you can sleep, you can play with your LEGOS, you can do whatever you’d like but it has to be 1) IN your room, 2) quiet, and 3) between the hours of 1 and 3 (or something like that). He knew numbers by then and after a bit of redirection I had a short bit of quiet time in the afternoons. We kept that up until he started afternoon kindergarten two years later, but you bet your ass I’d bring that back if I were stuck in the house with elementary school kids for months on end.
• When the boys were young I’d find myself in the summers desperately trying to find things to do when they weren’t in camps or such. Library visits, pool time, indoor playgrounds, playdates with friends…all things off-limits now. If had young Andy and Jack today? I’d probably pour myself a stiff drink and go see if the naked ketchup dude wanted to tag-team for awhile. Bike rides are still a go, as are things like sending the kids out on a snipe hunt (make sure they have sunscreen, a water bottle, and a mask). Geocaching, letterboxing, good old fashioned hiking. But summer can get brutally hot, so indoor things are needed, too. Unlike a decade ago, there are way more online resources than ever. We’ve had business level internet for awhile and it saved us this spring when all four of us were home teaching and working and Zooming all day. I’d make screen time one of those battles I buried and go for online camps, classes, games, books, documentaries, and you get the idea. (You’re gonna ask for ideas, aren’t you? Uhhh….I have some bookmarked? And meant to write a post two months ago? Pandemic panic brain is too such a thing).
I know I’m missing so many scenarios and I know it’s because I’ve blocked out a lot of the stressful times from back then. Part of me is thinking, “driveway chalk drawings!,” with another part of me just sitting back and laughing herself damp because there’s no way on god’s green earth they would have gone out for five minutes of driveway chalk drawing time. It’s too hot, the chalk feels funny, I wanna go to the pool, he took/broke my chalk, can we go inside now, aaaaggggghhhhhh my space station doesn’t look right (throws chalks at the starkers guy screaming behind a mask squirting ketchup and mustard over his head as he ran).
This is not an easy time (yes I know, please bow to me, the High Priestess of All Obviousness). And it looks like Americans at least are in it for a very, very long haul. I’ve always said that parenting G2e kids is a marathon at a sprinter’s pace, only now we’re doing it through a thick fog, there’s disturbing music coming from somewhere, and the ground is lava quicksand. And sharknadoes and a global liquor shortage and some nude nutjob running around screaming and squirting Sriracha in our eyes. Challenging is what I’m going for here, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. I’ve always kinda joked that “what if there’s a zombie apocalypse and the education system as we know it goes kaput…we still have G2e kids…now what?” Looks like we’re closer to finding out than ever.
Just wear a mask, and I’ll meet in you in aisle five. Clothing optional.