Covid, Parenting

Weeks 4/5: Growing Pains

Originally posted on April 16

Here we are, again. Still. Not much has changed from last week. Is that good news or bad?

We’re wearing masks now (good news or bad?). It’s funny how you can still tell someone’s expression from a mask. Though most of my fellow groceries shoppers were well protected it was still easy to spot the Cheery Charlies, Grumpy Gretas, and Fearful Freds.

Other things that happened this week: We felt an earthquake, right here on our couch (4.9 out near Palm Springs). Our Southern California town experienced rare torrential rains and flooding. Parts of the US saw deathly tornadoes and wild storms. The canals of Venice are clear. A volcano erupted in Indonesia. The skies finally turned blue in perpetually smog-ridden cities like New Delhi. A worldwide pandemic continues to keep millions in quarantine and millions of others ill. Also, it was Easter and Passover.

It all feels so purposeful.

And like random chaos.

Maybe it’s this feeling that everything is happening and nothing is happening that’s got me feeling on edge this week. (Perhaps that’s being too polite: short tempered, annoyed, irritable. Maybe still too polite: bitchy.)

Normally, I have good stores of patience (at times, maybe too much patience). Not this week.

The kids were bickering over something that to me, felt like nothing. Time on the new ukulele? The matchbox cars they haven’t played with in years? The hows and whys and whose fault, were drowned in the cacophony of a sibling spat fueled by 30 consecutive days together. In not one of my finer parenting moments, I snapped.

I later rebounded — apologized, tried to explain why I snapped, what I should’ve done instead (real award-winning parenting moves) — but it felt like trying to glue together broken glass.

The next day (a few days?), I saw my sons playing and the tension escalating. Instead of snapping at them, I walked away. From another room, I heard my son yell at his brother in the exact same way I yelled at him. It was eerie and sad.

We’re with one another in a way we have not been for years: no school, no playdates, no afterschool activities, no weekend sports. For the first time since they were toddlers, I’m reminded how much they are watching. Even with screens in front of their faces for more time then I’d like to publicly admit, even when they’re outside shooting hoops, even when they are building Legos on the floor, they are listening. But unlike when they were toddlers, there is so much more they can understand.

They are asking questions about ventilators and vaccines. They know “that guy on CNN does NOT like Trump.” They want to know why some people say “coronavirus” while others say “Covid-19.” They’re listening to our Facetime calls and Zoom meetings and seeing how my husband and I treat neighbors and one another. They mirror our moods.

My oldest is learning about opinion writing. He has to write an essay and can pick any topic he wants. His choice? “Why distance learning is the worst.” (Really, we’re doing great!) As he and his brother were discussing some supporting points, they admitted it’s not all bad. We talked about how sometimes seeing the bad can help you see the good. We talked about how they may not love home school but they are learning and growing in ways we can’t measure yet. I’m not sure they got the point as my second grader ended the conversation with, “well, yeah, duh…you can’t see yourself growing, you just grow.”

These are hard weeks. The newness of quarantine has worn off, and despite talk of when and how we’ll “open up” again, no one has actually talked specifics yet. It’s already mid-April and it’s only mid-April. Sitting with what is can be uncomfortable. What if I’m learning the wrong lessons or teaching the wrong lessons? What if I’m missing some great cosmic purpose of all this? What if there is no purpose?

Remember how I said caterpillars basically turn to mush before they transform to butterflies? This is it. The mush. Natural disasters, irritable parents, whiny kids, whiny leaders, unemployment, bad news, bad attitudes.

This week was marked by growing pains. Those tell-tale aches that remind us that even though we can’t see it, we’re growing.

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