Honey, I screwed up the kids

We are living through historic times. Unprecedented times. And with any luck my family and I will make it out of these times and, many years from now, my great grandkids will gather around and ask to hear all about the time Gam Gam lived through the Great Coronavirus of 2020. And I will tell them, my voice dripping in rich sepia tones, tales of staying up late into the night writing novels to stave off the insanity, the feasts I cooked to stave off the boredom, the endless books the children and I read to stave off the despair. And how we all hugged each other a little tighter each day to remember why isolation, as hard as it was, was important. 

I will tell them all these things and many more because I am going to lie. Lie so hard. All the lies. 

Because here’s the thing. Saying I ate my weight in delivery pizza and wine while battling depression and insomnia just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 

“And late one night, children, Gam Gam had so much to drink that she went on Amazon and bought roller skates for herself, completely forgetting she was 38-years-old and this activity would likely kill her. Oh no, I wasn’t a hero. Just a proud patriot doing her duty.”

This is all assuming, of course, that I eventually have great grandchildren. That I don’t screw up my children so thoroughly during this isolation period that they are able to eventually turn into semi-functioning adults who have families of their own. 

It ain’t looking too good so far. My kids are looking to me for structure, for guidance, for how to handle all the Very Big Feelings they are going through. And I, in my raggedy pajamas and roller skates, am looking back at them while eating an entire wheel of cheese and crying a little bit. 

There’s a reason why they say it takes a village to raise a child. It’s so that a child has multiple people to model for them how to survive in this world. People who don’t have a special Math Homework Cocktail she invented. 

It also doesn’t help that we can no longer do the things all those “parenting experts” hammered into our heads that we absolutely had to do in order to raise happy, healthy children.

Get your kids out in nature as much as possible!

Our yard is the size of a postage stamp and the parks are overrun with everyone else whose backyards are the size of postage stamps. 

Kids need unsupervised and unstructured play time!

Fantastic. Will you tell them that? Because they won’t leave me alone and I have nowhere to hide.

Be the calm in their storm! 

I respond to tantrums in only one of two ways anymore, depending on how little sleep I’ve gotten. It’s either dramatically screaming back or responding calmly that I will set their tablets on fire if they don’t knock it off. 

Limit screen time!

My son spends roughly three hours on screens doing school work, which means his younger sister is also in front of a screen for three hours unless I want to deal with a three hour long tantrum. And then when my son is done with school he wants more screen time because his screen time was school screen time, not fun screen time like his sister, so he gets fun screen time, which means his sister gets more screen time because I don’t know what I’m doing and can never seem to win these arguments. 

All of this, of course, with no end in sight.

Then, one morning after another sleepless night spent pointlessly worrying, I was helping my son with his reading assignment online. Every time he completed a task, a small snippet of a song would play. Just maybe ten seconds or so long. I happened to look over at him at that moment and saw that he was crying. 

“What’s wrong, baby!?” I asked, immediately assuming it was the stress from the schoolwork and ready to set the laptop on fire if so (I might have a problem). 

“It’s just so beautiful.”

“What is?”

“The song. It’s just a really beautiful song.” And a few more crocodile tears squeezed out. 

It wasn’t a beautiful song. In fact, I’m pretty sure it included bagpipes. But I started crying too. Because as I looked at him, I remembered that my kids have complicated emotions and deep intelligence and vast interior lives that I’m not privy to (even though on certain days it feels like they do, in fact, tell me every single thought in their heads). That they are strong and resilient and adaptable. That they are fantastic creatures that can be moved to tears by the beauty of music. 

And I realized it’s going to take a lot more than this to ruin them. All of them. The kids will be alright after all.  

 

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