How bizarre is that? The world is practically at a standstill, and I still can’t keep up.
As of this writing, my kids’ school has been closed for three weeks. Our entire state has been under social distancing for that time and has been under a stay at home order for a week. Or two. What is time? Calendars are meaningless.
When the schools first closed, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d been slowly drowning in my failures to adult properly. It had gotten so the kids were late to school at least three days a week, often with homework not completed. At least twice a week I was interrupted in getting breakfast ready by the call of, “MAHM! I GOT NO CLEAN PANTS!” I was falling behind at work, which as an hourly contract worker meant my pocketbook was losing massive amounts of weight. My hips were not. My house, which is usually a disaster zone, had risen to Hoarders level. I am STILL making Christmas gifts for my sister in law and nephew. (They’ve met me so they’re not surprised.) I thought a break from routine would give me a chance to catch up.
My introverted, arts and crafts heart was a teeny bit ecstatic at the idea of having a Staycation with my kids in which to reconnect and take a breather. I devoured the social media posts displaying suggested schedules, websites, videos, projects to keep kids entertained and engaged while home from school. I made a list of things we could do. I planned twice daily walks with the dog. I put together A TRAINING SCHEDULE to literally teach my dog new tricks. I planned large projects for us to work on as a family, so at the end of this time together we’d have great memories and these awesome artworks/videos to show for it.
Sweet, summer child.
The first two weeks of our family togetherness, our daily schedule consisted of me firmly stating, “In thirty minutes, you’ll have to put down the screens and read for a while!” every couple of hours until bedtime. I was trying to work during the day, trying to cook meals in the evening, and trying to fit in about 30 hours a day of Coronavirus news.
The third week was different. The school district officially began distance learning. My kids’ teachers each emailed me the lesson plans and each set up one online class meeting for the week. It was time to get serious about setting a schedule and being efficient with our time at home. By this time my mom-guilt laden heart was very aware that my friends were already on home school schedules, were going for hikes with their kids, had made amazing art projects. It was time for me to get on board, at least with the school part.
THAT week our schedule consisted of me working in the morning, yelling down the stairs, “Remember at one o’clock you’ll have to put down your screens and start schoolwork!” every half hour until one o’clock. At that time I switched back to the “In thirty minutes . . . ” rotation.
By the end of the week, I started to get the swing of things, but the kids were really only getting an hour of school per day, and I was exhausted. Let’s talk about Friday. I set my alarm for seven, hit the snooze every ten minutes for two hours, got out of bed at nine. From nine until one, I sat in my office and worked while the kids were left to their own devices (the kind of devices with screens.) I only left my office to let the dog out because she was barking, let the dog back in because she was barking, break up about four different fights, help someone figure out their password to Fortnight or some crap, help someone find their clean pants in the dryer, and to grab a snack. My laser focus only strayed from my work when I checked the news every fifteen minutes, checked social media every ten minutes, told my kids they could get their own juice, listened to my kid tell me about his dream. Suffice it to say, between nine and one I only got an hour and a half of billable work done.
At one o’clock, I descended the stairs to make lunch. By two-thirty we were ready to sit down to do schoolwork. My plan, which was puny, was to try to get some work done on my laptop while my two little men worked independently. But, okay, this may shock you but kids generally need some assistance with school work. And not all parents are good at helping with that. Frustrations abounded as I tried to simultaneously help one child log into his school websites while consoling the other one about the unfair math assignment. There were tears. There were screams. Some things may have been thrown. I MIGHT have slammed a cup of kool-aid down on the table so hard that I had to wipe off the ceiling. After an hour and a half, I released all of us from the torture. They returned to their tablets while I put in another hour of work.
After work, I flopped down on the sofa and was immediately greeted with, “I’m SO HUNGRY!” So up again I went, to prepare some sort of supper. When we were done eating, we played D&D until past their bedtime. So much fun, it was my favorite part of the day. But I still hadn’t had any of this relaxation/crochet/reading time I had been so sure I’d get.
Too exhaused to even look at the dinner dishes after tucking the kids in, I realized I was even farther behind than I was when the shutdown began.
Even though each day feels like it is a year long, there are still somehow not enough hours in it. There are not enough hours to work, to prepare and clean up two daily meals (the kids are on their own for breakfast,) to assist with homework, to manage online meetings, to spend meaningful time together as a family, to keep the house and ourselves clean. There definitely are not enough hours in the day to make art, to make terrible music, to make TikTok videos, to learn new software, to make this a positive experience in the kids’ memories.
I’d really like to be able to take this time to focus on us. All I want to do is hold my kids close and maybe make a Rube Goldberg machine. But the world continues to limp along. Bills must be paid, work must be done, lessons must be completed.
So I find myself absurdly yelling into this frozen time stream that things need to slow down.