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Okay, I’ll play

Amelia is a stubborn 3-year-old who has a big heart. The stubbornness and the big heart often come in conflict with each other, and when she is being told to do something she doesn’t want to do, she absolutely won’t, unless she can convince herself to think the change of plans was on her terms. At the end of whatever argument there is, when she has decided she is on board, usually after everyone else has given up on trying to convince her, she says, “Okay, I’ll play.” “Okay, I’ll eat that hotdog.” “Okay, I’ll let Viv have this LEGO.” You know, as soon as she says it, with the same intonation every time, that everything is about to get good. Because turns out she wants to play, she wants that hotdog. She just needs to get past her own hangups.

Quarantine is hard. I know that it’s hard for a lot of people in a lot of different ways and I know that we aren’t special for feeling the stress. I’m making videos for my classes in what seems like a sold-out circus, complete with people throwing fire, too many clowns in one car, and screams of laughter. My husband’s doing the same. On top of that, my kids’ school, which did an incredible job of providing materials for the first two weeks, just withdrew support for the kids out of fear (from what I hear) that they will get sued for being unable to provide equally for all kids regardless of accessibility or disability, which I get, but. I was feeling more-or-less comfortable with managing their work. Now? How do I make sure they get math, reading, science, social studies, music, art, computers, library, P.E.? Socialization? I’m suddenly faced with figuring out a curriculum for each kid on top of maintaining my work load for my regular job and increased work from my side hustle. Oh and four times as much cleaning because everything in our house is being used at every moment.

Our Internet isn’t fast enough for uploading videos and conferencing with students and did I mention that I subscribed to ABC Mouse yesterday in a panic? Even when I’m trying to limit screens (and actually doing a way better job than I could have imagined), the strain on our connection is beyond frustrating.

Each night, I fall into bed, exhausted. When my alarm goes off each morning, I can barely drag myself out. Being a stay-at-home mom and a work-at-home mom and a homeschooling mom and a remote instructor and a career woman, not to mention friend and sister and wife, is just so much. I imagine a lot of people are feeling like me. And those that aren’t? Single people in small apartments? Couples who were on the brink of divorce before this started? Oh God, the isolation.

Yesterday afternoon, we were jumping on the huge trampoline (P.E.!), all of us. My husband could only stay for a bit, so he went inside, and the girls collapsed on top of me. We lay in a heavy-breathing, laughing pile, imagining up our secret identity names. Sonya’s was IceDragon Mystery, Viv’s was Magical Unicorn, Amelia’s was Crocodile Farts, which actually couldn’t be more perfect. I thought back to the past week, and how many times I’ve played Yahtzee, or helped with a reading problem, or sat next to Viv as she squirmed on the piano bench. Our strict bedtime has gotten a little more loosey goosey, giving us time to snuggle more, read more. My kids are face timing with their cousins, I’ve stress baked like seven cakes, yesterday’s even included carrots.

My husband and I have sniped at each other, I’ve cried in the bathroom. I’ve threatened to take away all screens forever more times than I can count, and there seems to be a perma-layer of LEGOs on the living room carpet. I’m worried about the future, worried about our health, worried about economics. Worried that I’m not getting my kids enough exercise, enough attention, enough academics. Worried that I’ll lose my job in the end, that things won’t go back to normal.

But when I look at the big picture, this time has been kind of magical. I always imagined a household where the kids were tasked with hours upon hours of free play, where they worked together to build LEGO masterpieces and read each other stories. We have a little of that in real life, but each kid has so much going on in their individual lives – activities, their own social group, trips to the zoo and the library – that we don’t have much intense together time.

Quarantine is hard. It is hard it is hard it is hard. I’m tired. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to worry about everything everything everything. I can’t play Mastermind, I have 67 documents to edit and next week’s lesson to plan out for Monday. This is hard and I am tired and I hate it and I’m scared. Except, maybe I can manage just one more round of Mastermind. Maybe there are aspects to this social distancing that are more like a gift than a curse. Maybe the extra snuggle time makes up for the extra worries.

Okay, I’ll play.

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