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Well, I threatened to grill my kid’s favorite stuffed animal, if that’s at all illustrative of how week three in self-isolation is wrapping up at our house. Ever had charbroiled sloth before?
To be fair, it’s a bit closer to week five for us because we were all cycling through the flu and then strep throat right before this crisis started. Nevertheless, I’m not sure there’s really a set number of days when threatening toy destruction feels like a proud parenting tactic.
Yet, as uncomfortable as it is to admit, that moment (and however many others) of deep mediocrity is actually me doing my best. This pandemic punctuated by the ground literally shifting beneath us has me, well, rattled.
I feel bad for feeling badly, since we’re safe, well-nourished and gainfully employed. By all Maslow’s terms, we’re sitting mighty pretty.
Weekends are fine, good even. They include naps, long walks in the park, home haircuts, crafts and cooking together. We have the time to take turns melting down. It’s nice.
It’s the weekdays, though, as working parents with a 3½ year-old social butterfly at home, that place a tax so high on my being even Bernie Sanders would judge it unreasonable.
We’re not dropping our dude at school with his friends and amazing educators, having professional adult time at work, grabbing lunch with colleagues, and enjoying little moments of autonomous drive time.
Now we’re cooking, cleaning, teaching, wiping, working, cooking again, cleaning some more, taking Zoom calls with one hand and sword fighting with the other, grabbing snacks, building forts, responding to emails, wondering why he won’t just settle down to watch a movie, wondering if he’s getting too much screen time, swiping hands from the keyboard, doing scavenger hunts, applying temporary tattoos, watching the Hogle Zoo’s live animal encounter, and washing our hands between each activity.
And by then it’s noon.
But only one of us (me) wants to take a nap.
This cognitive, emotional exercise is very much a privileged one, and keeping that in perspective can be helpful. Elenor and I get to work from home for the most part, and we get to see our little human explore, play, learn and grow.
But here I am, in all my humanity, being so tired that I resort to ridiculous threats. And Slothy won’t even look me in the eyes anymore.
In a moment of calm the other night, when Harvey was asleep, the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer were humming and my inbox was quiet, I came across a New York Times story about Naomi Replansky and Eva Kollisch, loving wives who are 101 and 95 years old respectively. Between the two frail yet powerful women, they’ve survived a remarkable number of human tragedies, including the Great Depression and the Holocaust. They’ve lived through the Spanish flu and polio, and are bravely facing the coronavirus.
Their courage in the face of fear and uncertainty had me thinking about my very own powerful wife. Elenor’s biggest fear has always been earthquakes. Needles, spiders or snakes, no biggie — I mean, she doesn’t love those, but the idea of them doesn’t paralyze her. Quakes, though? It’s serious.
So when we woke up to the low rumble and everything shaking, her world shifted in more ways than one.
After weeks of sickness and caregiving with indefinite self-isolation on top of it, she had gone to bed the night before feeling like she was at the bottom of her metaphorical well of perseverance.
Turns out, she wasn’t.
Her greatest fear served as a shovel in her hands, and she started digging deeper. Still, she sprung into action, packed us a getaway bag, remembered to breathe periodically and then took a call from work... she needed to go in and help. Toward trouble. Away from family.
She cried for a minute. Hard. And then got dressed and headed out.
She did it. She faced fear and uncertainty with grit and fortitude, and became one of the helpers that Mr. Rogers used to watch for when things get scary.
It was awe-inspiring. She stepped up, like so many others. In fact, it’s hard to see much other than all the helpers right now from grocery workers to healthcare professionals to families self-isolating, sometimes at great cost.
It just takes a little refocusing sometimes. Sunnier days help us see beyond ourselves, too.
So, like Replansky and Kollisch, we’re going to make it through this (maybe even my kid’s stuffed sloth, too). With moxie, with love, with caution, with tears, comfort food, virtual play dates and happy hours, and too many Lego sets.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.