Well, we made it through Day 2. I mean that in the most literal sense. ALL we did was make it through. Schoolwork was attempted, and schoolwork was abandoned in fits of rage. The house remained a heinous, impassable mess. To comfort myself, I made American style “tacos” for dinner: ground beef, hard shells made from genetically modified corn, shredded cheddar, iceberg lettuce, salsa from a jar. It wasn’t anything like I normally cook, and it was damned delicious.
Our school’s teacher sent home an oversized manila envelope filled with about three pounds of paper- schoolwork for Bobo for at least two weeks. It was organized by subject and day, with instructions for each day. I’ll say it again: TEACHERS DESERVE ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD. Like, maybe now that we’re living without professional sports, we can all agree that those salaries should just be transferred to teachers, right? I mean, seriously.
So. We had a packet of papers and an itinerary. So far, so good. I started to read through it, along with the email sent from the teacher.
Not two minutes in, Beaversons peed her pants.
I change her. I’m reading as fast as I can, trying to contain Bobo, and I’m also trying to make sure my two and a half year old isn’t using the kitchen drawer pulls as foot holds to get to the snack cabinet. Bobo’s desk is buried in the playroom at the moment, which I am using as my temporary bedroom, so we’re trying to do all this reading and sorting at a table from which we haven’t even yet cleared the breakfast dishes. The ants are rallying.
Twenty minutes later Beaversons pees her pants again. I change her.
Someone demands a snack. Someone wants to turn on the iPad. Something gets spilled. The ants move in closer.
I clean, I clutch paper and something slowly washes over me. Panic begins to rise in my throat as I hang out to dry another pair of tiny pants while my five year old repeatedly rams her Plasmacar into the leg of the dining room table. It crystalizes: I have to be Bobo’s teacher for two weeks. Like, a real full time teacher. A teacher that pays constant attention and offers praise and doesn’t have her anxiety cage rattled by spilled beverages and bodies that won’t stop wiggling in their chairs. My perfectionism is sounding off like an air raid siren. I want to be the BEST parent, checking off things as they are completed, doing things in order but I also need order to do this, and we are currently in VERY short supply. I need to know things. I need there to be NO confusion, not even one minute of it. I needed everything to be crystal clear. I needed a path through this. I can’t NOT know. I have ants, for god’s sake. I’m sleeping on a pull-out bed and our house is covered in crap. I need ONE THING to go right at this moment and I cannot be a teacher while things are not going right.
And then Beaversons pees her pants again.
Impulse control/waiting is NOT Bobo’s strong suit, so between not having time to read the lengthy directions and her not wanting to do schoolwork, we were both in breakdown mode in about four minutes. I’m constantly having to remind her that “all will be revealed with time” but here I was trying to absorb the contents of three pounds of paper all at once and not being one bit patient with ANY of it. Thanks, virus, for showing me myself.
After a hellish morning of trying to figure out homework in the midst of ants and mess, and a refusal to eat what I’d made for lunch, we headed out to the playground. We were the only ones there for a few minutes, and then another mom and two small kids appeared. From about 20 feet away, I heard the mom say, “Oh, I don’t know if we’re supposed to be this close to one another”.
I was in dirty sweatpants. My hair- greasy and standing on end and in desperate need of a cut by a stylist who is now forbidden to come within six feet of me- was barely contained by a ballcap. My shoes were untied. I was wearing the stained fleece jacket I only wear around the house.
Naturally my first reaction was to go FULL animal on her and bare my (unbrushed) teeth. I narrowed my eyes. Not today, Satan. Not today, I muttered to myself. This is MY park. Get the hell outta here if you don’t want this virus, which I am SURE we are carrying. Just so ya know, my kids LOVE licking playground equipment. And picking their noses.
Turns out she was super nice and I? I am a turd.
Upon hearing the racket we were making in the park, one by one, like the Whos coming out of their houses on Christmas morning after the Grinch has stolen all their presents and roast beasts, kids emerged from their houses around the park. The very nice mom and I talked about how effing hard the morning had been, how the park, the outside in general, is going to be key in making it through these next weeks. Playing with and standing close to other humans in a park is going to be, well, irresponsible. But also kinda necessary for our collective mental health.
One of Bobo’s classmates lives around the corner from the park. She came out alongside her dad. I took one look at him and I knew, the way all parents know when they see another exhausted parent: It had been a shit day for them, too.
“Oh my god” was how he greeted me, I think. Yup, I responded. Yup. I pushed Beaversons on the swing as Bobo ran around and we just stood there, alternately staring at our beat-up Converse and into the far distance, wondering how in the hell we’d gone from being punk rockers to bewildered adults defeated by kindergarten-level reading comprehension worksheets.
I made spaghetti on Monday night and debated internally for a good 20 minutes about whether or not to add a dozen (probably freezer burnt) veggie meatballs to the sauce. Should I ration them? Should I use them up and buy fresh things to ration? My sister and mother-in-law had both reported that there was literally NO food on the shelves in their supermarkets. Not even Superstorm Sandy had caused this level of food hoarding. I opted to keep the meatballs in the freezer and added a zucchini to the sauce instead because, I rationalized, freezer burnt meatballs are better than no meatballs at all down the road.
Food hoarding is kind of my jam. My sister’s too. I don’t throw the word “hoarding” around casually, either. I mean it in the very realest, most irrational and unhealthy way possible. My sister and I were stocking up on garbanzo beans and frozen veggie sausage lo-o-o-ng before this virus became a known entity. We both keep larders in our garages. She can cook you 30 different pasta dishes right this minute. I could probably make 450 batches of gluten free muffins and 28 gallons of vegetarian chili by tomorrow if I started tonight. We’re both (damned fine) home cooks, so this *kind* of makes sense. If it makes anyone feel better (it makes me feel better), we do rotate through the food pretty regularly, being home chefs and all with families to nourish. I mean, most Americans don’t cook for themselves anymore, so we probably have pretty normal looking pantries for people who are obsessed with varieties of salt and like to be able to feed a crowd at a moment’s notice. Listen, we grew up with not a lot of money, so the first thing we both did when we got our first adult salaries was buy 40 pounds of rice. It’s just what you do when your childhood was unpredictable and you have a few spare feet of shelving in your garage. Comfort looks like neat stacks of tomato sauce in cans next to the gardening tools.
I decided that I needed an avocado for dinner. I mean, I didn’t need anything, really (see also: garage pantry) except a break from the kids who were asking me to push them on the swings, which I did, lifelessly. It was DAY TWO and I was already exhausted, angry, and anxious about Bobo’s schoolwork. How the hell was I going to get through this? I mean, obviously we were going to be fine. A little pee and some ants and paper and schedules could all be worked through. Right at that moment, though, it felt pretty damned hopeless and the timeline endless.
I went to the store where there were, indeed, empty shelves. Like, feet and feet of empty shelves. Very few cartons of eggs. No chicken, no beef. No rice. No beans, for god’s sake. You KNOW it’s bad when people are buying up old bags of beans. There were exactly four loaves of Sara Lee Honey Wheat left in the bread section. Well, that and a dozen loaves of raisin bread. Not even the Apocalypse will make people eat bread with raisins in it.