"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Happiest of Birthdays to our QuaranTeen

There have been so many cringeworthy moments--because not all humor ages well and because there are so many more references to sex than I remembered (luckily the "That's what she said" jokes go completely over his head)--but I am basically living my parenting dream now that I can watch The Office with Evan. Sam and I deemed The Office appropriate at 13 (based on my not-from-a-parent's-point-of-view memory of it and the fact that Sam had never seen it) but, with the pandemic and all, we blurred the specifics and let Evan start watching it a few weeks ago. It's been our nightly routine...we tuck in the younger kids and settle in for a couple of episodes before we say goodnight to our, as of today, TEENAGER.

This kid is 13!

The other day we set up our portable ping pong set on our kitchen table. We don't use it much but, like a lot of other things in our house that haven't seen the light of day since before the pandemic forced us to take another look for entertainment in our cabinets, we've been enjoying it lately. As Evan geared up to take on Max in a match, I said, "Are you Jim or Darryl?" referring to an episode we had recently watched that featured a fierce ping pong competition. "Honestly? Probably Kelly or Pam," he joked about his lack of skills.

And I LOVE that our casual banter involves Office plot references!

But also? He's neither Jim, nor Darryl, nor Kelly, nor Pam. Evan is all of the very best of Dwight. (Especially now that he's practiced enough to hold his own against me or Sam in a ping pong match!)

When we first started watching The Office, Evan didn't "get" Dwight. He didn't really get Jim, either. He thought Jim was being mean and Dwight was annoying, both of which are technically true. (Fortunately, now that we're in Season 5 and characters have been more richly developed, he's grown fond of both.) I think Dwight might hit a little close to home for Evan, though. Both Dwight and Evan are logical to an extreme degree. Both speak the whole, unblemished, honest truth. Both lack a certain awareness of when Truth should end and socially acceptable "truthiness" should take over. Both are rule-followers who like order, precision, earned respect, and hierarchies of all kinds. Both have a "FACT!" at the ready in any situation.

Both are lovable softies at their core, but neither will let you easily in to see it.

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Xbox. Books. World War II.

Same, same.


My oldest child is 13. My Motherhood is a teenager. I maybe should have planned better...a teenage motherhood coinciding with having recently turned 40 and a global pandemic of all things has me on an emotional roller coaster like nothing I've ever experienced before.

Not Evan, though. He's as he's always been: Steady. Unmoved, at least on the outside, by all of these new realities we're living in...both globally and personally. He is a rock. He is determined and headstrong. Seeking autonomy and independence, with an attitude and sense of humor that has definitely caught up with his Teenaged status. But he still wants us to tuck him in at night.

He's handling homeschool (insofar as we're attempting it) really well. His teachers are providing assignments (ungraded), which he's completing on his own and finishing by lunchtime. Then, the rest of the day is filled with basketball, Lego, xbox, reading, bike-riding, and generally getting along decently with his siblings (unless Max is singing....then it might get heated). He's pretty thrilled with the change, actually. A homebody with literally no interest in the social aspects of school, he's inquired about homeschool before, multiple times. I tell him the same thing every time: "Evan, you're not a candidate for homeschool. Not with me as your teacher, anyway. I can't even ask you to put away your laundry without a fight...no way am I battling with you over persuasive essays and the periodic table."

Quarantine Virtual Learning is opening my eyes a little bit. He can be motivated when there's the prize of having total control over his schedule when his assignments are completed. I'd just hate for him to miss out on all of the extras of being part of a school community...whether he thinks he wants to be a part of it or not.

At dinner the other night, he told us a story about some lunchtime shenanigans that he witnessed before quarantine. Nothing over-the-top or inappropriate, just typical 7th grade boy stuff. I asked him if he missed that kind of thing...he shrugged and offered an unusual "Maybe..." acquiescing just a bit to the possibility that I might know a thing or two about how he's feeling. Maybe he's more plugged in to the social scene in school than he lets on.

I know he gets on well with his teachers. One day in early fall I got an email from his Principal: "I was covering Evan's Language Arts class the other day and he was telling me that your family is related to a signer of the Constitution, but I forgot his name. I happen to be at the National Constitution Center in Philly and I want to see if I can find him."  I responded and, a few minutes later, received these in my inbox:

This Principal has over 900 students in her building and she remembered a conversation she had with Evan. Pretty remarkable. But not surprising. The loss of relationships with his teachers is actually what I'm most disappointed about during school closures. I just love for other adults to have an opportunity to see what a clever and interesting kid Evan is. He's a closed book, most of the time, but when he opens up and feels comfortable enough to let his guard down, it's easy to see that he's a pretty awesome person. He's funny and weird.

Super good lookin'.

He's got a steel trap memory and is quick with logic and reasoning. We were working on a virtual Escape Room challenge the other day and one of our tasks required us to do multiple currency conversions. I could not for the life of me figure out how to do it. No math computation made sense to me. He was patient with me for a few minutes but finally just sighed and said, "You just multiply this by this, subtract this, then multiply that by this." He was right, of course. 

He asked for nothing but a mini-fridge for Christmas. We supplied it with a starter set of soda. He brought little cups up to his room and, over the next few months, doled out small individual servings for himself and, occasionally Max and Molly. He'd invite Sam up for a round of Star Wars Battlefront and a dixie cup sized serving of Orange Vanilla Coke. He's a planner. Not an over-indulger.

For his birthday, we're restocking the fridge. We also bought him tickets to see his favorite comedian, who was supposed to come to town in a few weeks. It looks like we'll have to continue the birthday celebration in October, when we get to attend the rescheduled show. A year-long celebration seems to be in order for our QuaranTeen. He's certainly earned it this year.

Our Baby Whisperer.

Our straight-shooter.

Our biggest kid, who made us parents...and the big brother who Protects the Magic of childhood for his younger siblings.

(Max recently learned the Big Truths about the world. When I mentioned his new understanding in front of Evan, Max shot me a look, nodded his head toward his brother, and mouthed, "Does he know?!" Evan did such a great job playing along....not that he had to for long...)

Evan with the quick wit and crazy eyes. Evan with the nickel knowledge and all the historical trivia. Evan with the deep feelings and the brave outer shell. Evan, who knows how to push my buttons because we are so scary similar in so many ways...yet who is a complete mystery to me, revealing new layers and strengths as he grows into himself. Evan, the boy who is now...a Teenager.

Lesson Learned: 

Evan, we love you so much. Waking up this morning, knowing that there's a teenager in this house, was a bit of a gut punch for me....Teenagers are the ones who leave home. Someday soon, during this next phase of his life, we'll have to kiss our teen goodbye and watch him spread his wings and try out life on his own. Don't tell him, but that may or may not be one of the reasons we bought this house with the apartment over our unattached garage. You can fly away, babe...but maybe not so far, okay? Live out back and practice being a grownup in your own apartment, but we'll be here with a home-cooked dinner for you any time you want, okay? You bring the Orange Vanilla Coke.

A mom can dream, right?

I wish for all of your birthday wishes to come true....even if that means Xbox over homeschool all the live long day today. xoxo

Monday, April 6, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day Whatever

We should be on a plane.

I'm not sure I ever really thought we'd go, though. The odds were stacked against us from almost the start. We had tickets to Florida purchased and a house booked by the first of January. I *wanted* to spend our Spring Break lounging in a hammock next to our private pool beneath tropical palm trees, just a short drive from the beach....

...but by January 11th we were reading that the streets of Fort Lauderdale, just blocks from our rental house, were flooded with raw sewage. It was then that I began to doubt our trip. Emergency action was taken by city officials. Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale was NOT going to be cancelled! Not for us and not for the thousands of other revenue-producing tourists planning to make their way there March through May. Then more pipes burst. More local waterways were closed. Our rental company reached out. They assured us our house, pool, and beaches were unaffected. We smiled and nodded and said, "Okay, thank you. We'll stay in touch."

Then it was late January and Sam, who spends his working life watching the markets, began to plant a new seed of doubt. "Coronavirus," he said. "It's coming."

Up until the first week of March, we said, "Let's wait and see." We had a feeling that there would come a day when we would know for sure...it would be obvious that no, of course we're not traveling at a time like this! or, Sure. Why wouldn't we go? Sewage can be drained, streets can be sanitized, and the Greatest Country on Earth can stop a pandemic in it's tracks, right?

Bless our hearts.

By the end of the second week of March it was clear. There would be no Spring Break, no private pool, no palm trees...and also no fear of raw sewage flooding our streets!

It seems like ages ago that our trip was cancelled and yet we were only just scheduled to go now. Time is so surreal. Days fly by and creep at a snail's pace simultaneously.

It's been forever since the kids have been in school, hasn't it? I get emails from teachers and principals and our district superintendent and I can't even really pay attention to the content. Virtual learning? Okay, I think we'll figure it out when the time comes so the kids stay occupied...but does anyone really care about grades still? Why are we still talking about grades at a time like this?! I saw something today about opportunities to make up the 2019-2020 school year over the summer or during the next academic year. Guys....I can't look that far ahead. I have no ability to conceive of future time.

My sister asked me what I was most anxious about: "Everything." I said, not trying to be obtuse. "I just have this feeling that, when we get to the other side of this, everything is going to be different. Not knowing how it's going to be different is stressful because, up until now, I've always known the rules. The rules are changing now and I can't quite picture what the game is going to look like once the new rules are written." And it will be, right? Different? We're all being collectively changed by this. Is it that I'm afraid of the change, though, or that we won't be changed enough?

I keep thinking about a tweet I read a few weeks ago (or days ago, I really don't know...). It read:

It's almost as if Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms
to think about what we've done.

I keep seeing images of empty streetscapes, deserted city centers...and the resulting clean air over cities usually smothered by smog. People are outside enjoying nature more...posting pictures of their kids enjoying local parks and trails. Slowing down. Baking. So much bread.

Will we remember this? Will it change anything? Will this time of collective sacrifice have been worth it? It must be.

Will we remember to recognize the workers who have kept this country running....during this pandemic but also.... always? Will we thank our grocery store employees and delivery people and others who work around the clock but behind the scenes?

Will we have greater respect (read: $$$) for the professionals that many of us are now acknowledging that we'd never want to have to permanently trade places with...teachers and nurses come to mind...

Will we someday return to shaking hands or is that becoming a thing of the past right before our eyes..."You know, when I was a kid, people used to grasp each other's hands and vigorously shake them up and down when they met!" The great-grandkids may think we're nuts. 

Will we be more appreciative of the time we spend in other people's physical company? Even the introverts among us?


Will we remember the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll this pandemic is taking on all of us and give each other and ourselves the space and grace to recover from it?

And then it hits me all over again that, while most of us will recover from this, countless will not. Literal lives lost: 68,000 deaths worldwide and America is just now bracing for true impact. The next few weeks are going to be brutal. Millions of jobs lost, businesses shuttered, dreams dashed.

We, as a species and a society, will recover. To do so, we need to maintain our footing, but with flexibility and patience. We're in a rip current. Summers spent at the Jersey Shore as a kid taught me that when you're caught in an undertow, you don't fight it. Swim with it, parallel to the shoreline. When you get out of the controlling current, then head back to shore. Take your time. Keep your head. Don't. Panic.

I watched a story on 60 Minutes last night about the owner of a NYC restaurant, Melba's. Her life as a business-owner and restauranteur has been flipped upside down. Recovery is going to be painful.

She sounded like my grandmother, though, when she smiled with peace in her eyes and said, "This too shall pass."

And it will. If you all just do what you're told and stay home. These are the rules we know for now, so follow them.