Quarantine life is tricky. One day, all is well within the walls of your house: your fridge is stocked because you finally scored a coveted curbside pickup, the distance learning has taken root and all members are in a rhythm, you’ve established an ongoing virtual happy hour with friends that has become vital to your mental health, and you check in daily with parents and grandparents to make sure nothing extraordinary has changed in their corner of the world. On the other hand, quarantine life rears its ugly head in a Medusa like way that sends you running for the hills (virtually, of course), and desperately trying to claw your way into any resemblance of normalcy.
The hats thrown on top of my head have been multiplying faster than those Easter bunny chocolates, and the struggle to not only keep those hats on my head but differentiate among them all is downright tiring. There are days when I can easily flick each hat off with the snap of my wrist and wipe my brow in a job well done, while the remaining days find me scrambling to grasp those pre-school and elementary school hats as I swat away the hats labeled household chores, cooking, mentoring, coaching, and the million plus others that hover so obnoxiously over my head.
The funny thing about those hats is not their presence or labels or annoying quirks, but their daily assembly in this stage of our chaos. I like to think that, outside of a global pandemic, I balance those hats well and give them the time and energy they deserve. When my little humans are happily learning at school and playing with their friends, I can tackle the job that each hat desires. Helping an eight-year-old write a persuasive paragraph or reminding a five-year-old how to properly make a ‘7’ isn’t a daunting task when we are in normal times. However, due to the current state of our lives right now, normal is the farthest thing from reality.
With abnormal times come abnormal duties for family members. Take those duties, place them in a container with a stay-at-home mother and her two children all day every day, twist the lid extra tight for good measure, and yours truly from two Tuesdays ago will appear before your very eyes.
What started out as an afternoon bike ride quickly turned into scenes from Friends and Gilmore Girls as I was assuring myself that my modern day female self was “just fine” and could surely handle the matted and intertwined mess of a child’s bicycle chain that all of a sudden fell from her bike and on to the driveway before me. The problem with my forward- thinking attitude was that I never, and I mean never, paid attention to the multiple times my engineer of a husband fixed issues just like this, which left me with zero prior knowledge on the matter.
So I sent some pictures and even engaged him in a “ok, tell me in two minutes how you would fix this problem” type of conversation, because I know in his 16-hour workday, a popped bicycle chain was pretty darn low on the priority totem pole. Nevertheless, he sent beginner YouTube videos my way and did his best to coach me through what felt like a foreign language at the time. It also didn’t help that I referred to the bicycle parts by their shape and colors and NOT the actual name, but that’s neither here nor there…
Fast forward an hour or so into my troubleshooting, and my hands were greasy and cut up from the gears, pedals and tangled chain running over them while trying to answer questions about space from a five-year-old and assure my eight-year-old that her bike will be fixed if I just had a “few more minutes.” As the chain slipped off the bracket that I was sure was “the one this time” for what felt like the millionth time, I received a call that my husband was going to be later than normal at work, the grill I intended on using to make dinner was out of charcoal, and I would most likely need to wear a mask if I wanted to go anywhere in public. That was it––the dam broke and I lost whatever composure I had up until that point, and it all started with a broken bicycle chain.
My kids have seen me cry before for various reasons, but this one threw them off a bit. As I sunk down next to the charcoal-less grill with a wrench in one greasy hand and a bicycle chain in another, I murmured that I was tired. Tired of it all. Tired of the lack of human interaction and the way we scuttle away from another being as if we are all diseased. Overworked by the never-ending stack of hats sitting atop my head. Exhausted from trying to fill all the shoes of all the people who help to rear a child. Disappointed for the cancellation of my daughter’s first Communion and the fear of not knowing when I will see my out of town family again. Sadness for where we are right now, yet hopeful that brighter skies sit on the horizon.
The truth is, reality looks different for everyone. I cried in recognizing that I really haven’t allowed myself to feel all the weight this current time is putting on all our shoulders. My popped bicycle chain hard is nothing compared to the hardships many are facing right now. I have a husband who is still able to work outside of the home, food in my curbside order, and two happy-go-lucky kids (for the most part) who are loving the hours we spend outside each and every day.
Yet through all of this, I’ve learned that I cannot downplay how this odd time is affecting each one of my family members in different ways. That mess of a chain was the open door we all needed to talk openly as a little unit about what we know, don’t know, and wish to know. I can laugh now about the thought of all my mental marbles rolling away with each knot that tightened in the chain, but I can also be thankful that my kids were there to witness me working through something hard with my own two hands and feel the success (a bike that goes) with their own two feet. I worked through the hard, albeit with true blood, sweat, and many tears, to accomplish a task I never thought I would have to tackle. And yes, the little brother had to try out the bike with my help just to make sure it was safe for his big sister to ride. If that isn’t a heap of confidence for ya, I don’t know what is!
By this point in our distance learning, I’m happy to report that a rhythm has been established and all active members are somewhat comfortable with the technology required to complete lessons and talk with their peers and teachers. As the mom, I too have a handle on those pesky hats, and am getting better at prioritizing them based on the needs of my kids and the tone of the days. I’m learning that I can let the laundry go for one day if that means there’s a bonus round of Sequence in my future. I’m adjusting to the fact that it may take all week for my daughter to complete a lengthy project, and that my support and guidance is more important to her during this time than a deadline. I’m mastering the art of fort making and under the bed hiding, as my preschool boy urges me to hide “just one more time.”
By realizing my capabilities that I can wear all the hats at home, comes the feeling of contentment that I don’t necessarily need to wear all the hats. I can tuck a few away for good measure and pull them out at times to surprise and impress my kids. And at the rate I’m going, no one can really be certain what type of hat is sure to fly about next.