As I type this, there is an estate sale company in my mother’s house, sorting through her belongings. The estate manager called me from where she stood in my parents’ dining room this morning to ask me some questions, and when she looked outside, she …
Quinlan had to write a letter Monday for her language arts class, in which she described to an imaginary other student her first month under stay-at-home orders.
“MOM. Mommy. MOM.” Quinn said this as she walked from the dining room, where she’d set up her dad’s old laptop as a work station, to where I was in the family room, writing on my own laptop. “Mom. Mommy? Mom. I need help.”
I love my children. I really, really, like having them around. But sometimes?
Quinlan draped herself over the arm of the couch so that her face was inches from my computer.
“Mom? Mom. In this letter I have to tell the other student what I’ve been doing all month. How do I start it? What do I say? Mom. What’s my first sentence going to be?”
I sighed. This was Quinn’s thirty-seventh request for help in the last hour and a half. I’m usually pretty proud of my patience with the kids, but that patience depends largely on whether my anxiety has taken the morning off (hahaha NOT THESE DAYS) or decided my brain is a mosh pit and she’d like to throw herself into the center of it.
Ms. Anxiety was still on the fence today, so I took a deep breath.
“Quinlan. You’re about to write about all the stuff you’ve done this month at home,” I said. “So take that info and put it all together as your opening line. If I asked you, ‘Hey, Quinlan: your first month at home has been…'” I paused so she could fill in the blank herself.
Her eyes lit up. “FUN.” She planted a kiss on my nose and ran away to type her letter.
She’s having fun. While I’ve been over here slam-dancing with my own stresses and worries and fear this past month, my daughter’s been having fun. And moreover, she’s been having a lot of that fun with me.
A lot of the awful of this pandemic waiting game for many of us is wondering if or when or where the other shoe will drop (considering the sheer number of fools protesting verycloselytogether right now in my backyard –and knowing how positive cases spiked this week after a similar protest in Kentucky–it’s a legitimate concern, you think?). There are so many things to worry about–but it’s up to us, the grownups, to keep it above-level. It’s up to us to be smart about how we, the adults, handle ourselves and protect each other. The children don’t want to learn about dropping shoes. They just want to know we’re here for them (“Mom? Mommy? Mom! Mom?”). They want roasted marshmallows and YouTube videos and to beat us in a game of H.O.R.S.E. because seriously, what else should we have going on?
The worry and stress and anxiety is internal. (That’s for us.) The children just see the external. (What we do is for them.)
They just see the fun.
In the evening after the first day of school, Cian made an announcement. “I’m going to be very well-behaved this year.” He stopped and took a look around the table at each of us. A brief look of self-doubt passed over his face. “Well,” he …
Quinlan walked into my office the day after Easter, pursing her lips like she does when she senses deep, deep injustice in her presence. “Mom,” she said. Her tone was accusatory. “The jelly beans that were in our Easter baskets were the same ones you …
Cian has a bit of a speech impediment–if you’ve just met him, you might have some trouble understanding his “th” sounds, say–but that doesn’t stop the child from talking, usually constantly, usually about thirty different topics in the span of as many seconds. Last Saturday, I drove him and his sister Saoirse to a gym about an hour away from our house for her basketball game. The boy talked the entire time.
I say this without exaggeration. Cian spoke, without stopping, the entire 54 minutes it took us to get from our house to the gym. He talked as he got out of the car and took my hand, and he kept talking as he followed us into the building. It had gotten to the point where I just turned the radio up and muttered, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh” at regular intervals on the drive because I’m pretty sure he didn’t really need me to listen in the first place. Saoirse said, “Mom. You’re not even listening to him,” and when I made eye contact with her in the rear view mirror I think she noticed that Cian was still talking–and hadn’t stopped when she spoke up–so she just shrugged her shoulders and went back to reading her book. Cian continued without so much as pause.
Here’s the other thing: the topics of his conversations seem to make no actual sense when he puts them together, even if in his head they’re all puzzle pieces sliding together. The other day, I was helping him make his bed. He came up to me, wrapped his arms around my legs, gave my hip a kiss, and said, “You’re just the best mom in the world, Mom.” And right at the moment when I flushed and tried to take a mental snapshot of the moment to remember for about ever, he pulled away from me, picked up a dinosaur, and said, “Just the best mom. Is the earth going to blow up one day?”
Cian turned six at the end of 2018. We took him to New York for the day to visit the dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History. We went to a movie, and gave him Legos, and I made him vanilla cupcakes with blue frosting and little dinosaur candles on top. In some ways, he is very, very much a young child. His new alarm clock is covered with Paw Patrol logos. He still has a drawer stocked with nighttime pull-ups. He still gets in trouble for not following directions at school (usually because he’s talking), and argues when we tell him to clean up those Legos, and needs supervision to make sure he brushes more than three teeth at a time.
But the child also unabashedly hugs us. At bedtime, he covers up his favorite T-Rex stuffed animal with a blanket so it doesn’t get cold. He makes sure to say “Good night! I love you! Have sweet dreams!” to me and David (sometimes repeatedly), as we head out of his room each night. He walks out of school at the end of a day with an arm around his friend Mac’s shoulders, then makes sure to say hi to the other friends he sees in the meantime. He spends our car rides asking me about tornado patterns and rocket ship propulsion and analyzes the Bible story of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” because his teacher talked about it in school and he has some questions.
I hope this child–this tall noodle boy with puppy feet and perpetually messy hair–will continue to have questions. I hope he keeps talking, and keeps prying, and keeps trying to figure out life (maybe not during quiet time at kindergarten so much, but you know what I mean), because what he’s decoding is a miracle to witness. Tornado patterns. Rocket ships. Right vs wrong and why, exactly, “those humans” think they get to be the ones throwing stones.
He will talk my ear off for actual hours at a time. And he will teach me to pay more attention to what he has to say–and what he asks to know.
Next time, I will keep the radio down.
You guys. My kids: they’re so sweet and kind and loving–but they need to work on their compliments. Example #1: I’ve stopped straightening my hair most days and am just letting the crazy waves be themselves. I’m still not too sure about living daily life looking …