I’ve wanted to write forever but guess what- there’s a reason you don’t hear from any solo parents lately. Like- I haven’t read an excellent single parent perspective essay since the pandemic started. And that’s because there is no time, energy, or bandwidth. We are slammed.
I just finished eating dinner, alone, because I mis-timed the snacks and my little housemates are not hungry, playing with magnatiles around the corner from me in the living room. Thank goodness they have each other.
Then I realized my laptop was in reach. And charged. And no one is looking at me or asking for anything. Go go go
I also realized that this day is pretty representative of our lives lately and someday I’ll want to remember. So, let’s start with my 7:45am wakeup.
I woke up out of a dream- my company was going under, and I had been tasked with figuring out how to phase the layoffs. I was collaborating with my friend Janet and we’d been given very little information. We kept getting calls from the company president, barking out a few details and then rushing off to another meeting. I was relieved to wake up (my company isn’t going under).
It was snowing. A maddening, mid-April, post-daffodils snow. Accumulating on the little green shoots and buds.
Chloe is newly night weaned, so she eagerly looks forward to “shay-shay when the sun shines.” In fact, sometimes she puts up a fuss at 5am which is pre-sunshine and starts kicking me and her brother, so I round up and give her the goods. Most often, though, she wakes at 6am, exactly with the sunrise, and I have more milk than she can even handle, and she rolls over with a full belly and goes right back to sleep, giving me an hour or so to do whatever most needs my attention.
On this morning, though, I had been up for two hours in the night, eating cereal and reading about the world which is never satisfying or enjoyable. So I wanted to let myself sleep. Sleep is everything right now. Sleep is the secret.
Evan got up and started playing with his new remote-control car, C with her new magnetic train (Easter gifts from our upstairs neighbors that sat in the closet for two days before opening). I think I showered briefly. I let C prepare my coffee by spooning the coffee into the filter (messy). She also served herself yogurt with “cherries” (blueberry jam) (also messy). I fried some eggs and made toast. While they ate at their little table in the living room (moved in front of the TV for last night’s Elmo’s Playdate, which we missed because I couldn’t find the right channel), I scanned my emails, my schedule for the day, and E’s schoolwork for the day.
They graduated to building a pillow fort, which is their go-to activity when no screen is on. E finished it and called it the Chillax Cuddle Zone (lots of cuddling is required lately). It seemed like a good place to kick off the school day, so we piled in with my laptop and started with the daily school announcement video. Every day, this 4th-grade girl says, “I pledge of allegiance, to the flag…” and it drives me nuts. Otherwise, cute- there are birthdays, jokes, and inspiring messages.
Then E filled out his attendance form, adding about 30 exclamation points to his first and last name. (he also added them to my email address and the form wouldn’t go through so we had to delete them…)
We did the question of the day, “What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for someone?” E’s answer: “I brought a picture for my bus driver.” He always finishes with “the end.”
Then we looked through the slides of potential content for the day. I’m telling you, there is an insane amount of work in there to choose from. I can’t even describe it without getting stressed. I’m lucky if we complete one thing and upload it to the kindergarten padlet (today we did…nothing).
At 9:30, E gets on his kindergarten Zoom on my laptop, which means I can’t do much work but I did have a call with my boss at 10, occasionally emerging from my bedroom to find out why someone was crying. At 10:30, I put on Zumba, which is Facebook Lived from C’s school Zumba teacher, and my kids almost never actually do it but we like to hear the music. In between, I tried to have them do a project that E’s teacher sent in the mail- two coffee filters that you’re supposed to color with blue and green, then squirt with a spray bottle and paste to a piece of construction paper for Earth Day. Both of them started crying and were unwilling to do it so I shifted gears. You can’t transition them too quickly or it falls apart.
Next I got C dressed, which required some cajoling, and then it was time for her Zoom call. I quickly looked up what was required: draw a big E and little e on a piece of paper and get little one-inch pieces of paper and glue. Then I confirmed the Zoom link, there are so so many (some days she has two). Then I got her started and left the room.
From my office, I heard the teacher say, “Buenos dias, Chloe, cómo estás?” and she actually answered “muy bien,” which she never, ever does when I’m in the room. Mental note to always leave the room. Meanwhile, Evan expressed having no choice but to get on his tablet. OK.
Somehow he has learned the tablet inside and out and knows how to download (free) apps. I am wise enough to limit his access to the most kid-friendly, tame stuff, but I’m also kind of horrified that he’s playing video games and downloading games within games and is getting dangerously savvy. (e.g. I took YouTube off but he has a workaround)
After her Zoom call, I set them up to watch the replay of Elmo’s Playdate from yesterday and at some point Evan came to tell me it was below his age level and could he please go back to video games. Yes.
I delivered snacks and water. And then lunch. And then we decided to go outside because it was snowing and the snow was melting and they wanted to try this “snow chalk” a friend gave us. First, Evan’s feet were hot in his boots so he changed to shoes. Then his feet were wet and freezing and he wanted to come in. We were outside for about ten minutes. I can’t quite motivate to go running with the double stroller in this cold.
We watched a show together called “If I were an animal…”, while I ate some leftover quinoa from the night before. Then C was asking to shay-shay on the bed.
I nursed her down quickly. Some days recently I’ve been very nervous that she’s dropping her nap, because… she won’t nap. But today she slept for 3+ hours (!!!) and I got a bunch of work done and an important hour-long work call while Evan watched Wild Kratts. Miraculous. I worked until 5pm, made gnocchi, roasted parsnip and carrots, and collard greens, served it on three plates and they ate none of it because they had just had a snack. I drank a can of kombucha which is my best treat these days.
E is furious with me right now because I haven’t come to see his fort, and C just nursed and then started poking my keyboard very annoyingly so I put her on the floor and now she’s in distress so I have to go. [here I took a break to go sit with them and cuddle and inspect the fort and nurse and be present with them. They need it.]
It’s a lot. I’m dead tired every day at 6:30pm. I don’t have time to reflect on this now (or ever?). I hope you’re all keeping safe and well during this strange time. xo
Chloe: “You need to turn it off now!” (reaching for the power button)