Last week was harder.
By Thursday I woke up in the morning and I was a mean mommy.
I really tried not to be.
During the night and into the early morning Shefa wasn’t letting me sleep. He woke up so early and used his special rooster voice. That voice he likes to use on those really early mornings when I am especially exhausted.
Some mornings, even if he’s waaaaay too early to be awake, he is cuddly and delicious, which grants him forgiveness for trying to get me up and out of bed.
That morning he was kicking me, and crowing so loudly, his demands were heard all the way up on the Himalayas.
It’s still dark out. And there is something about being kicked that makes me fail the test of cool. Every. Single. Time. “MAAAAAAAAAMMMMMAAAAAA!!!!!! GEEEEEEEETTTT UUUUUUUPPPPP!!!!!”
Mean mommy was awakened.
Several times that day I tried to send mean mommy back to bed, and bring back the more thoughtful, kind, and patient me. I tried hard to catch some of the shit before it came out of me. To catch the door before I slammed it like a teenager when I went to my room to isolate. If only I could say calmly: “I need a moment, you guys. I’m feeling frustrated. I’m going to take a few breaths in my room.” Nope. I wasn’t so graceful.
Honestly, most of the time, I really enjoy all of us at home. A part of me dreads the day we would have to go back to regular life, back to the schedule, back to the agonizing routing.
The first week at home I was enjoying homeschooling. But they seem to be piling more and more things on. It has taken over the entire day. And it’s been getting more and more challenging to get Kesem to do her work.
I’ve been patient. I’ve been understanding. I’ve been sympathetic.
Then, one morning – mean mommy.
With the schedule getting tighter and tighter, and every day more time is spent on convincing this bright seven and a half year old artist fairy that we need to do school stuff, I’m exhausted.
So I woke up a mean mommy. And I exploded.
I get it. I get why she wants to draw. To daydream. To play with her brother. To have me read Harry Potter to her. To go on our magical neighborhood walk. To ride her scooter in the back. I want that for her too. What is wrong with this picture – the world has paused, but this kid doesn’t have enough time to play? Not enough space. Not enough freedom. I see it. I feel it. I hate it. And I disagree with it fundamentally.
Fuck school is how I feel too!
But I need to be the responsible adult in the room and make sure we do what we need to do.
SO… Mean mommy explosion.
I’ve been holding it together for everyone. I didn’t even realize it. A caregiver, a chef, a cleaning lady, a meditation guide, an art facilitator, a secretary, a language teacher, a math teacher, a coach, tech support, a grocery delivery system, a peace advocate, a freedom fighter, and a boundary creator. I’ve been making it sweet here. Keeping the stress levels low. Trying to keep everyone’s needs met.
And then… Mean Mommy.
Kids should be playing out in gardens. And planting seeds in soil. And nourishing their soul by walking barefoot on grass in the rain. And sipping sunlight as they smell flowers in the yard.
And we should too.
They should make art when muse flows through them. And read adventure books. And ride their bicycles. Write poems. And build forts.
They should make believe. And paint the world with their imagination.
And yes. They need to learn how to read and write. And how to do math too.
This global crisis is making me feel the depth of misalignment in modern living. This pause brings to light our shadow. As a culture, we’ve been spinning too fast, going at a rate and at pace that is not sustainable.
Mean mommy is squeezed out of the bottle of capitalist, over achieving, productivity addiction stress.
It’s not that I think that we need to go back in time. We need to go forward. And forward means change. This time can be an opportunity to reflect upon our unhealthy habits, and to establish some new ways of being. We can learn how to actually PAUSE. How to take it slower. We can recollect ourselves through the shuttering of our reality, and carefully put together a more gentle way of living through the fierceness.
But instead, we load up our children’s schedules with the insanity of the reality we lived through before, or even more, just to try to keep things together.
Guess what – things are falling apart whether we like it or not. So maybe we need to let some of the threads be pulled. It’s scary. And it feels unsafe. But trying to hold on tightly to the old “normal” is not realistic. Things are not what they were a few weeks ago. And they’re probably not going to go back to being what they were. We have to make space for this change.
Maybe trying to stick to the old ways of tightly packed schedules is not such a great idea.
Maybe all the zoom meetings plus the work sheets plus the assignments from schools right now, is not what our kids need. Not what families need. Not what the world needs.
What If we took our foot off the gas pedal? Just a little. And let our kids off the hook a little more? And gave them time to create and plant a vegetable garden. Teach them how to read by letting them read. Have them count beans and add and subtract, multiply and divide, while we’re making dinner. Walk outside and watch the neighborhood trees putting on their Spring outfits.
(older kids will obviously need other kinds of support, and I’m not there yet, so I haven’t given it enough thought).
I think this time can be a healing, transformative journey. If we receive it, instead of holding on to our old lives for dear life. If we engage it instead of waiting for it to pass, so that we can go back to how it all used to be. If we sit in the space instead of forcefully filling it. If we take the pressure off of ourselves and our children. Maybe we could actually learn something. Maybe, if we let ourselves be in the discomfort, and allow the dissolution of life as we have known it, and give room for the grief and the fear, maybe we can emerge out of it, when it’s safe to come out, with a new sense of creativity, and the capacity to shape the world anew.