SOLSC21, Day 22
Most of my friends my age have kids younger than mine. Some of them find the large age gaps intriguing. Many times, I’ve been asked by exasperated parents which age is the most troublesome. Is the pregnancy the hardest part? Or the sleepless nights? Is it when they start walking and decide to taste and explore the world? Tweens? Teens? Adults? What did I think the most difficult age was? Right now, I don’t even remember my answers. Because, right now, I can only say that parenting. During. A. Pandemic. Is. Hard.
This slice of mine can have chapters or subtopics, but let me run through this real quick. My kids seem to have forgotten everything they were ever taught before the pandemic. Discussion between my husband and me? Oh, don’t they have the right to know what we’re talking about? And I kid you not, they don’t give up. EVER. My daughter forces my face towards her so I can look her in the eye and let her know what’s going on. “You said ‘moving’? We’re moving house? Yay! We’re moving to a new home, yay!!” In all probability, I am going to have to explain why I said what I don’t even remember in some passing conversation.
They’ve also forgotten to wait for their turn to speak. There are two parallel conversations going on at any given time. My brain has become used to processing one message that comes in the right ear, and another form the other ear, at the same time. The result is probably not the intended message, but… pandemic.
I might have fixed timings for them to play indoors and outdoors. But right when I’m in the middle of a Zoom meeting, there will be a sticky note thrust under my nose, “Can I play in the neighbor’s house?” or “Can I play Brawl Stars on your phone?” or her favorite, “Can I eat chips?” Oh, she knows we’re not really visiting people yet, and she knows she’s not allowed to play games on my phone, AND she knows the rules about snacking. But when I’m in the middle of a meeting, I can’t really argue. I have actually turned my camera and mic off to do just that twice, but she probably knows that won’t always happen. I must learn from her how to make the most of an opportunity.
Last weekend, she woke up late. I heard her bawling from her room. Thinking it must have been a nightmare, I went to check. Her face was buried in her pillow. “Awww, my baby!” Mommy went to give her a hug to make her feel better.
After some cajoling, I got the reason for the outburst. “I missed out on my screen time!” she bawled. I told her it was okay, that there are so many other things to do to enjoy the beautiful weather. But of course, it wasn’t easy. Missing screen time is sacrilege.
“Then you should’ve gone to bed on time last night. Next time, remember, if you want your weekend screen time, go to bed on time.”
“Nooooooooo! You didn’t send me to bed on time! Now I don’t want breakfast! I missed my screen time!”
See? The fault was mine. I know, the manuals and the experts say don’t give in. Stand your ground. But these kids have probably read all those manuals and spoken to all the experts, and they know each and every trick we are thinking of trying even in the remote future. They know the rules we live by. And they have devised methods to skirt every rule there ever was. Blame. Yell. Sulk. Hug. Kiss. Puppy-face. Angry face. Refuse-to-eat face. They know their way out.
Their study area looks like it was hit by a giant tsunami. They have encroached out of the study table and onto the carpet and the floor. Books, coloring pencils, paints, Lego, jigsaw puzzle pieces, toys (those Happy Meal toys never, ever break, do they?), multiple unfinished writing projects, and I don’t know what else. If this is the real estate they need for a couple days’ classes, when they go back to school, they will need two classrooms to themselves!
This wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their art and knack of negotiation. Whoever said it is important to learn when to say no hasn’t seen pandemic kids. These kids know NOT to say no. That’s asking for trouble. Instead, they know to buy time! Go take a shower? Not now, I’ll go after I finish this drawing I’m making. Water the plants? Not now, I’ll do it after I finish these cookies. Put your dirty clothes in the basket? Not now, after I finish this chapter I’m reading. It takes less time to do it myself.
The struggle is real. But to be fair, I’ve not been very attentive to routines either. With my own life being thrown out of gear, it’s taken us all a whole year to get used to this lifestyle. Academics and homework have taken on new meaning. My work hours and schedules have changed, their classes are at different times on different days. My husband’s hours are different now. Outings are limited. They hardly get to meet people. They are not physically tired enough to go to bed at the earlier time, so bedtime has become delayed. There are more things than usual on the parents’ minds also. Not to forget the fact that because we are all home, it has made us a little lax with so many things.
At the same time, in retrospect, I’m actually glad we got all this time together. It’s been hard, but it’s also been a lot of fun, and we’ve taken it all with some humor. That’s one reason why I don’t regret this past year – the time and the proximity it has afforded me with the kids, watching them grow, watching them create history as their stay-at-home period enters its second year. Yikes!