“Mommy, when the karma virus is over, can we go to Grandma and Pop-pop’s to catch fireflies?” Jonas asked, sitting on the kitchen counter and watching me cook dinner with his big, brown eyes.
I was caught off guard by the question, as I hadn’t spoken or named the virus in any conversation with him that I could recall.
“And put them in a jar to see them light up?” his older brother, Solomon, chimed in.
“Sure,” I told them, hoping to hide the sadness in my voice before gathering my thoughts.
I feel like we are now the fireflies in that jar, waiting for someone to open it up, but still finding reasons to shine our own lights.
Jonas and I now bake together, at least once a week. He says he misses going to school but loves that he can snuggle me whenever he wants.
Solomon makes up games for him and his brother to play together. He says he misses going to karate class but likes dedicating more time to his Legos. At this point, they both seemed settled in our new normal of sleeping in (I usually have them up by 6:00 for school), participating in Zoom classes (they can snuggle the dog and have snacks while learning), and playing soccer in the field next to our house (they always beat me).
We’ve explored the various trails that our area has to offer, keeping our distance of course, and have played Battleship over FaceTime with my parents. Our bedtime stories and snuggles last a little longer because there is less of a rush for me to get ready for the next day.
The “new normal” finds us together more often, which I love. But I do miss the times before quarantine when tantrums would quickly end because we had to run out the door to school, and when I could shed the identity of “mom” after morning drop off and put on that of a teacher, a professional, a leader amongst my team. Now the lines of educator and parent are blended more than ever as I navigate how to simultaneously instruct both my students and my children.
My brain is so used to managing the behavior of twenty or more middle school students, motivating them to read and planning engaging lessons. Why am I struggling with these things pertaining to my own two children?
At work, I contact parents to get my students to follow the behavioral expectations of a classroom. At home, I threaten to call the boys’ teachers to see if this is how they act at school. It’s like the fragile balancing act of being a teacher and a mom has been turned into more of a tumbling free-for-all, where I am trying to catch as many falling pieces to put them in their right place. Some days, things come together nicely. Other days, they don’t.
As a single mom, the days I have with the boys are busy and lazy all at the same time. The days that my children spend with their father gives me a chance to connect, breath, cry, feel, and clean. The kid-free times — once spent shopping with my mom, catching up with a friend over dinner, or spending way too much time at happy hour after work — are now spent virtually.
FaceTime and Zoom have been ways in which I socialize with others. My coworker group chat, or the “Stetson Sisters,” has been a place to share information about the pandemic, complain about how loudly spouses chew, commiserate about our ever-changing professional expectations, and support each other when one of us is really struggling. For example, when my grandmother died last week, my coworkers purchased me an UberEats gift card and dropped off a box of wine on my doorstep.
My monthly prayer group has also moved to weekly virtual gatherings, allowing people from various professions and stages of life to pause and reflect on where we are.
As for family, we talk and text more often. My heart longs to snuggle my new niece and nephew. Watching them grow through a screen is simply heartbreaking. Now, I know we’ve only been in this situation for only a month, but so much has happened: my niece is smiling and rolling over, things she didn’t do the last time I saw her in person; and my nephew just turned two.
So, instead of spending a whirlwind weekend in Connecticut to celebrate his second birthday, we Zoomed for a few minutes, and sang “Happy Birthday,” a song now associated with handwashing more than celebrations.
As we enter the second month of staying home to stay safe, I tell myself that this won’t be forever. I look forward to my Google hangouts with my students, extra snuggles with my boys, and the time when we can finally catch fireflies in Grandma and Pop-pop’s yard. I can’t wait until someone opens the lid of the jar.
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