I need an adultier adult.

(scene opens at cluttered dinning room table, Pandemic Homeschool in Progress)

Me: (too through) Okay, next project. Remember the book the teacher read to you this morning in Zoom? Here you have to draw a picture about what makes you “you” and record it.

Delta: (anxious) I don’t know what makes me “me”!

Me: (striving for patience) It can be anything. Anything you like about yourself.

Delta: (thinks) My skin!

Me: (begins to tremble) …..maybe something different?

Delta: If it weren’t for skin, we wouldn’t be human!

Me: (closes eyes, hangs head, submits to the will of the gods) You are technically correct.

Delta: (hums to himself as he beings to draw) Look mommy! I drew my skin! (camera cuts to computer screen showing a flesh colored blob)

Me: (faintly) Great job. Remember to use the microphone to explain what you drew and why it makes you “you”.

Delta: (leans toward lap top, hisses) ….mmmmmyyyyy ssskkkkkiiinnnnnn. (normal voice) Goodbye! (digitally submits assignment) All done mommy! Time for a brain break.

Me: (stares at her coffee) Yes. Quite.

Parenting in the Time of Pandemic

Means yelling at your kids at the breakfast table that they’re going to be late for school. Which is in the parlor.

Means waking up your spouse early for IT support on the laptops to make sure the in-house security doesn’t block the 400 different learning platforms required for each child. Making them late for work. Which is in the basement.

Means the dog is pissed off that his walk is delayed because attendance is during his normal walk time. Hiding shoes so he doesn’t chew them to show his displeasure.

Wondering why the schools bothered to send home the Chromebooks for everyone if they didn’t bother to also send the headphones, sending you scrambling for the gaming headsets and hope they fit smaller noggins.

Being told by every school employee that attendance is mandatory by 8 in the posted zoom link. But the zoom link is never posted.

Listening to one of your children bitch they’re at the small table with an uncomfortable chair, but its the only place/arrangement where you can see their screen after finding out too late in 2020 they spent most of the school year in chat rooms playing clicky games.

Also listening to that same child perform for the camera and finding over-sold laughter a trigger for murderous inclinations.

Living with the fact that your kid refuses to brush their hair for the camera, but letting it go because they’re at least wearing their uniform shirt. Pandemic Hair(tm) on a small is weirdly adorable.

Realizing that your back-to-the-gym schedule has been shelved. Again. Wondering if you got your money’s worth in 2021 since you won’t be in 2022.

Coming to terms that you are now chained to the dinning room table as a distance learning room monitor for the duration of this shut down.

Considering catching Omicron just for a week in quarantine.

Not liking the way you lumber across your child’s live feed like a dumpy hausfrau sasquatch, knowing that parent sightings are a way of life now. The teacher is just glad you’re trying to take an active part in the proceedings.

Hating Pandemic Homeschool Zoom Gym Class with a passion. Trust me. They run around this house enough to qualify as passing a Presidential Fitness Test.

Wondering if your high schoolers are actually having class or if they’re so short on staff, most of it is just study hall for not having anyone to teach.

Realizing it took five days into the new year to totally trash your vague “Do Something With My Life” New Year’s resolution.

Wondering if reheating the same cup of coffee a dozen times makes it bitter. Or if its just you.

One Day More

(scene opens in cold dinning room)

Husband: (shuffles in) Listen up, I want you all to go check your school stuff and get ready for tomorrow. Fresh pens, clean clothes, Chromebooks charged. Go.

(children scatter, Carrot at laptop, become progressively more morose)

Gamma: (singing to herself, pounds down stairs) I’m going to see my friends tomorrow! I can hardly wait so see my friends! I missed them so much! I can hardly wait to go to school!

Me: You’re not.

Gamma: (stunned) What?

Me: You’re not. Just got an email from the school. Too many hot cases, so they’re going to be doing distance learning for a couple of weeks.

Gamma: (wails) But I want to go back to school!

Me: Trust me, baby, I want you to go back to school too.

Day In the Life of the Pandemic

(scene opens, Carrot at lap top)

(camera close up on email from Scout Master saying post-meeting positive case)

(back to Carrot, thinking and frowning and drinking coffee)

(camera close up on second email from school detailing positive case with close contact)

(back to Carrot, puts down coffee, grabs keys leaves)

(ridiculously long driving montage and multiple store visits)

(cut scene to Carrot, in CVS pharmacy)

Stock Lady: Here, I found these in the back. (hands over a stack of tests)

Carrot: (relief) Oh thank god. You’ve saved Christmas.

(cut scene to mini van, Carrot driving past hospital with large protest outside with signs and American flags)

Protester #1: (yelling, waving sign saying “Murder! Jesus Judges!”)

Protester #2: (chanting, bobbing sign saying “Crime to withhold proven treatment!”)

Protester #3: (holding up sign saying “Let them take ivermectin!”)

Carrot: (tearfully) Sweet Zombie Jebuz, we’re never fucking getting out of this.

0/10 Not Recommend

(scene opens in detritus laden dinning room, Carrot sorting through a school year’s worth of papers)

Me: Gamma? Can you come here and fill out your memory book for the school year?

Gamma: (slinks to the table, picks up pen) No field trips. No cafeteria. No classrooms. No playground. Guess I’m done.

Me: Wait! Get back here! (dumps twenty half used notebooks in recycling) What’s on the next page?

Gamma: (looks at choices) Goals for next year.

(camera close up on scribble reading “See people”)

Gamma: Am I done?

Me: Go ahead. (sighs, picks up Delta’s book as Gamma flees stage left) Delta? What was your favorite game?

Delta: Nothing.

Me: On the playground?

Delta: Nothing

Me: Favorite story?

Delta: Nothing.

Me: Favorite color? Favorite teacher? Names of your friends?

Delta: Black. None. I don’t have any.

Me: Damn, kid. Do you like anything?

Delta: I like XBox.

Me: (writes that down) The parenting books did not have a chapter on this.

There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo

(scene opens in Woodman’s grocery, everyone masked, social distancing)

Me: (finds herself in aisle with two other women, pulls over to let traffic clear, keeps social distancing)

Woman #1: (starting to pass, wearing paper mask) That is a lovely mask, it fits so well!

Woman #2: (stops, well fitting cloth mask) Thank you, I made it myself!

Woman #1: I’ve been trying to find a place to get one, I’m running out of the paper ones.

Woman #2: Oh! I can make you one! Give me your contact information and I’ll send you one tomorrow.

Woman #1: Really? Oh! That would be lovely!

(women exchange information, turn to look at Carrot)

Woman #2: I’m sorry, we’re blocking traffic.

Me: I’m good. Carry on. No rush.

Evidence of learning

(scene opens in apocalyptic parlor, boys playing Minecraft)

Gamma: (stomping in dramatically) I finally found the charger in my room! It was hiding from me! It hates me!

Alpha: (resigned) That is statistically impossible for being an inanimate object.

Gamma: (hotly) It’s hyperbole, Alpha. I’m not stupid.

But Complaining is More Fun

(scene opens in cluttered parlor, three kids, two player Skylander)

(Beta, Gamma, Delta arguing who’s playing)

Delta: You need to stop! My turn!

Beta: No. Stop. I’m telling you that this is my character and you can’t play it.

Gamma: But you’re not using it and I want to use it.

Beta: But its mine and I don’t want you using it.

Delta: I want a turn.

Me: (can no longer stand the bitching) ENOUGH! (rises from her chair) Gamma – get back to the table and finish the breakfast you forgot about. Delta, you play her character. Beta, we share our characters and you were using another one, so finish playing this level and you can use it later.

Beta: (bitchy) You know what? Never mind. (Gets up from chair) Just forget it. I quit.

Me: (enraged) Goddamnit, sit your ass back down. You made such a fuss I had to come over here and solve all your damn drama. You don’t get to quit now, you could have quit fifteen minutes ago before I had to get involved. Take your win, play your game, and next time keep your damn mouth shut.

Beta: (sits back down, pouts his entire way through a level)

Day Seven of the Pandemic

10 am – That’s it. I cannot stand you two any more. Run around the back yard until you’re tired.

10:05 – Gets Delta dressed, sends him outside.

10:10 – Frog marches Gamma upstairs with instructions to get dressed.

10:15 – Delta comes to the door looking for Gamma.

10:20 – Delta comes to the door looking for Gamma.

10:25 – Delta comes to the door looking for Gamma.

10:30 – Delta comes to the door looking for Gamma.

10:35 – Delta comes to the door looking for Gamma.

10:40 – Goes up to extract Gamma. Finds her under the covers with the lights off, demanding to be allowed to sleep in.

“Gamma, if you wanted to sleep in, you should have thought about that at 7 am when you exploded into this time stream and pounded down the stairs singing to yourself at the top of your lungs. Get out of my house.”

You Had Options

(scene opens in pandemic living room, kids strewn about for reading hour)

Husband: (comes in looks around)

Me: (takes off head phones) Reading hour ends at 2.

Beta: (looks up) Maybe picking a book about a fast spreading virus was a bad choice.

Me: (no pity) Hey, I gave you one about aliens and horses and you didn’t like it. This is all on you.

Book Club

(scene opens in quarantined parlor)

Beta: (sullen) I finished folding laundry. Now what.

Me: (fiercely) Excellent. Time for one hour of book reading.

Beta: (collapses bonelessly into chair, reaches for laptop)

Me: What are you doing?

Beta: Logging on to the school library for an audio book.

Me: (outraged) No! Reading! Re-ah-ding! Silently! With your eyes!

Beta: (hysterical) But I’ve read every book in this house!

Me: (evil laugh) You have not.

Beta: (sullen again) I’ve read every book in my room.

Me: (standing up from table) I bet you haven’t, but follow me.

(camera cuts to messy but obviously parental bedroom)

Me: Behold (waves hand at stuffed bookshelf) I have over a hundred Dr. Who books. Pick one. Pick two, they’re short. I have books you’ve never seen before. I have boxes of books in the back of the closet. I have books in boxes in the attic. I have boxes of books in the basement. I have more books than you can possible read in two pandemics. The one things you can never say to me is “I’ve read everything”.

Beta: (collapses onto the bed in tears)

Me: (hands him “Novels of the Jaran” by Kate Elliot) Start reading. You’ll like this one, it has aliens. And horses.