Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Getting on the Water and Fire

I cannot believe it has been a month since my last post. Time in quarantine blurs and starts becoming abstract. The only things that keeps me semi-rooted are the days I have meetings. The long days are not helping either - not that I would prefer short days; they would be as disorienting and miserable.

The last month has had some nice highs.
The biking has gotten more frequent and easier. The high intensity cardio creates a great high and makes sleeping better. Is it just me or has the months of staying home screwed up sleep schedules?
I even got out on the mountain bike once. One of Bug's friends wanted to do a physically distant play activity and her Dad thought trail riding would be fun. Bug jumped at the idea. It was a nice day and she misses actually seeing her friends without a screen. I was less than thrilled since it triggered all my anxieties: How do I get Bug to wear her mask all the time? What if someone falls? What if the trails were jammed full of the unmasked? For the sake of the child's mental health, I did what I felt was a realistic accounting of the risks and decided it was within a rational person's risk profile: the other family has been following all the guidelines, our network of peeps has not had an active case, none of us are high risk, we would be outdoors, biking forces some distance, and I was mostly certain the other parent wouldn't pick trails that were technical or likely to be busy. It turned out to be fun even though I got a flat tire as we were heading home. It still felt like I had to reset my two week clock...
We started having physically distant play dates with gymnastics friends before the bike ride. We limited it to two other girls who bring their own equipment. The yard was measured to mark off space.
Now we are letting Bug back into the gym for practices. There were meetings and forms and discussions and more reviews of policies and skipping a week to let other parents be lab rats before we decided that the risks were with in tolerable limits. She still has to bring a raft load of her own equipment and shower immediately upon returning. The kids are kept distant, the coaches are all masked, and there are no skills that requiring spotting. Still it is better than nothing.
Some people think we are crazy for taking any kind of risk, but at what point does the mental health risks outweigh the viral risk? I guess if it were just me, I would stay locked in the house most days except for the occasional bike ride. Fortunately for the world, most people are not me.
Another highlight was our new fire pit. We got a BioLight fire pit. So far it has been awesome!!! It has a battery powered fan to increase airflow. It keeps the smoke down and makes lighting it super easy. The other cool thing is that its sides are all mesh, so it looks like the fire is floating in the air. Sitting by a fire with a cool cider or two is living.
I also, finally, got the boat on the water.
I was hoping to go on Sunday, but some food poisoning got in the way. That was less than fun. H spent an hour or so expelling food from both ends. Bug, who normally freaks out when people are sick, went to the edge. She refused to even come in the house until there was no other option. It was pouring rain and sitting in the truck was getting hot. Once in the house. she hid in the basement. To mollify child, and some of my own, anxiety I sanitized the whole house while also trying to take care of H and Bug. Fortunately, once whatever food that needed out was out, H recovered quickly. Again, I feel like the two week clock has reset.
Anyway, since it was so nice out today and the boat was on the truck already, I decided to head out to the Charles and go for a paddle. The put in was pretty empty, so there were no issues with distancing even though I still wore a mask. Being on the water was nice. It was different too. I still need to acclimate to the new paddle. I still think it was a great purchase and it feels great- just different. There were other people on the river and instead of being glad to see each other, we all did our best to stay out of each others way. I was also paddling kayak designed for playing on the ocean on a flat, calm river in the midst of a half urban landscape. I think I had my expectations ramped up to 11 and only got an 8. An eight is great and I am definitely going again, but this time with more realistic expectations.
I will paddle on the sea before the summer is out!!!

Monday, May 25, 2020

No Time Off

For most of the past week, things have been pretty normal (if you call being trapped in your house, only interacting with other people via screens, and wearing face masks outside normal.) Routines are wonderful things and we have finally hit upon a basic routine.

Child has regularly scheduled online classes and daily assigned school work to complete along with some other basic expectations like getting some exercise, maintaining personal hygiene, and cleaning up after herself. (Yes, she does fight against the unbearable amount of toil that her unimaginably horrible, "the worst, most rude" parents ask of her.)
H has finally started just excepting that her job is basically just punching a clock to meet requirements since one really cannot do much one on one counseling when students don't show up, parents stay in the room, and there are no "classroom" issues to really address. (Yes, there are still periods of angst about being a total failure because one of her colleagues has much needier students who do show up for sessions and another one is a type A childfree busy body.)
Aside from running interference, doing 24/7 tech and emotional support, and trying to keep child focused o doing school work, my job is still the same clock punching, frustrating slog to provide tools to over privileged worker bees who toil away making it easier for the 1% to suck the 99% dry while using the least amount of the 9% possible. (Yes, the facts of my job and my general sentiment that the world should be more fair do cause some inner turmoil. However, I am at heart a very practical misanthrope who is willing to do what is necessary to stay in the 9%. I also take solace in the fact that my wife's work does actually help make the world a better place and that my child's skill set also tend to lean in that direction even if developmentally she is still in the "world exists for my pleasure" phase.)
Friday, however, I was near to murder. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed to start. Then during one of of our corporate rah, rah sessions, one of the biggies made some comment about how great it is that during this time of crisis we have been busier than ever and that it was great that none of our employees hadn't taken any time off. That lit my short fuse. No time off, really!!! Sure nobody has taken any vacation time; there is no place to vacation!!! We are all in varying states of house arrest!!! Time off though....
If you have a school aged, or younger, child at home you are either not working a full work day or not sleeping much. I don't take at least an hour or two off everyday to help child troubleshoot a Google meeting or some worksheet her teacher scanned into a Google doc and didn't put in text fields to answer or help her to hunker down and get something done or listen to her complain about missing her friends or fighting with her when she insists that a worksheet calling for full sentences is complete when she provided one word answers. And let's not forget all the time I don't take off doing tech support or emotional support for my wife who has to completely relearn her job. Seriously, the only people not taking time off are childless, have live-in full time childcare, have miracle children who don't require help with school, or are just plain neglecting their kids.
Maybe with high school kids, or college kids, or adult live at home kids it is is different story. They are either mostly adults or at least capable of being adults if they choose. You can probably just let them do their thing most of the time. But I'm sure that even they require attention more that we are all trapped in our houses together.
Maybe what I really needed to hear was not rah, rah everything is awesome, but a sincere recognition that we are all doing a good job during a difficult time; that we are somehow managing and that our corporate overlords recognize this.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Getting Out and Meltdowns

As this drags into a third month and the realities of canceled summer camps, vacations, and the very real possibility of schools not reopening in the fall starts becoming an inescapable reality instead of some worse case scenario that one can pretend will never happen, the house has gotten more tense and more predictable. It may sound like a contradiction, but we are starting to slide into a schedule. The schedule does include some periods of crying, yelling, stomping, and other behaviors that signal on going emotional strain and possible issues that require intervention, but the episodes are getting predictable. I can generally sense when they are coming and have started picking up patterns in how they play out.
Predictable and tolerable are different things. There are many days, when I watch the clock on my work day tick away as I coax my child to do mathwork or figure out what to do with herself in the absence of a screen, or talk my wife off a ledge, that I reach the end of my tether. Usually, it is work that suffers, but work is really the lowest priority (other than that it pays for the privileges of having a nice house, health, safe access to food...) Work has always been little more for me than a means to end; it pays for the things that matter.
My patience for my coworkers has never been a strength, but I used to have some reserves to make it functional. Now there are more days where it is a liability.  Also, the general amount of work I am producing has dropped. I do have the benefit of knowing where many of the bodies are buried which buys me a little leeway. Hopefully it is enough leeway so I can continue to pay for the things that matter.
I actually got to the point this week where I just needed to get away so bad that I pulled the road bike out of the garage and hit the streets. I was so frazzled that besides what has become normalized behavior, like wearing a mask, didn't even cross my mind. It was nice to just ride until my lungs burned and my legs felt like jello. I didn't even care that the Garmin told me that I had likely overdone things....
The roads were not empty, but the few other riders all did their best to keep distance. The experience gave me a glimmer of hope. It feel like at least one thing that reenergizes me is doable.
Hitting the trails still feels out of reach because there is no way to be distant on single track. Kayaking, at least until the water warms up some more, is still a no go because H worries about accidents.
Road cycling is doable and better than just plodding around my generic suburban neighborhood with the other mask wearing zombies.
So, things are looking up-ish.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Week 8 or is it 9?

We were watching the school districts update on home schooling expectations and the assistant superintendent said that school has been closed for 8 weeks, are not opening for the remainder of the school year, and that they may or may not open in the fall, but they definitely will have a plan, a backup plan, and a contingency plan.
I knew it had been a while, but I thought it was like 6 weeks or 10 weeks. I have lost track of time. Everyday is just another day. Somedays I shower; somedays I don't. Most days I exercise, meditate and have at least one internal melt down.
I have largely lost patience with the small child on more than one occasion.
I get that things for her are hard. School through a screen sort of sucks. Log into a Google page, watch some videos, do some worksheets, rinse, wash repeat. Oh and the expectations keep changing. At first it was just a few review things, then it was class meetings and daily review work, now there are daily zoom classes, and new material. Virtual playdates in Roblox and Zoom gymnastics also sort of suck. She is not exactly anxiety free, imbued with a strong internal sense of self, an overpowering urge to read, or super amounts of focus. She is an energetic, extroverted nine year old with a strong need to control things and a strong need for external attention.
I am an introverted, emotionally dead, ball of anxiety with a surplus of focus, who has spent years working through a screen. Unfortunately, I also have a bad habit of procrastinating which does not set a good example for the child.
The better half's job has also been getting more and more demanding, so she has less time and energy for child as well....
It is basically a spiraling mess. Child knows we are distracted and have to get things done. She either demands help on everything, avoids work by doing the absolute easiest things for which she can get credit, yells and pouts when things are hard and we try to help, or she hides out in her room playing Roblox and watching TikTok. She avoids messaging friends who do not play the games she likes on Roblox, because making small talk and expressing interest in others is hard when you spend most of the time worrying about what your friends are thinking of you.
It not only child that is spiraling. My tolerance for anything has worn very thin. I have to censor every e-mail I send and count to ten before responding to most questions....
Spending 24/7 in the same 1500 square foot house is not always good for an introvert. Walks through a deserted neighborhood wearing a homemade mask and avoiding the few people you do see hiding behind masks on is not exactly rejuvenating....


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's Day


Mother's Day is always a slightly complicated holiday. We all have complicated relationships with out parents.

The quarantine makes it more complicated.
Bug did many nice things for H today. She made a cake and followed an actual recipe. It turned out a bit Nailed It. She also made a frozen yoghurt root beer float and planned a girl's night sleep over. It was a nice break in the storm. But is only a break in the storm; Monday will bring new battles....
For H things were a bit more complicated. Her mother is in the final stages of dementia and just stares at the walls. H not been able to see her in weeks and her nursing home has an active COVID outbreak. At least in the past we could stop by, deliver a card, brush her hair, and say hi.
For all the mothers out their keep on fighting the fight; we all need you whether we admit it or not.