Goodness, my children, it’s been over two years since I dropped you a note on here. So much has happened in our lives since then. We moved from Dayton, OH to Norman, OK. Remind me to tell you the story of that someday. The morning the movers arrived to load the truck, both of you woke up with a rash on your stomachs and hands. You were both diagnosed with strep throat but the doctor also suspected Hand Foot & Mouth Disease so we had to figure out a way to go 14 hours across the country without you two encountering anyone. Shenanigans ensued, but we made it, and the three of us spent one week in a completely empty house and one week unpacking the house before Mitchell started kindergarten. Rosie, you got stitches from running into the corner of a wall (ok technically Covey bumped you) in 2019 and then “got a new belly button” (had hernia repair) over spring break. Mitchell, that October we found out that your hearing was down to 60% and in December you had your adenoids removed and tubes inserted. Your amazement and then anxiety at how “loud the world is” definitely made me feel like Mother Of The Year, but I swear you’d always passed your hearing tests up to that point with flying colors.
Rosie, you stayed home with me for Mitchell’s kindergarten year. I wish I could have that year back. I was never alone. You came with me to everything, except for the few hours per week that I volunteered in Mitchell’s classroom. We started getting pedicures together and you don’t even look like you’re pretending to be a grown-up, you just are! When you started preschool, it felt like I was releasing you to the world. You had some growing pains in preschool (your teacher once said you “feel all the feels, and feel them very loudly” and it was one of the most accurate statements I’ve ever heard), but you adjusted and your sweet personality shines through. That preschool was the best possible fit for you and you grew so much in just seven short months. You were somehow born with an impeccable sense of manners. I’ve never had to coach you on “please” and “thank you”. You don’t say “no,” you say “no thank you”. When meeting someone, you almost always find a way to compliment them to start the conversation, like telling them you love their shirt or hair. You start kindergarten in about 30 minutes and I am completely unready to give up any more of my time with you.
Mitchell, you started kindergarten swearing you couldn’t read and within a couple weeks you were reading level 2 books. Your teacher moved up a grade with you when you went to first grade, and you two remain very close to this day. You call her every time you lose a tooth and have play-dates with her regularly. You are very matter-of-fact and want to know everything about everything. Your questions make me realize that I maybe should have paid better attention when I was in school. Sure I never needed that knowledge in my professional life, but I certainly need it now. When you develop an interest, you focus so intently on it that it consumes you. You were so focused on Minecraft for almost two years that you would only read Minecraft books, write stories about Minecraft, wear Minecraft clothes, etc. You’ve moved on to the How To Train Your Dragon franchise now and you know every single type of dragon, their strengths, their weaknesses, their special abilities, where they’re found, etc. I’ve been playing a turn-based app with you and you love to steal my phone to tell me all about the dragons I’ve hatched. You are incredibly empathetic to others. You can’t stand seeing Rosie get in trouble (which, as you like to say, parenting you is a level 1 difficulty and parenting Rosie is a level 10). If Rosie starts to get in trouble, you immediately come to her defense and do whatever necessary to keep her out of trouble. I don’t know how many times you’ve cleaned her room for her. You still have trouble connecting with others your age, but we’re slowly working on conversation skills. You are currently in your very first Zoom call of second grade, and you informed your teacher that you would now prefer to be called Mitchy. As your previous teacher pointed out, that’s an improvement over last year’s nickname, Bitchell (which you would write out, and then point an arrow to it and write “That’s my nickname, I’m Mitchell”).
So, Zoom meetings. That brings us to our next subject: the last five months. On March 14th, we traveled to Kansas for your Aunt Brooke’s wedding. The next day, when we got home, we began our shelter-in-place. The city of Norman officially locked down for the month of April. For about six weeks, the only time we left the house was for me to drop off checks for the school’s PTA. We got our groceries delivered, we waved at people from across the street when we went on walks, and we played hours and hours of Nintendo and watched hundreds of movies. I think we watched Frozen 2 and Onward at least a hundred times each. Then we watched the Ice Age series for a few weeks, and we’re currently watching and playing everything from the How To Train Your Dragon franchise. I built a swing set for you guys, complete with a two-level deck and slide, which Mitchell promptly labeled too dangerous and now you guys refuse to do anything but swing on.
During the month of June we joined a “quarantine bubble” with two other families who were equally socially distancing, which brought several outdoor playdates. We were especially grateful for the company as, emotionally, June was rough. We had to face some harsh truths as a society and trying to talk you guys through it without fully understanding it myself was a struggle, to say the least. Talking to other people became especially hard because there’s always something to disagree about, and the beliefs everyone is disagreeing about aren’t exactly “oh by the way” beliefs, but ones that form the bedrock of a person’s personality. Social distancing and wearing a mask became a “mark of the sheep”. Even those who happily wore a mask disagreed with social distancing or couldn’t understand it applying to them. And once the subject of schools reopening entered the public discourse, it was impossible to just say, “this is what my family and I will be doing” without facing backlash or the silence that means you’ve offended someone. By July the rest of Oklahoma and the midwest had decided they’d had enough of social distancing, mask-wearing, and empathy so the cases started going up, racism and bigotry became socially acceptable, and we felt even more strongly about staying distanced.
So far, August has brought the realization that this is our “new normal”; not the virus, but groups in the world who believe so strongly in their rightness that they will do anything to rally people to their cause or bring about the downfall of anyone who disagrees with them. There’s a level of hatred and disgust in the world that has made me retreat into my shell and I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever leave it again.
But guess what else has become the “new normal” in our house? Extreme amounts of quality time. A reaffirmation that we are enough. A genuine friendship and mutual enjoyment in each other’s company. It’s hard to explain the shift that occurs, when you pull out a deck of cards and can’t wait to play with your kids, not for just their entertainment, but for your own as well. But I will say, you two are total jerks in almost every card game we play and gang up on me and that is NOT COOL.
Will you remember that? In 20 years when you’re looking back at this time, will you remember the days that I sat at the kitchen table putting puzzles together because my anxiety was too high to do anything else, or will you just remember sneaking out of bed to help me work on the puzzle? Will you remember our epic “adventures” that included getting lost in parks around Norman or getting chased to the car by too-friendly, too-hungry geese? What about the science experiments? I really hope you remember the times we covered the bathtub in elephant toothpaste and not the times that you took it upon yourselves to add the food coloring to the whirlpool and I had to shut down science class to scrub the poor table. Will you remember the giant art projects that spread across the kitchen table and included feathers, pipe cleaners, cupcake wrappers, buttons, and just about anything else you could find? Or will you remember me walking in to a kitchen floor covered in glue and glitter and shutting down art for the day, even though Rosie kept insisting it’s ok, she just “arted.”
These five months have almost been a reset button for us. Your dad has worked from home since March and, given how many hours he’s worked per week for the last 6 years, it’s almost like he’s meeting his family’s daily life for the first time. Sharing an office hasn’t exactly been amazing, and we both work very weird hours, but it’s been worth it. Without all the extracurricular activities, we’ve just had time to fill instead of rushing around to every activity and never having time to just BE. It turns out, the day-to-day stress comes from outside our house, not inside.
Looking back, I realize that I put too much pressure on myself and allowed others’ opinions, feedback, and demands to cause me to shut down. I hope you didn’t notice that. I hope that when we talk about moments in your childhood when I was nearly immobilized from panic or anxiety that you’re shocked to hear of it. That you say, “Wow, Mom, I had no idea.” That’s probably wishful thinking. You’ll probably say, “Wow, Mom, so that’s why you were so mean sometimes.” But I guess it’s impossible to be a parent without being a human, and I won’t try to hide my struggles from you. Mostly because, honestly, when I’m feeling terrible, you two are my first choice to make me feel better. Because you two are awesome. It’s truly my greatest joy to be your mom.