Nine months since they shut down schools. Nine months of headlines, research, chaos. Nine months of reading every last article as if I were a scientist or a medical researcher. Nine months of hearing one version after another about how bad this is, how mild this is, how wrong everyone is. Nine months of being inside my mostly-silent house with my four teenagers who won’t come out of their rooms, won’t turn off their phones, won’t keep up with their schoolwork, won’t talk to me.
It’s Monday morning at 9:29. I have banged on all the doors. I have politely asked. I have nudged about assignments, grades, tried to bribe with breakfast, tried to threat with phone removal, all the same things. Always the same things.
How hollow our lives have become. From doing all the things to doing none of the things. They won’t even get out of the car to walk half a mile with me, let alone my usual 2-mile stint. They argue on a Sunday night that they plan to watch Anime until the sun comes up, disregarding a calculus final, five projects due. They won’t tell me what’s wrong or help me bag the seemingly-endless-but-never-enough Christmas candy that their father raised them with, making every year to give to friends and family.
Nine months I carried them into this world, my eyes young and bright and stupid. Morning sickness that lasted the full first half of every pregnancy, OB/GYNs who wouldn’t listen, hospital bills we couldn’t afford to pay. Nine months of expectancy, of hope, to share in their shiny gurgles, their tiny voices that called for milk at midnight just as their echoing steps now sneak a snack in the kitchen.
And the high school we are all apart of wants to know why so many are failing. Why even the brightest kids won’t respond during class, why so few are turning in work.
The answer is here in these words I’m typing right now (it’s 9:36) when I have a Google Meet open for my students to attend, yet no one is attending. As I sit here catatonically unable to nag once more today– the day has just begun–to try to make them care about what we all think is so important, and they simply… don’t.
If I had known, during each of those nine-month pregnancies, that years of my life, my relationships with my kids, would boil down to a pandemic and a nagging mother (me), would I have made a different choice? Why would anyone want to bring children into this world we have destroyed for them? And why would said children care about some piddly set of assignments when their friends are right down the street yet so out of reach?
The loss of regular, everyday life doesn’t seem, on the outside, like it could do this. Not having to get dressed. Not having to get up at 6:45. Not having to even brush your hair because your camera’s off anyway. Not having to scrape ice off your sister’s car. Not having to stand in the lunch line. Not having to go to so many classes in a day. Not having school five days a week.
Having to stare at a computer screen for seven hours on top of the seven hours they spend on their personal screens. Having to stay home. Having to find warmth in an online world instead of a hangout at a friend’s, the park, the mall. Having to navigate technology and curriculum and expectations all at the same time. Having to follow the ever-changing city, state, and national guidelines about what we’re doing–going to school, to a restaurant, on a trip, seeing our grandparents? Having to adapt in a way none of us were prepared to adapt.
And so I sit here, nine months in, begging my middle child to take a chemistry exam she missed two months ago, my boy to bring up three failing grades, my oldest daughter to study for her final, my youngest to send in her sculpture pic. Begging and not begging because there’s only so much I can do without doing it for them.
It’s 10:06. Middle child has kicked out her cat and opened the chemistry exam. Oldest has decided she’s quite ready to master her calculus final and is now helping middle child with chemistry. Youngest has taken a shower. Boy has retreated to his room and ensured me he will ask for help if needed.
They still have their phones. They still don’t want to talk to me. And I still don’t know what to do.
Will we last another nine months?