My life has become something of a hamster wheel, if you will.
I get out of bed when I hear my son Jack and his autism stomp down the hall and turn on the shower.
Drink coffee, let the dog out, answer questions about spiders in Brazil.
Then some yoga, or the treadmill.
Rouse teenagers from their nests. Try to figure out an adventure for the day that won’t be too crowded, or too far of a drive, or cost nine thousand dollars to rent kayaks for five kids.
Give up on summer adventure.
Announce a hike at nearby mountain instead. Listen to long, dramatic moans and foot stomping and statistics about the possibility of contracting malaria from mosquitos.
Give up on hike. Feel secretly glad. I hate hiking.
Watch five kids leave 4,324,677 crumbs on the counter. Feel a pinch of anger when I find three empty cereal boxes in the pantry. Ask how hard it is to recycle. Question is met with blank stares.
Walk upstairs. Notice clothes spilling out of drawers. Turn around, and walk back downstairs.
Declare an afternoon of games on the front porch. Play Uno until the bickering over cards makes me want to light my eyelashes on fire. Give each one a job to do. Make the worst of the bickering do something terrible, like hose out the garbage cans.
Start dinner, something involving a pork drop. Wish I could just stand at the kitchen counter and eat cheese and crackers.
Scowl in husband’s direction when he walks in ten minutes late. Relax for a moment against his hand on the small of my back.
Dinner, more games, television, late-night snacks, late-night teenage confessions, mugs of cold tea in the sink.
The next morning, I open my eyes, and begin again.
My name is Carrie. I have four boys and one daughter and my son Jack is diagnosed with autism.
As you can imagine, a virus, quarantine, and uncertainty is not the best set of, uh, circumstances for a person with autism.
I often feel many things at the same time. I think this makes me an ordinary human.
I love doing puzzles after dinner.
I need to be alone.
I love the extra family time as my kids get older.
I’d like just a few minutes alone.
I love sitting around the dinner table and listening to them laugh.
I desperately need to be alone.
Some days, I have nothing left to give. This is my truth. Yet, for whatever reason, I am afraid to speak it aloud.
It is less about the tasks of motherhood, or the games, or the togetherness, and more about the emotional weight of inching a family forward each week, while the rest of the world hangs in the balance of uncertainty, and chaos.
It is the task of managing everyone’s moods in the house all day, every day.
One minute, we are happy and laughing and a great family. The next, we are snarling and picking and miserable, and I wonder if we have anything in common other than our last name.
I am tired of politics.
I am tired of arguing with teenagers.
I am tired of cooking.
I am tired in a way that isn’t physical. It’s more of a restless energy—a fatigue deep within my spirit.
Despite the warmth of a yellow summer sun, time is frozen.
In the middle all of this, I have lost my daughter. The somewhat cheerful 12-year old had her thirteenth birthday, and abruptly retired to her room for the year. She emerges for cups of tea, and the occasional sandwich.
I miss my girl. I miss the tiny ballerina in a pink tutu, and the 7th grader who always forgot her glasses at school.
Where did she go? Who is she now?
The pandemic has changed her.
It’s changed all of them.
My kids remember their masks every time they leave the house. They stuff them into their cargo shorts, or fold them up into their backpacks. They never forget.
This makes me proud, and also sad.
I hate the way they’ve mutated, you see. They’ve adjusted to our new normal like it’s all they’ve ever known.
I am not enough for this. I will never be enough. I yell too much.
I yell about stupid things, like towels on the bathroom floor. I am ashamed to tell you this.
I am not enough.
Is anyone enough?
I cut her sandwich into triangles, hoping she’ll spend just one moment more with me.
I am raising children in the midst of a pandemic and they always remember their masks and I hurt for them and I hope for them.
I have forgotten how to savor the moments. I have forgotten how, one day, I will long to have it all back again.
Please, let me remember. Let me remember the way I treasured every milestone—every first word, every dive from the diving board, every lost tooth.
I have cradled their late-night worries about college, and friendship, and puberty within the my hands, and held them to my own heart.
Who would I be without them?
A mother knows how to fight. That’s is our specialty. We know how to fight even when we think the fight has left our body for good.
We never give up, because we know one day, the drawers will be empty and the cereal boxes full.
I believe in me.
I believe in you.
I love them fiercely.
I love you fiercely.
You are not alone.