Oh, hey old friend. It’s been a while. A long while. But I suppose I couldn’t stay away forever.
I used to blog. I used to write to keep friends and family in the loop about what my husband and I, and eventually our kids, were up to while we followed a tumultuous NFL career around the country. Fall of 2015, my husband’s career (and almost his life) came to a screeching halt. And around that same time, I stopped writing. I couldn’t do it anymore and I’m not one hundred percent sure why. But if I were to guess it would be because I’d always written raw and honest accounts of our family’s ups and downs and maybe I couldn’t bring myself to sit down, rehash, and relive, what we went through in that dark hour. Maybe it was just easier to look the other way.
I’m still not ready to write, in detail, about those harrowing days. So, for now, I’ll catch you up on the 57 months since my last post in about 7 sentences…
Danny started the 2015 NFL season with the New York Giants incredibly strong and was looking forward to building on the career year he’d had the year before. He got a near fatal MRSA infection in his ankle (ironically, in his good leg, because he has a metal rod in the other one), and he fought the battle of his life for 3 weeks in the hospital and through 10 surgeries. He retired from the NFL (he’d come back from quite a few injuries over the course of his career, but MRSA proved to be his kryptonite) and then we moved back home to the Bay Area for good. Since then we have become mainstays in an ordinary, suburban life with our two kiddos. Lennon, our son, is now 8 and in third grade and Layla, our daughter, is 6 and in Kindergarten. And although our day-to-day is a far cry from the fast-paced, ever-changing NFL scene we’d become accustomed to, it suits us. Since becoming a suburbanite, stay-at-home mom, I’ve been active in the community and at the kids’ school, and I’ve made many lifelong friends. Friends who I’ll never need to leave for a different team or a new city, which is a welcomed change from the nomadic, professional athlete wife-life I’d come to know.
So here I am, just a mom, trying to navigate the uncertainty of the world around me. And are things as uncertain as ever right now.
Coronavirus, or Covid-19, has taken life, as we have known it, hostage and has thrown us into a tailspin. Regardless of the different theories that exist about what the coming weeks and months will look like, and regardless of where you fall on the compass, we have all had our calendars wiped clean. We have all cancelled everything (or had everything cancelled for us) and no one knows exactly when the madness will truly begin. At some point hospitals will become overwhelmed and patients will outnumber resources, and that is an even scarier thought than getting the virus itself. So, my family and I have self-quarantined in hopes of reducing our own risk for infection and, more importantly, reducing the risk for those more vulnerable than us. The four of us have been home for 3 days now and it’s been interesting to say the least.
It’s been eye-opening to watch the “it’s just a flu” people continue to take minimal precautions, ignore the stark warnings, and let the worries of the world slide off their backs. And it’s been just as alarming to watch the “it’s the end of civilization as we know it” people hoard goods, and berate others for running to the store. The spectrum is wild, folks. At the end of the day, though, we’re all different and yet the same. We’re all swimming in the same murky pond and we’re all trying to see what’s next. We’re trying to open our eyes under water, but visibility is zero. And for the first time in almost half a decade, I have something to say…
This is it. This is it mom friends. This. Is. It. This is our chance to stop the clock. This is what we’ve been asking for. For every time we’ve gotten into bed at night after a whirlwind, chaotic day and asked our bedroom ceilings for a do-over, we’ll get a minute back. For every day on which we were physically with the kids, yet never truly saw them, never truly touched them, and never truly heard them, we’re about to get another chance. We posted “Throw Back Thursday” baby photos of them on our Instagram accounts and underneath them exclaimed, “Sloooow dooown!” And the Universe complied. It could be 4 weeks, it could be 6 months, but no matter how long this stretch will last, they’re ours again. They are ours again. Mompadres, this is our moment.
In the coming days our littles will no longer belong to the sports teams they play on, their schools, their music lessons or even their friends. They won’t be pushed and pulled from activity to activity with only bits of time in between to shovel down a snack and check the time. There will be no rushing to get homework done before piano, no packing of 3 different uniforms for a full day of sports and there will be no throwing a granola bar at them in the back seat while they figure out how to change into a leotard with their seatbelt on. That life simply doesn’t exist right now. Pause and catch your breath.
I’m a Type A mom. I’m a worrier. I’m a planner and I’m an organizer. I also have mild anxiety. I suppose you can add germophobic to that list if we’re getting really personal. So, knowing that our current reality revolves around the attempt to escape a vicious virus could easily put me over the edge. And maybe that’s an understatement. So, I have two choices. I can surrender to fear, curl up into a ball and bite my nails down to nubs or I can choose to see the good. I can let the worry paralyze me or I can choose to see the silver lining. So here I am, making the conscious choice, to see the bright side of the discord. To appreciate this holiday from the hamster wheel that I’ve been on for years. And it may very well be exactly what I needed.
Being at home with the kids for the foreseeable future will no doubt have its challenges. And some of us have husbands who have been thrown into the mix, as many have been advised to work from home. So, it seems like the unknown of this novel virus is not the only unchartered territory among us right now. With both husbands and kids at home, there will, no doubt, be a lot of adjusting. There will be a lot of trial and error and a lot of pushing forward, then backtracking. A lot of failed attempts at an effective routine and a lot of frustration. Hell, let’s be honest, there could be a lot of fighting. But there could also be some healing. There could be some making up for lost time and there could be some good old-fashioned communication. There could maybe even be some precious moments in between. And that’s what I’m banking on. That’s what I’m going all in on. Moments with my babies, who aren’t babies anymore. Going back in time, way back, to when they were all mine and I didn’t have to share them with the world. When it was up to me to show them how to walk and talk. When teaching them the ABC’s was part of my to-do list and when I would spend hours just talking with them and not at them. Talking about how they can be whoever they want to be if they just work hard enough. Talking about things like how results don’t matter if you don’t get them with integrity. Talking about how kindness is more important than acceptance. It feels like a lifetime ago. But now, once again, for a fleeting moment, time is on our side.
When I first heard that school could be closing, I panicked a little. Ok, let’s be real, I panicked a lot. What will that mean for the kids’ learning? Will online classes be as effective as being in an actual classroom? Am I capable of overseeing a third grader’s education?
I mourned the St. Patty’s Day activities and party that my kindergartener would be so sad to miss. I mulled over the cancelled spelling tests, the cancelled presentations, and the cancelled student council meetings for my third grader. Will they be set back? Will they be prepared when they return? Could they fall behind? Oddly enough, I had similar feelings when we were told that baseball season could be suspended as well. Will the kids move up to the next level of Little League next year? Will Lennon remember how to pitch when (if) it starts back up again this Spring?
In somewhat of a blur I picked up my phone and called my friend who lives on the East Coast. With two girls in high school, I was sure she would understand. I dialed her number and unloaded. I laid it all out there and I told her the worst of it. I expressed every concern, piece by piece, and put everything on the table. And, well, she laughed.
It wasn’t a mean, “you’re ridiculous,” kind of laugh, it was more of an “I love you but you’re ridiculous” laugh. And that laugh was all I needed to hear in order to hear myself.
She told me that one of her daughters got her driver’s license a couple months back and although she was happy for her to have newfound independence, she’d been feeling depressed ever since. After years and years of complaining about schlepping her elementary aged kids from place to place, she had changed her tune when they entered middle school. Once sixth grade started, she felt like car rides had become her only quality time with them. Sometimes the sassy preteens that sat in her backseat would talk to her, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would give her insane amounts of attitude, sometimes they would tell her about the latest drama at school. Sometimes they would take naps. And all of it was the highlight of her day. She’d hum along to the music and glance back at them in the rearview mirror. Just knowing that they were there filled her bucket. Knowing that they were safe. Knowing that they were close. It felt so good. So, when her daughter started to drive herself around, the car rides, the highlights of her day, became few and far between. And she began to miss them more than anything she’s ever missed. She got sad, really sad. And at night she would ask her bedroom ceiling if she’d ever get them back.
This is her moment too. This time together, this closeness, this chaos. Hormones will rage and doors will slam, but she got her girls back for just a bit. She got them all to herself, one more time, just like when they were little. And she is grateful for every second.
My sweet friend also reminded me that one of her daughters missed half a year of school in 5th grade to treat leukemia. When she returned to classes in the Fall, she thrived. She added that her other daughter had an undiagnosed learning disability for years and could only retain half of what she learned in school up until second grade. Once she got the right diagnosis and the right help, she caught up to exactly where she needed to be before third grade was over. I began to realize that this time will only be a tiny blip on the radar. A short second in the lifelong learning and growing of our kids. No matter how long it lasts, when it’s all over, we will support the crap out of them, and they will bear fruit. They will prosper. It will all be ok.
I do believe, though, that in order to get our children and ourselves through this period of time unscathed, there is one expectation we must try to rise to. One piece of advice to heed, one thought to keep at the forefront of our minds, and it may be a little different for each of us. Some may find it to be an easy task and some may find it damn near impossible. I know I will be one who struggles with it. And that crucial counsel is this…don’t give in to your anxiety about the world around you right now. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity by letting your dread of the unknown get the best of you. When you feel it creeping in, focus on what’s working out. Focus on what you’re grateful for. Because in this moment, the one that we’re reclaiming, the kids are going to look to us for security and protection. And we have to make every effort not to let them down.
They’re watching us right now, more than ever. They can feel the tension, they can see the concern, and no matter how bad it’s warranted, they notice when mom’s “demon voice” comes out more often because she’s stressed. You know the voice I’m talking about. The one that surfaces from the depths of the underworld after you’ve given 4 warnings, 2 threats, a consequence and you still can’t get their attention. The one with which you scare even yourself because it’s shocking how much bass you can put in your tone when you’ve absolutely had it. The “demon voice” will undoubtedly rear its ugly head over the course of the next few weeks, but we can try to be aware. We can try to keep in mind and we can try to remember. They are paying attention.
I’m sure you can recollect exactly where you were and how you felt when the twin towers fell in 2001. And those of us who are Bay Area natives can certainly recall what we were doing, and the way the hair on our arms stood straight up, during the Earthquake of 1989. Things that rattle us, stay with us. Your kids may not remember what they did each day that they were home during “The Lockdown of 2020,” but they damn sure will remember how they felt. They might not remember the art projects, or the slime. They may not remember the board games or the movies. But they will remember the emotions. They will remember the person their mom became when she was faced with adversity. So, define this moment with a little extra reassurance, a little extra patience if you can bear it. Be forgiving. Tell them everything is going to be ok and tell them how much you love them. Tell them that you will get through this chilling time together and tell them that good will come from this. And believe it.
That’s it. That’s what I had to say. I haven’t been on the keys in a while, but I couldn’t keep this one in.
I implore you to join me in finding the good. I invite you to accompany me in my attempt to replace fear with optimism, to see the light, and to get back to the basics with the people I am lovingly stuck with in this odd space.
Keep those group texts going, send all the memes and gifs, and continue the conversations that make you smile. FaceTime your loved ones. Take up a hobby. If there’s something you love to do but haven’t done it in, let’s say 57 months, consider picking it back up. Brunch with your friend on the East Coast via Skype and pour yourself an extra dirty quarantini.
Take a breath. Kiss your kids. See the good.