“But the Civil War already happened… What would we call this one? Can it happen again?”
Never did I think I would have to answer such questions from my nine year old let alone from anyone in the year of 2021. I feel like we’re trapped in a reality show and we’re running the worst parenting obstacle course someone could think of. The parenting equivalent of “Wipe Out”. There are no winners in the competition of suffering and pain that we’re all experiencing collectively because all of us are losing right now. Some more than others but none of us will benefit from the continued sedition and rioting of our capitol. Most of us are just trying to help our kids get through another day and yet there are people so filled with self-righteous rage that they’ve decided they’re going to overturn our government and I’m just trying to get my kid to wear pants.
The Twitter realm of social media is an unfiltered war of words that influences the events of the day yet so much of what I say on a daily basis has to be censored for the immediate physical safety and mental health of my kids. Not even in a solely parental way but the unique “how-will-this-sound-to-my-autistic-child” kind of way. Using an idiom, an expression or saying, can incite a wildly unpredicted response. Never will I forget the regretful day that I used expression “out of the frying pan into the fire” only to wonder where the hell my daughter was going when she ran out of the room with my cast iron pan. Is that what’s happened to our country? Our emotionally stunted megalomaniac sitting president feels better about himself when someone is listening to his tantrums and one day he just took it too far one too many times?
Should I take a page from the book of the journalists struggling to remain calm on air and make sense of this madness and parent the way they broadcast? Stick to the facts and try not to scream a mass of obscenities at the absurdity of our current circumstances? Much like those transfixed by social media, my children are always listening and influenced even when seemingly ignoring events around them. Listening and selectively responding, our children. I know this because of what they repeat after they’ve been eavesdropping. Their literal interpretations are enough to keep me awake at night for the fear of my words coming to life like feral “Jumangi” creatures. (By the way, I refuse to allow my children to watch any of those movies for fear of waking up to neighborhood wildlife inhabiting my home. I’m sure I would be met with, “They deserve to live here too.” My children have an intensely perverse sense of restorative justice when it comes to animals. But that’s another story.)
They act out what they’ve heard with their stuffed animals and toy cars. They name their toys after people that are mentioned in conversation amongst the adults. They emulate our habits and mimic those of each other in yet again the painfully literal fashion that comes naturally to them.
“No, no, nooooo! Don’t read my “diarrhea”, mama!”
It took me a moment not to panic until I sniffed the air and didn’t detect feces being present. My next thought was if Trump refers to his own regretful posts in the same fashion.
The fear that initially steamrolled through my brain was that he had an accident inside their cardboard playhouse. I immediately imagined the Google search for that one, how to clean poop off of cardboard… but then I saw he was holding a miniature Halloween notebook that was gifted to him and remembered how much he liked to emulate his sister as of late.
“Oooh…is this your “diary”?”
“Yeah, ‘dat what I SAID!”
Exchanges like this happen for about 30% of my day. Most result in laughter, some in tears, some even in diarrhea. If it’s not mispronunciations it’s literal interpretations of idioms with an adherence to a request in an Amelia Bedelia like fashion.
“If “second hand” clothes are used does that mean new stuff should be called “first hand” or just “not used”?”
“Why do we say “chicken or the egg” when really you mean you don’t know? Is it just something people say because they don’t want to read?”
Or the many rules that they invent and all of us must seemingly abide by in their minds. For instance, Leonora is distressed by Owen being injured and any event of mishap becomes top secret to the point that I have to covertly triage his “owies” like we’re hiding behind enemy lines.
“Don’t tell sister, ok?”
“Ok, I understand but you always have to tell mama when you have an injury so I’m proud of you for telling me.”
“Yeah, yeah, OOOKAAAY only “good secrets” – OOOOKAYYY. Can I tell NOW?”
“Yes, I’m sorry, show me your owie and I’ll be sure not to tell sister. Here, hold the flashlight…”
Then there’s Owen’s loose interpretation of “my body, my choice” into his rendition of “my tablet, my choice”. His extensive Minecraft city has become part of him and an extension of himself to the point that he wants us to respect his tablet time. My son has jacked into the Matrix. Thanks pandemic. The six years of keeping him unglued from a tablet like the rest of humanity has been undone by pressure from the school and the bleakness of existing, well done.
My children now are addicted to screen time like squirrels to acorns. Even if I was to dole out the hours based on other pursuits they would continue to hoard them because winter isn’t just coming. It’s not leaving us. The world is going mad outside our doors and I’m trying to maintain the circus as if the tent isn’t on fire.
Just the other day Leonora was doing her speech therapy online with her microphone headset on so I could only hear her side of things. They’re supposed to be working on idioms that day because Leonora had questions once again but how to use them and understand them.
“What does “screw you” mean?….Maybe it means you drill somebody?…Ooooh, I didn’t mean to be rude, I’m sorry…” looking around sheepishly, “I didn’t understand how someone could use a drill on something while they were driving.”
Our words matter. They hurt, they console, they inspire, and they can topple a government. They also make it worth living by giving us humor. The stories that we all have within us to tell and the power to choose kindness and decency over the destruction of humanity. The simple act of making others laugh is enough to brighten someone’s day and what an easier time we all would have right now if we focused on helping one another, if even with a laugh, instead of making it more difficult to simply live through another day of the pandemic. Less than two weeks to go until what we can all hope is a return to the news being boring and life being a new sense of calm. I refuse to call this era the “new normal” and hope instead we’ll refer to it in the past tense as simply “the pandemic”. Or, as Owen likes to say, “the pan-them-in-it”.