Sometimes, having two hands feels sufficient. With two hands I can tickle my son until he squeals. With two hands I can give my daughter a relaxing face massage. I can open most jars, clean up most messes, do most TikTok dances.
Often, two hands feel like they cannot do enough. They feel futile; laughable; challenging; they are at least two too few.
A long time ago, a friend told me that her mom had an adage about a mom needing to grow a few extra arms with every new child. I totally get that.
I was just about to write the things for which two hands seem useless and then I felt so guilty for griping, and I felt as though I could be challenged for complaining while in a place of great privilege, and my brain started to swirl, and that is when I stopped and realized that what I was struggling to say is exactly my point:
Having two hands allows me to carry two things, even two opposite things, at the same time.
I have written about this before. For years, in fact. And, if you know me I have almost certainly said something like this to you at some point in time.
I try to use dialectical thinking as a coping mechanism, consciously replacing “but” with “and” and I find it to be helpful.
Right now, my two hands are carrying more than their fair share AND I realize that I am extremely lucky to have things to carry.
Right now, the world feels upside-down, and the pressure that so many of us feel to be doing it “right” can feel crushing. The last post I published on here is from almost two months ago, and is on “The top five tips for parenting during this scary time.”
I was so young, then.
My two hands were filled with more promise and covered with fewer wrinkles.
they were not as strong.
Two months ago, I had every week day scheduled to the half-hour. I had my kids in “mommy school” between 9 and 3, and during those hours I had poetry class every morning, baked multiple things each day, took them on virtual trips to Machu Picchu and Stonehenge and zoos across America. We were in a good groove, getting along relatively well, and managing.
Things have changed.
So much has changed.
(To put this into context, Peter has been in a public relationship with THREE separate women who were contestants on his season of the Bachelor since this time!)
Though I still believe a lot of what I wrote,
(getting dressed every day, I find, is still super helpful for me, but that’s me!)
I am now so, supremely tired. Exhausted.
I am not someone on the front lines of this crisis. I am so lucky!
Two hands, two hands, my two hands are so full.
We all tell ourselves stories, and it is hard to differentiate between the fiction and the non-fiction.
The amount that I believe something has no actual correlation with the amount that it is true.
Did you get that?
Even when I believe something so wholly, and am convinced of its veracity, aside from the data supporting it, my conviction has no bearing on whether or not it is true.
Read: we tell ourselves stories, sometimes to prepare, other times to survive.
In many ways, the conflicting stories we hear can make our hands more tired than we could have ever imagined.
In one hand we hold, “Kids thrive with routine, so keeping a schedule can help your little ones feel like they have some control during such an uncertain time.”
(I said this myself in my previous post, and I both agree with it and shudder at it.)
At the very same time, the other hand holds, “Your child won’t remember what he learned in school during the
COVID-19 pandemic, but he will remember having family dinner every night, daily game-time, taking nature walks, and that his mommy gave him a sense of calm when all was chaotic in the world.”
Which hand do I use when guiding my children through their days?
I do not know.
My best answer?
A little bit of both. Allowing kids to have some control is important for them, but also realizing that this is an unprecedented time for which we have no guide, and so try to keep them stimulated in all of the ways that are important to you, and, when you can’t, just try to keep them feeling loved.
What’s that you say?
You’re seeing red because your children just made a mess of the room you just cleaned for the 117th time today, and they are refusing to go to their ZOOM meeting, and the dog is barking at you, and you spilled the last of your coffee, and you just accidentally saw a scary headline on the news about young people on ventilators, and you need more of your anxiety medication, but going to the pharmacy is scary, and your husband is complaining that he “is sooooo tired” during the 15 seconds that he emerges from his home office, to eat a handful of Lucky Charms straight from the box and it was supposed to be sunny, today, FINALLY, but it has just started to rain, and you have your least favorite song stuck in your head on repeat and your husband left his Lucky Charms crumbs all over the floor?
You, so desperately, want all of this to end?
I feel ya.
I am terrified to go back to normal* life.
*Obviously “normal” is relative, but, for the sake of this post, I am using shorthand.
That’s right. In one hand I hold all of this fear and doubt and exhaustion and anger AND in the other I hold a weird sense of peace.
I love it when we are all home. Kenny and I get along really well. I feel safest when we are all under the same roof. My kids need me, right now, and so I am so grateful that I can give myself to them, as much as I can. The idea of Kenny going back to work outside of the home is terrifying to me.
I love having lunch as a family.
I need a break and I don’t want to be apart.
I feel the need to stay informed AND I find breaks from the news to be salient for my sanity.
I am so glad to stay connected to family and loved ones AND I have an increasingly complicated relationship with social media.
I miss my friends AND I am exhausted at the idea of making virtual plans.
I hope my kids get to go to camp this summer AND I don’t.
I feel so accomplished when my kids have a good day of “academic learning,” nailing a math lesson or getting into reading or writing an evocative poem AND I think that being their teacher, in this context, is the worst.
I want to lean in AND I want to curl up in a fort and hide.
I am supremely grateful for all of the food I have in my freezer AND I get annoyed every single time I open it and the Stauffer’s Mac and Cheese falls out and lands on my toe AND I feel like an asshole AND I know that I can be grateful while not wanting a noodle-related-injury on top of everything else.
I could go on and on and on.
We have added so many things to our plates, during this time. We now know so much more than we did when the ball dropped on January 1 and the new decade began.
Priorities have shifted, needs have changed, hierarchies have been rearranged.
I now cook food so much more deliberately, and I now have to run the dishwasher every day, and I now know how to play UNO and Mario Kart, and I now use ZOOM as a noun and a verb, and I now know more about The Real Housewives of New York than I ever thought possible, and I now believe that there are times when getting a hotdog costume delivered feels essential, and I now remember that, when adding fractions, what you do to the numerator you have to also do to the denominator.
And, to do each of these things, I have to use two hands.
Sometimes synchronized, sometimes disparate.
Two hands, two hands, it is so confusing having two hands.
for my two hands,
I am so grateful.