Query update: It’s bad. Got another two rejections this week. Sigh. Feedback from my editor due next week, so I’m hoping for my seventh wind.
Schools are out again, and my kids have both been exposed to a Covid case, so we are on quarantine. In my 800 sq ft apartment. In spring. So, yeah. It’s been a barrel of laughs.
I have created a massive white board chart with everyone’s online meetings over the day. Throughout our well-planned and meticulously scheduled day, I’ve done everything I can to keep ourselves on track. Come 5:00, I’m soul-weary and exhausted.
I made my children grilled cheese sandwiches for supper, because they’re fast and cheap and easy, and that was all I had spoons for. (Metaphorical spoons; I know that you don’t eat grilled cheese with actual spoons.) I heated the pan and got to it. One sandwich turned out okay; the cheese melted and the bread toasted. The other sandwich– I don’t know; there may have been a poltergeist or something. The bread burned and the cheese was still hard. I flipped it over and the other side burned as well, but the cheese was hard as ever.
Then I flipped it over again and all the cheese fell out and onto the frying pan. Now, the second side was even more burnt than the first. “Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT!” I shouted.
Tears pricked at the backs of my eyes. I felt like I was failing at life.
“What’s wrong?” my oldest asked. (Also, BTW, we’re allowed to swear in my house. The rules are we can swear inside, as long as we don’t swear at school, and as long as we don’t say anything hurtful to anyone.)
“Oh, just– this cursed sandwich.” I muttered.
Of course, both kiddos ran to see the cursed sandwich. They were doubtless expecting a sandwich with special powers, or a neo-noire aesthetic, or maybe a desiccated ball of carbon that has been damned by a wizard.
They were probably pretty disappointed that it was just a regular, burnt sandwich. I squinched my eyes and sucked back my tears.
I tried to explain. “See how it’s, like, super-burned on the outside, and all the cheese fell out, and I’m just feeling a lot of feelings right now.”
I piled the turgid cheese back onto the bread in a desperate attempt to salvage it.
The kiddos watched me break down over a sandwich for a moment. Then my youngest spoke up.
“I’d eat it.” she said, then ran back to watch TV. I was prepared for a crying fit, but no one judged my bad sandwich. These small words of acceptance sewed closed the gaping wound in my soul (or at least some of it). Parents are balancing so many sloppily-stacked packages of kids’ feelings and school schedules, and assignment due-dates, and ass-deep grief. And then when life hands you a cursed sandwich, everything comes tumbling down.
Sometimes re-doing a cursed sandwich from scratch is one box you can’t stack on top of the others. So you throw away the more-burnt slice of bread, re-stack the cheese, turned down the element, and pray that this cursed sandwich doesn’t destroy one more slice of bread. To my relief, the sandwich turned out okay, and my youngest happily ate it.
Pandemic parenthood isn’t about being perfect all the time, but doing the best you can in the moment. Your “best” changes from moment to moment, and that’s okay. And you have to prioritize. There will be times when your child needs something from you that you can’t give, and you have to be okay with that too. Pandemic parenthood means falling a mile short every single minute of the day. And then watching as your kids notice your woeful inadequacy.
When we’re out of this, it’s important to remember that our feelings were real and our experiences were valid. We’ll all make sense of this together, once we have time and space away from this. We will emerge stronger and softer, more in touch with ourselves and our children.
But for now, we can cry over a cursed sandwich.
Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.