Normally, I’d say I do pretty well at “adulting.” Let’s be honest, I was probably more adult at twelve than some people are at twenty.
But adulting is really kicking my butt right now. Last week, midweek, I had a really black moment. My oldest was mad at me–mad in a way every parent is conditioned to expect in adolescence, but which I’d never experienced. I wasn’t sleeping for profound anxiety, some of it connected with said teen. I’m crazy worried about my kids’ mental health, and my own ability to be the rock.
The trouble with adulting is that you have be the adult when it makes you the Bad Guy. And in the coronavirus era, parents have a lot of bad guy rules to enforce.
In my house, there’s been a lot of “guys! We are stuck with each other for AT LEAST a month. This is our opportunity to learn to love each other better.”
(Reality check: so far that message doesn’t seem to be sinking in.)
Then there was one particular email. I won’t go into except to say that it hit on my most tender spot–my relationship with my children–and I discovered the bottom of my well.
The kids were downstairs screaming at each other about Xbox time, but I was up in my bedroom, crisscross applesauce, bent over my legs and thinking simultaneously: “I’m going to get this cry out of the way” and “I didn’t know my body still bent like this.”
But I only got about three tears out of my eyes.
When Kate Basi can’t cry, it’s got to be bad.
I felt absolutely…AWFUL. I don’t remember EVER feeling that hopeless.
I said a whole lot of prayers that consisted of nothing but “Holy Spirit… please… please… please…”
I think I dozed off, staring at this raw, empty hopelessness that seems to have no expiration date. And when the next diatribe from downstairs roused me, I thought, “I need to go down and be with them. O God, I can’t do it. I don’t have it in me. I’m going to make everything worse.”
And the response came back clear and impassive:
I looked at the mountain of laundry piled in front of my bed. It had been put off four days already; it definitely needed to be done. Even so, I said, “You’re kidding, right? Do you hear those kids? I need to be downstairs being a mom.”
NO. FOLD LAUNDRY.
Now, I’ve made it my goal in life to pay attention when the Spirit speaks, and this was the clearest directive I’ve gotten in a long time.
So I sighed and threw up my hands and said, “Okay, your funeral.” And I turned on “In Want of a Wife,” a podcast on Pride & Prejudice, and folded laundry for forty minutes.
And then I went downstairs and out the door, because the Xbox wars had burned themselves out (you like my coronavirus reference? Yeah, me either) and the sun was out and it was warm outside. And there I dug up grass from around the willow tree, which needs more mulch and less grass, and transplanted plugs to other places in the yard that had no grass at all, only chickweed and henbit and crabgrass seeds salivating over the open space to wreak havoc.
And then I came in and made dinner, and I felt… better.
So what did I learn? Well, here’s what I did NOT learn. I did NOT learn how to make it less painful (on me!) to be the Bad Guy. I did NOT learn the magic words to make the child who resents the bleepety-bleep out of this whole situation to feel better and revert to his less-surly self. I did NOT learn how not to feel overwhelmed when contemplating the lack of expiration date for what we’re facing.
What I DID learn was that doing is next to godliness. And now that I know that, DOING is the focus of my next four weeks.
(Also: hiking. Whenever possible.)