COVID-19 No. 14: All the Sleep in the World Can’t Help

ALTHOUGH MY HOUSEHOLD is holding up reasonably well, there have been recent moments of turbulence.

The extension of Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order and a continuance of school closures, both modified by the most dreaded of words — indefinitely — have exacerbated the uncertainty of our circumstances. And uncertainty, for me, at least, can be emotionally troublesome.

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The girls have demonstrated remarkable resilience, but they’re teenagers, and they’ve been forced to deal with a world-shaking catastrophe they had nothing to do with. It is challenging enough for adults to have to pick our way through this minefield. For teens?

It’s amazing they haven’t taken up arms against the generations — mine included — that have dealt them the shittiest of hands, knowing what the cards were and not caring.

During a low period a couple of days ago, one of the girls noted how tired she was.

Maybe try taking a nap? I suggested.

It’s not the kind of tired that makes me want to sleep, she said.

And, boy, did she nail it. This is an exhausting time. The hourly fluidity of the situation is terribly draining. And even if you try to consume it in small doses, the relentless torrent of pandemic-related news gives rise to an ever-present nervousness that buzzes quietly in the background. Keeping the buzz at bay requires mental bandwidth, and expending bandwidth seeps energy. I feel exhausted just about all day long.It’s not the kind of tired that makes you want to sleep, she said.

I am reminded of the chronic pain I endured when a disc in my lower back blew out, coming to rest on a nerve and sending searing sciatic pain screaming down my leg. Keeping the pain at bay so that I could function at the most basic level sucked up bandwidth. It left me tired. But, as my daughter astutely observed, not the kind of tired that sends you to bed in the middle of the afternoon.

In my case, it was the kind that makes you clumsy and forgetful. In her case, it was the kind that jumps you on the pier and casts you adrift, unsure of when or where you’ll make landfall.

Control what you can control, I tell my kids. That counsel has never felt more salient. | DL

The Elusive But Vital Pursuit of Balance, Part 571

TDsweatsTHINGS WERE proceeding smoothly, until suddenly they weren’t. Everything blew up.

Work exploded, as the calendar moved into my department’s busiest time of the year and we took on a major new project on top of our usual other duties.

Home exploded, as the girls added play rehearsal and spring sports to their already lengthy litany of activities, as I tacked t-ball coaching to my bulletin board of commitments, and as J. and I delved further into the planning stages of a big-time renovation initiative.

And I exploded, as months of wintertime consumption and hibernation had me feeling heavy and dull, my clothes uncomfortable and my body looking decidedly middle-aged.

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Seriously, Was There Anything Ever Better Than Beating Your Dad at Something?

WHEN SHE heard that her final indoor soccer game had been switched to a players-versus-parents scrimmage, R. uncaged her inner trash talker almost immediately.

“What do you think?” I wrote in forwarding her coach’s note about the change.

soccer shoes“4 words, Dad,” she emailed back. “I will cream you.”

That’s how I found myself yesterday morning wearing a t-shirt and shorts, standing inside an enormous complex of basketball courts and artificially turfed soccer fields, and hoping not to pull anything so severely that I couldn’t drive home.

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Cuteness Giveth, and Cuteness Taketh Away

FOR ALL of the poise and skill they show on the pitch, in the concert hall, and on the boards, R. and Q. lately have taken to reminding us that they are 11 and 6. It’s as if they don’t want Mrs. D. and me to get too smug in our parenting achievements. And it’s working.

R. is questioning every last request, comment, and direction, whether it involves her chores, her clothes, or her bedtime. “Why?” “Why not?” “No, I don’t.” “Yes, I do.” “But, Dad/Mom …” These are flung at us constantly, in response to the very smallest and most insignificant statement on our part. It’s a grinding ground war, and each instance of resistance represents another few inches of depth in the trench she continues to dig with dogged determination.

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Taking the Q Train: A New Way to Broadway?

curtainsLEST YOU think that R. is the only Dadlibbing daughter with artistic tendencies, rest assured that Q. is beginning to make her mark as well. At age 6.

A wonderful, dedicated mom at Q.’s elementary school is staging a couple of student-starring musicals next month to raise money for our Parent Teacher Organization. She recruited volunteers to help backstage and landed my piano teacher as the shows’ pianist. And she announced auditions in order to separate the actors into two groups: speaking parts and chorus.

What Mrs. D. and I didn’t realize until the night before was that Q. was supposed to memorize lines from one of the scenes for her audition. Each of us spent the remainder of the evening and some of the next morning running lines with her. By the time she left for school, script in hand for further study, she was doing pretty well. But she’s in kindergarten, after all, so we were all kinda, “Yeah, we should have started helping her earlier, but she’ll have fun in the chorus, and she’ll have plenty more chances in the years to come.”

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