Last month both boys had viruses — yes, a common right of passage, rushing the infant with a spiked fever to the emergency room, and then, weeks later, Ian’s whole body became enveloped in contagious hideous looking sores. More than usual sleepless nights following a whole lot of time just hanging in our own yard.
So we were quarantined almost this entire month of July, without play dates or barbeques or shopping or outtings much anywhere public. The first day was rough and full of longing to be somewhere enjoying summer rather than stuck on our premises like one is in January. In hard moments, I kept thinking that so much of parenting is sacrifice. Yes, I had heard of the book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” but two sick kiddos so young felt extreme.
I spent hours in frustration, worrying about how I was going to manage raising these kiddos so far from my mom and dad, brother, sister, and cousins of any sort in this damn spread out flat state and what kind of disadvantage my kids will have without any extended family near by and wondering if they will feel alone or abandoned later on and certain they will in cruel middle school, because no matter where they live it’s still a world where Trump became president and global warming rages on.
But then, magically some of the global warming of June subsided, and we spent whole mornings and afternoons simply hanging in the backyard. Ian swang for hours, and together, with the help of Spotify, we memorized every single nursery rhyme. And we almost mastered one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Duncan embraced his second-child status and spent a lot of time contentedly watching Ian and cooing at the oak trees.
We watched the tomatoes grow, growled like we were tigers, and listened to Peter, Paul, and Mary sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” just like it was still 1965. Then, after naps we took walks around the block and talked to everyone we saw. Ian cruised on his scooter (helment slightly obscuring his sores) and Duncan gazed-out cozily in the Solly wrap carrier.
And then, somehow, through this rough time, I realized I had redefined my version of fun. Our small neighborhood became a kingdom in which I was a queen rather than a martyr, and we had the full attention and care of all we came across — our amazing neighbors, construction workers, lawncare men, and of course, the kindly and charming, Juan, the garbage man with whom Ian is on a first name basis, as well as many friends who continue to text back even without a chance of me getting it together to plan anything brilliant or exciting or to even make it out of the house. Like, what more can one want, really?
As writer Mohsin Hamid commented in The New York Times Book Review when discussing how having children informs his writing, “In this way, parenthood has expanded my sense of being human. It has made me more porous. To be a parent is to be utterly dependent on the mercy of strangers, to depend on humanity to do your children no grievous harm.”
And now, Ian’s sores are fading. Duncan is again nursing normally. Global warming has returned to IL. And we, well, we’ve found the switch J. K. Rowling has so well defined: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”