THE NEW NORMAL: A short story about living as a parent during the pandemic

THE NEW NORMAL: A short story about living as a parent during the pandemic

She rose in the morning— Day 27.

In groggy defeat she rolled over, tucking her chin deeper into the blankets, longing for the day to be over before it even began. Outside her door she could hear the kids stirring. Pounding little footsteps hurried to the living room. Closing her eyes she could see them in dinosaur pajamas seeking the remote control, giggling as they snuck once again, to watch Paw Patrol. 

Turning over, she strained to open her eyes against the blinding sun. The flutter of her eyelashes stole across the soft fabric as she reached out to the cold, empty side of the bed. She had an 8am call to get to, and didn’t want to be late again. 

She mustered up enough energy to lurch out of the bed. The brisk cool morning air fanning her bare feet as they emerged out from under the covers. She glanced at her phone, and grabbed it on her way to the bathroom. Closing the door behind her, she lightly launched her phone onto the counter, sat on the toilet and put her head in her hands, listening to the soft tick, tick, tick, of the heater catching and turning on. Unable to ignore it anymore, she grabbed a toothbrush, vigorously attacking the enamel of her teeth with mint flavored goop. 

Rinsing her face, she looked up into wary eyes with dark bags. The days were getting harder. She was stressed more now that any other time before. Sleep became more difficult, eating was continuous. Turning her head from side-to-side she clasped her hand at her throat, wondering when those creeping lines around her neck first began to form. 

Tiptoeing back across the cold floor, she reached for a scrap of fabric. After a quick sniff test, she deemed it clean enough for a conference call. Only her children could smell her now, well and the dog. She peeked into the living room on her way to the dining room table. 

Her children were zombie-fied in front of the tv, and didn’t even look up at her approach. Flipping the lid up on her computer, she put her finger to the mouse and woke up the screen. Damn, it was 7:58am, so much for breakfast. 

She plopped down, fitting her earbuds into her ears and clicked around until she linked into the conference call. How is it that everyone else looked like they were doing so well? So perky and upbeat. As Debra cracked yet another joke about toilet paper, her boss came on interrupting several peals of laughter, mostly faked. 

Her boss got straight to business, and halfway through, she heard snickers coming from her co-workers. Glancing behind her she realized that her son was dancing in the background, lifting up his shirt to flash everyone. She felt the flushed heat of embarrassment rush into her face, as she angled her camera away, not wanting to yell at her son in front of the people she worked with. 

After she exited the online meeting her phone lit up with a text from her husband. Her heart leapt to her throat as it did every time she saw his name flash across the screen. He had left early that morning to get to work at the hospital. Fortunately, he was just texting a quick hello and not the words she kept dreading; that he had tested positive for COVID-19. She texted a quick reply as she went into the kitchen to make breakfast. 

Her eldest son came in rubbing his eyes and yawning like a cat after a nap. He paddle-footed into his chair before asking what was for breakfast. Before she could respond her little princess came bounding in from the living room shouting for pancakes. She put down four cereal bowls, amidst three loud, groaning protests. 

She felt the bubble of rage make its way up her stomach and out her mouth as she yelled at them for being ungrateful, for being messy, for being disrespectful and rude. It’s like she couldn’t stop herself from proclaiming, no more tv, no tablets, and no dessert. Her chest tightened, heart pumping from exertion and guilt. 

She blew it again. 

If only she could get to sleep. 

If only she wasn’t worried about bills, her husband’s safety, the severe cut in her work hours, and keeping the kids entertained all day. 

She knew she shouldn’t complain. 

She was grateful to know that they had enough to get by, at least for a few months. They had a home and even had a chance to stock up on non-perishables before everything went to crap. 

She looked around at the three innocent eyes that matched her own tear filled ones. Reaching out her arms, she sunk down to the ground a small light of happiness, of hope, ignited in her core as her children gathered around her and held her close. 

Trusting and innocent as they were, her children displayed grace, forgiveness, and love for her. 

It was enough. 

The weight of their world rested on her shoulders, and she knew that they would always be fiercely protected, but that they needed to work together. They needed to support each other. She accepted then and there that they would have to make a change to thrive in this new world.

The uncertainty and unknown created more fear. She needed to take back her power and focus on what she could control.

Treat this “new normal” as just “normal.” 

Dusting off her pants, she stood up, children in tow, and took them to their rooms. She pulled out clean clothes for her kids and while they were changing, she went into her room to dress herself. Emerging, she opened up each window she passed letting in the current of fresh ocean air and sun rays. She waltzed into the kitchen with more pep and vigor than she had the last few weeks, and began to take out the ingredients for pancakes. 

After breakfast, that dull ache of anxiety could be felt in her temples, but she rose, shook it off, and got her kids to help her clear the table and clean the kitchen. The sparkling white countertops will be messy again after lunch, but seeing their shining glory, even if only for a few hours gave her the boost that she needed to clear the dining room table and set up a school work station for the kids. 

The day continued bustling with activity. From walks outside, laundry, and getting some work done while the kids napped, she continued to make the hard choice. To not give in to her circumstances, and little-by-little she felt more like herself, more human, more powerful. 

She knew that tomorrow may not be easy, but tonight, she would sleep well.


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