My kids start school today and what the hell. I have an inbox with the chaotic energy of Tyra hosting DWTS. It’s full of schedules and Zoom links and a web of meetings to unwind. As the type of freak who likes to zero my inbox, it’s one thousand percent a representation of the state of my brain. I am coping as any healthy normal person does. By sneaking candy corn and staying as caffeinated as possible.
I have a garbage truck worth of questions to sort out, although I know full well there’s likely no real answers. How do I make my four year old sit in front of the computer? (With clothes on.) Does anyone know how this is supposed to work? (While staying sane.) What is the best-case scenario here? (Would like my children not to turn completely feral before Thanksgiving, but I have real concerns.) How will I get anything done? (I won’t, will I?)
The non-answer to all of these essentially non-questions is: the limit does not exist. No one knows what they’re doing. Ever.
I remember when I first realized my mom didn’t know what she was doing. That she was trying her gosh darndest, but flailing about wildly as we all do while somehow trying to maintain a facade of dignity. She often succeeded, even gracefully, but this day she was humanized. All because of one exploding diaper.
I’m the oldest of four girls and my mom, bless her heart, took all of us to my sixth grade registration day. I did not get boobs or mature until I was well into high school, so I looked not ready to be there. I walked into the middle school and saw 13- and 14-year-old MEN with patchy moustaches and WOMEN with underwire bras and thongs sticking out of their low-rise jeans. Them was dark times. Meanwhile, I walked in with my wire rimmed glasses, butterfly clips, and overalls looking like a regular Ramona Quimby, Age 8.
My mom always looked like she really had her shit together. She was a hot mom who played tennis and ran half marathons but also did like CRAFTS with us. I cannot begin to imagine what that would be like. But that day, I looked at her, dragging around my three sisters, ranging from ages eight to not-even-two, and they looked like ragamuffins and I was, for the first time, very aware. It was a whole schlep rolling in and suddenly I had so many loud little sisters. My mom, for the first time, looked harried and stressed — Which, of course! Errands with small children is a nightmare! — but she just looked so human.
I was trying to look cool, like I belonged in that godforsaken middle school, when I saw my youngest sister playing in what appeared to be fluffy white snow. I couldn’t figure out what it was. My mom was distracted, trying to fill out paperwork — but the baby was playing in wet, yellow snow? It dawned on me my youngest sister’s diaper had exploded and the little pee-filled absorbent balls were all over the carpeted floor being smashed diligently into the fibers by my next youngest sister. You know that fake hair-like carpet I’m talking about. You’ve seen one public school, you’ve seen ‘em all.
The more I watched in horror, the more little piss balls were being spread in an even larger and larger surface area. I looked to my mom to do something, but I just remember her laughing. Because truly — there was nothing else to do. So often, there is nothing else to do.
I’ve never felt more like a kid than I have these past six months — looking for my mom to stop my baby sisters from being disgusting while trying to be cool and adjusting my butterfly clips, but realizing she’s distracted and stressed and she doesn’t know what to do either. The best possible outcome from the whole messy situation was that I learned two things: one, to laugh when everything is terrible; and two, that adults don’t know anything. They’re not any better at stopping an exploding diaper, or an exploding pandemically driven school year full of essentially the same things as a dirty diaper.
As any real grown up knows, adulthood is trying to fix the broken things about you that got out of sorts the first 20 years or so of your life. A thing people say a lot amidst really unpleasant things that can happen to children is “kids are resilient.” I’m not always sure kids are resilient, but I think they can be good at putting on a good face for the adults in their lives. We’re asking a lot of our kids, and we’re asking a lot of ourselves too.
So since we’ve established that no one knows what they’re doing, now is the perfect time to introduce a new parenting advice column at The Beehive — Remotely Answered. I’ve never before needed a network of equally confused parents as I do now.
In the grand tradition of your grandmother’s favorite advice column, you’ll write in to The Beehive with a question, and I’ll respond back with something straight out of my ass. It will be great. I can’t promise reliable advice, but I can promise solidarity and hopefully a laugh or two along the way. Heck, I’ll even take an eyeroll.
Remotely Answered will be taking your Qs starting this week. Next month we’ll be tackling Halloween and the Covid of it all. Is it possible? Will it even be fun? A DIY toddler hazmat costume! Themed family costumes! You be Bob Woodward, your partner can be Trump, and baby’s the tape recorder. Your toddler can be the ethical dilemma. (Kidding. Maybe?)
Email me at email@example.com or tweet @TheBeehiveHQ. Can’t wait to commiserate with you.
(Design: Joshua Fowlke) (Editor: Rachel Swan)