Thursday, December 3 2020

my inner monologue, sulk forts, and quarantine



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Thursday. It’s a good day to give your work one last push so you can go into the weekend with something to celebrate. I’m feeling good today. I’ve been getting some good sleep this week and keeping up with my chores. This morning while shaking off the bags under my eyes, I wiped out our microwave, scoured our stove, and I even relocated a wayward jumping spider. Her new home on a window sill in the windiest corner of our deck wasn’t the most ideal situation, but if I were a spider I’d rather face the cold than get washed down the sink with old sourdough starter and baby food.

Sip. How is the spider population doing in your house? And how was your day yesterday?

For me, yesterday was a typing day. I typed words in slack, in google docs, in emails, and in work tickets. I typed explanations, answers, questions, recommendations, and details. So much typing.

Do you remember those days before COVID where you were practicing a presentation or leading a meeting for people and you get sick of the sound of your own voice? While working remote, I’ve noticed that the same thing can happen to me, except with my internal monologue. For me, that’s when things like podcasts and movies are therapeutic. Sometimes I just want to quiet the inner monologue, and the most effective way to do that is to find an external monologue to distract it. Like handing a shiny set of car keys to a baby.

“It just feels like one of those days where all I’ve done today is bother people on slack,” I joked with my team over Zoom.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the living room Rodney was having a different kind of mood swing. Coming downstairs to refill on coffee, I passed by one of his trademark sulk forts, newly erected from pillows, blankets, and dog beds. Even though I couldn’t see his head or his body, he mysteriously detected my presence.

2020 12 03 sulk fort

“I’m just a little tired,” said Rodney with a sad muffled voice. “I’m just a little sad.”

“OK, dude,” I called back into the pillow fort. “Lemme know if you need anything.”

“What’s with the sulk fort,” I said, grabbing a seat by Marissa at the dining room table.

“It’s a no TV morning,” said Marissa. “He didn’t take the news well.”

The most common catalyst for a sulk fort morning is when we refuse to turn the TV on for Rodney when he wants it. Rodney’s mild temperament keeps him from throwing dramatic fits or embellishing boyish tantrums. Typically, he just quietly whimpers like a puppy, slinking away with his choice blankets and pillows.

“This time, he growled at me though,” said Marissa.

“He growled?” I asked. “What do you mean he growled?”

“He growled.” laughed Marissa. “I told him he couldn’t watch Blaze this morning, and he started growling at me.”

“Did you grab his neck scruff?” I laughed. “Put him in his crate? Put him on his back to assert dominance?”

To be clear, Marissa and I aren’t anti TV. I think kids are people, and all people should have the right to shut off their brain during their favorite time of the day. But what we’ve noticed with letting kids watch TV is that it’s only effective for so long. About three hours into a Bubble Guppies binge, even Rodney gets bored. So we budget TV time - not because we think it’s bad, but because we want to really capitalize on something that keeps him out of our hair.

And to be honest, sulk fort mornings can be excellent. Rodney hasn’t caught on to the fact that ignoring mom and dad for an entire morning while they drink coffee isn’t the devastating sanction he thinks it is. Sulk fort mornings are like a paid holiday - not only do you get a quiet morning by yourself, but you earn an even quieter afternoon later in the day, thanks to the Bubble Guppies card.

With the help of a PB&J and some goldfish crackers, Rodney finally snapped out of his funk by lunch time. He was feeling much happier when he found me in the kitchen wiping down his magna-tiles.

“What you doing, dada?” he asked.

“I’m cleaning your magna-tiles, dude,” I said. “It’s been on our project board for like four weeks now, and I’m sick of looking at it.”

“I have an idea,” said Rodney. “I help you.” Rodney dug his step ladder out of the corner, climbing up beside me at the counter. He snatched the bottle of Windex.

“You can totally help me, dude,” I said. “Thanks. We don’t want water to get trapped in there, so I’m just giving them a little spritz and wiping them down.”

I’m always impressed with Rodney’s alacrity to help out around the house. Whether we’re cleaning up the kitchen, picking up toys, or working in the yard, Rodney sniffs out the work and joins the crew with his plastic bag of tools. As a kid, I don’t ever remember actively looking for work to do around the house.

After we had finished cleaning the magna-tiles, Marissa discretely waved me over to the computer. “Dada, I have to show you something,” she said opening a window. She was on Ticket Master shopping for seats to see Dude Perfect live.

“Woah,” I said, pulling up a seat. “When is this happening.”

“July of 2021,” said Marissa. “Most things I read say a vaccine will be ready in the spring.”

“And we have been talking about doing something special when quarantine ends,” I added.

“We also have two weddings the same month,” laughed Marissa. “Summer of 2021 is going to be busy.”

“And just think about it,” I laughed. “We’re going to be so whiny. I bet we’re going to be exhausted from actually doing things next year.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rodney’s composure during this quarantine. Full disclosure, while working late at night on the computer a week ago, a picture of us at Dave and Busters appeared on our randomized computer wallpaper, and I immediately bursted into tears.

Quarantine has been profoundly challenging - not for the things Marissa and I are missing out on, but for was Rodney and Miles are missing. It makes me angry that the high points of his banal week are playing hide and seek with his parents or talking to his cousins through a computer.

Please stay home. Please wear a mask when you go out. Please avoid seeing anyone you don’t live with and you don’t take care of.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay healthy, everyone.