When it boils down to it, the point of social distancing over the past couple months (or physical distancing, since we now live in an age that allows social gatherings in a non-physical space), is to keep humans separate from a virus. You can read all about the virus, but I recommend only reputable sources, most of which are not found on social media.
Anyway, this virus could wreak havoc on the world we once thought of as “ordinary.” But don’t rock my alternative music too soon–this post is not brought to you by Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World.”
Instead, I would like to elaborate on what this separation looks like for me.
Let’s start with food. Most days I make 2-3 meals for 4-6 children. Guess how many of them will eat the same thing?
If you guessed “zero,” you just won a free grilled cheese sandwich.
That’s right. These socially up-close-and-personal kids keep their tastes extremely separate.
When I was in third grade, my “Perfect Day” journal entry included a wish for twenty grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. A lot has changed in thirty years.
Prepare for what happens when I tell six kids we’re having grilled cheese for lunch (cowering under your dining room table would be a good start).
“I want cheese and ham on my grilled cheese sandwich.”
“I want only cheese, but put it on after you grill. Melted cheese is disgusting.”
“I hate bread–may I have ham alone and cheese alone? I hate when they touch.”
“I want cheese, but I want that kind you slice with a slicer. The kind that comes pre-sliced (it’s the exact same brand and flavor and made from happy cows) tastes creepy.”
“I don’t eat sandwiches, Mom. Don’t you know that yet?”
Response: “[Sigh] You’re 10; make your own lunch.”
“Mom, I’m 11.”
“I meant you’re the 10th person in line for a sandwich. Take a number and I’ll see if I care anymore by the time I get to you.”
And finally, the clincher: “I don’t want this.”
“I never said I wanted a sandwich.”
“Then I guess I’ll find someone hungry enough to eat it (that’s where the free giveaway comes in!!) because I don’t eat carbs unless I want to be grumpy, and you sure don’t want to see me grumpy.”
These children will grow up thinking that grumpy is synonymous with “murderous.”
[Now before you send me emails and comments about how I should hand them a crust of bread and a glass of warm water and send them to their not-so-separate rooms, keep in mind that I am in.a.mood, so humor me and let me exaggerate how exhausting it is to be me today. Just an “I see you, I hear you” will do.]
Consider these elements of a typical “shut down, socially distanced day:”
Three adults working full-time at home. Five children doing distance learning (I dare you to ask me how much we suck at that). One adult doing continuing education courses for her job. Another adult trying to make contact with the outside world while hoping to avoid other people complaining about other people complaining. With crappy internet and a Wave Broadband contact who is harder to find than an associate at Walmart.
And I get to keep the kids separated from the three separate office spaces where the working adults go.
And separate from each other if the kidneeding meds doesn’t have them on-board yet.
And separate from the puppy (not mine) because they’re still figuring out their role as novice puppy owners.
And separate from the toddler if (and Hell might freeze over…) I actually get him to nap.
And separate from the pianos (there are, indeed, two) if anyone is working or napping.
And separate from the hens and chicks if you are a toddler trying to feed them to the puppy (she’s a bird-hunting dog).
And then the hens need to be separate from the chicks because those social classes don’t mix. And the chicks from the cat; and the cat from the dog; and the cheese from the mice, and so on.
Then I’m separating the dirty laundry and sorting the clean. Separating recyclables from garbage from burn-pile fodder. Separating the glass from the plastics. Separating the weeds from the garden. The mud from the walls, doors, shoes, nostrils, and every conceivable surface in this home sweet home.
[I actually almost ignored what looked like a mud swipe on my quilt because I thought it was my dark chocolate stash that I’d failed to keep separate from my toddler. I’m glad I sniffed rather than licked the substance in question. It was poop.]
And the toddler needs to be separate from pretty much everything–the fridge, the shower, the hose, the animals, the electronics, the toaster, the garden, the workshop, the mud, the forest (heart-stopping moment last week as I went searching for his remains and he casually reappeared from his twenty minute retreat like “whatcha cryin’ for, Mom?”)
And I know every grey cloud has its silver lining, but sometimes the silver lining is just so bright that it’s blinding me. So, yes, the life of a stay-at-home mom who swore she’d never do homeschooling (and who hasn’t sworn off swearing ’cause I swear I’m gonna lose my mind) is unfolding in the ideal place because we have plenty of space and no neighbors asking us to come out and play. It’s just that we’re having to do all of this silver lining stuff while wanting to scream “Get off of my cloud!” [Aunt K., tell me you at least know that song reference;)]
And that Stones song, by the way, would make a fabulous quarantine cover for any of you folks stuck at home with nothing to do (could I send you some laundry, or at least a few metric tons of mud??)
[Truth be told, my kids’ teachers totally understand what the limitations are right now and trust me to just do what makes sense for our distance education. I mostly have good days with these mess-loving kids on our quasi farm. And I have easily twenty brilliant blog posts that cast me as the hero who has conquered all, but today I just needed something as compelling as a bad mood to get me back on the keyboard. If you haven’t had enough post-scripts, you’re in luck! There’s one more.]
[Do you know what a mondegreen is? It’s mis-heard song lyrics. Someone said, “and laid him on the green (a dead body, perhaps?), but it sounded like “Lady Mondegreen” to most people. I have for you a mondegreen within a mondegreen.
So the song referenced in my title (“Come Out and Play” by Offspring) always sounded to me like a commentary about segregation in the pre-Civil Rights Era South (and post-South in many less obvious instances as well…). Turns out it’s about gang violence. I heard:
You gotta keep ‘em separated
Like the latest fashion
Like a spreading disease
They’re stopped on the way to the classroom
Yeah, they’re [something something.
And a whole lot more yelling
‘Cause we’re in the 90s!]
If the whites and coloreds don’t mix
Then tie a rope up, tie a rope up, tie a rope up, hey!
(I thought they were referencing lynchings)
You talkin’ back to me?
Shut your mouth!
You gotta keep ‘em separated (as in segregated)
You disrespecting me (ever read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?)
[Hey-yay-yay these count as rhymes]
We’ll be doing this in time
Get out the stains! (on our history’s record)
(And I never did catch the “Come Out and Play,” but that would have fit into MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech remarkably well)
Anyway, our minds have a way of finding what they’re looking for. Not only did I hope to find a social commentary on racism, I thought I had found a clever song about separating my laundry (whites and colors don’t mix), drying them on a clothesline (tie a rope up), and how to remove stains. You can see that both my analytic and imaginative brains have been working overtime for far too long. If you read this far, I will dedicate my next ten loads of mud-soaked laundry to you. Thanks for listening. I feel better now.]