This Is Us
Invisible: The Fault Lines of Motherhood
We take a few steps from our beds to remote teaching and remote learning, to four desks in three rooms. In our Queens, New York City apartment, we endure lock down, our entry into the pandemic. I hear eight-year old giggling and then I tell him to get off YouTube for the millionth time. I want to slam the lid shut. But he’s supposed to be in school; he needs it to connect with his friends. Now every time I look, he’s opening and closing windows like a secret agent.
He’s a social kid who’s cut off. I hear him talking to his friends. His I’m-taking-you-seriously voice, his laughing voice, his squealing voice, his excited-and-competitive voice, his frustrated voice. Phones, tablets, and laptops orchestrate a community of 8-year olds typing, messaging, chatting, clicking away Online.
8-year old has been my co-worker for over a year now, and he’s constantly clicking. Our desks are side-by-side, so I lean over and say, “Please stop clicking! I’m grading papers.” When we attempt to tug, limit, it’s-been-5-hours — at his brimming bottles of tech, he explodes. We’re online too much, planning, teaching, grading ourselves. Daily, I motion for 8-year old to get off YouTube, snapping my fingers while, simultaneously talking to my students. He smiles as he slowly shifts his laptop away from my vision.
When I tech-cut 8-year old, he staggers into living room, eyes glazed, arms waving like zombie, muttering and maniacally laughing, possessed by the flickering light. When enough unplugged time has passed, he curls up in bed with his 72 beloved Naruto books. He learns how to peel a hard-boiled egg, and says thoughtfully, “This is very satisfying.”
Since pandemic beginnings, fourteen-year-old got up each morning and stood across from me, eye-to-eye, to see if he had yet surpassed my height, moaning he wasn’t growing fast enough. Then one day, he meets me eye-to-eye, and grins. Suddenly he’s is above my eye. He’s taller than me.
He outgrows his pants, shoes and t-shirts. His voice lowers; he feels deeply. He teenage slams doors, cracking the frame. Restless. Agitated. He reaches and pushes away. We go through the bewilderingly complex process of applying to New York City high schools. He loses it, raging, sobbing, face red with…