You will not write
It doesn’t matter if you put out overflowing bowls of cereal on Saturday night, all ready for the morning. If you have giant water bottles filled with fresh water. If you have milk within reaching distance in the fridge that is down low enough in the bottle that it is pour-able by 4-year-olds. It doesn’t matter if they are allowed to watch cartoons for 2 straight hours and if the 9-year-old is more than capable of navigating around the outrageous, seemingly infinite, number of options for what they can watch.
They will interrupt you again and again and again.
They will not accept, “I have to work.”
They will not accept, “I have to write.”
They will ask why. They will not stop to think—why should they?—that you have been home with them for three weeks now even though you have massive amounts of work that you need to do. People who work outside of the house, don’t have to field dozens of questions as they work about why they have to work.
Other people, you think, fuming, don’t have to constantly defend their right to work.
Or maybe most do. Maybe you’re thinking (as usual) of a small, subset of over-privileged people perhaps more privileged than you. Maybe you’re forgetting history. Like all of history. Yes, definitely you’re forgetting history and how hard groups have fought for the right to work. How certain groups have given their lives for the chance to work. Okay. Jesus. That was embarrassing and white-privileged and First-World-Problems of you to even think and fume about. Sorry.
You are drinking coffee in an air-conditioned room typing on a goddamn MacBook Air with stacks of books for leisure-class people like Happiness Is …by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar and The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim next to you. Okay, so scratch that about most people don’t have to defend their right to work.
Still amazed at the variety of the interruptions. The complaints of “I’m cold” and “This blanket has holes on it” from people who are perfectly capable of fetching their own non-holed blankets. But no, to be fair, your husband often yells at them for dragging blankets around the house, whether to use as intended, or wear, or make forts out of.
Okay, fine! You’ll get the damn blankets.
The requests to get dressed.
Are you kidding? These kids who on school mornings wriggle away from their clothes like cats refusing Halloween costumes when we need to catch the bus at 7:15 AM insist now on getting fully dressed, on a Sunday morning, when we have literally no where we have to be and I was hoping they might lolly-gag around in PJs and get involved in quiet projects that don't involve needles or stamping the walls?
You’re still amazed that you could get so incredibly annoyed at a perfectly sweet request like, “Will you watch with us?”
Or, worse, that is, worse in terms of how cold and hardened you’ve become, when they ask if you could cuddle for just a few minutes.
You have Cheerios, you want to scream at them, the wrong kind even (don’t ask), which is to say the sweetened kind, which for the kids is the right kind. You have water. You have milk. You never drink juice when I put it out so I’ve stopped putting it out. Blankets. TV. A huge, flat-screened smart TV. You have Netflix. You have On Demand. You have some free trial of Hulu something or other with all seven seasons of Golden Girls. And you’re asking me to cuddle? Seriously? Is enough ever enough?
Now before you—that is some disembodied, unforgiving, judgemental voice in your head — go saying maybe they’d trade the Honey-Nut Cheerios and the blankets and Teen Titans Go! for just a nice little cuddle with their parents remind yourself that for the past seven nights you have all slept in the same room and, as far as the littler one goes, often the same damn bed! And remind yourself that once the dedicated TV time is over that (trading off) you and your husband will be hanging out with them practically the entire Sunday with cuddling and tickle fights and art projects and playgrounds and cooking that takes three times as long because they insist on chopping up veggies for stir-fry but must do so with a butter knife and not even a proper butter knife with a serrated edge but rather the miniature plastic one from an old Play-Doh kit.
Keep that in mind when you’re about to go all soft and sappy and “Here’s the lesson about what kids really want” and give in and give up your writing and dive into the couch with them and send the Cheerios up and around into a cascading fountain of soon to be crushed edible confetti. And don’t worry, because they will clean it up themselves with a miniature broom with a broken, duck-taped-together handle, and you’ll jump on it like the mom in Peter Glassman’s book My Working Mom and tell them to jump on the back and you'll all fly away.