• Lauren Morris

Don't Ask About My Weekend

Saturday, 9:45 AM

Location: The family room

“You are all staring at me as if I have the power to conjure magic”, I say with as much compassion I can muster as three teenage boys strewn about on the old furniture look to me for comfort.

It’s another weekend, even worse a holiday weekend, and that means frustration, anger, and perhaps punishment. Punishment since the four of us seems sentenced to the 4th or 5th level of hell or as some people put it: residing in Florida.

I hate weekends almost as much as I hate Florida. They are an ongoing reminder of how different our family is and just exactly we’ve lost and endured.

My rebellious, misfit, creative self is something I enjoy, however, this one area of life where normalcy wouldn’t be so bad. If normal wasn’t ever an option then I could have adapted better given a different physical environment and topography. This isn’t one of those conditions where I believe if I just physically move out of my home my depression or ills disappear. I’m well aware that you have to learn to live with you.

Unless you have a chronic illness or disability there is no true understanding. If you are highly empathetic you at least can seek to understand. My experience (like many people with illness and disabilities) is others don’t seek to understand and they sure as hell don’t get it.

I have some underlying conditions that make me heat intolerant. I have two out of three children who have significant issues regulating temperature. It’s annoying as fuck when people are like, “oh, I get hot too”. Do you? Everyone gets hot because you’re a fucking mammal and that’s how science works. However, do you when it’s even just 82 degrees but there is humidity end up in the hospital if you’ve spent more than 10 minutes outside? Do you have to load up on salt tablets and fluids just to take a walk around the block because you’re so desperate for some nature and when you finish are regulated to being in bed the rest of the day unable to physically move? Do you ever nearly pass out bringing in the recycling bins? If you don’t, please shut up.

So yeah, there’s a lot of resentment and anger at people and at the physical environment. I mean Florida is a hellscape in so many ways that the entire country often shakes its head at us. For me, it isn’t the “Florida man” or the ridiculousness of the collective behavior but the lack of seasons, mountains, and grass other than St. Augustine. Sure bring a blanket and lay it down on the grass. It’s fine it’s not as if your blanket is going to end up with holes in it because the grass is actually a set of cutlery knives with the ability to slice through Adamantium.

The disconnection to nature feeds into my aversion to weekends. The majority of the U.S. has a 5 day work week and the weekends are for rest, family, or whatever. My husband never had that kind of work schedule. Neither did I. We both worked for places that were open 6 or 7 days/week. This work “normal” wasn’t a thing. Then kids came. Young children have no idea what a weekend is nor do they care if family time takes place on a random Tuesday and Wednesday vs Saturday and Sunday. They didn’t have the burdens but I did.

I could find ways to engage and entertain three young kids but being on 24/7 does take its toll. Those weekends would roll around and suddenly there wasn’t access to ways to connect with others or have a playdate. Why? Because the other parents (mostly moms) were having their own “weekend” with their normal family on a normal schedule. So there I was just me and three kids together trying not to lose our minds. Sometimes we’d get lucky and there’d be something planned or maybe it was the month of January and the weather was the type where we could go outside.

On the few weather that met our needs days, we would load up the car with blankets, food, and fishing rods. Perhaps we’d head over to some spring or put on our hiking shoes and explore trails and the wonders nature left behind. While it wasn’t perfect as I’d look around to see families together doing the same it was quality time with my little, left of center family. We’d get home and there would be giggles, ease, and maybe even a great nap and if they didn’t fall asleep they could always cover mom in stickers after she fell asleep mid-sentence to a book she was reading out loud.

Better weather meant manageable weekends. This is Florida so those weekends were few and far between. Homeschooling helped a bit. We could manipulate learning around family, dad’s work, and improv. We were missing a lot of homeschool opportunities as well but we coped the best we knew how. There were plenty of disappointments as dad worked every holiday and once again I was trying to recycle the ideas of how to keep kids engaged indoors. Shifting what worked when they were young to the tween and teen years. Trying to figure out how to make indoor work without it being screen time all the time. I often failed so screen time it was.

I harbor disappointment, resentment, and grief over not finding a way to be strong enough, smart enough, or will myself enough to get us out of Florida. Those feelings have reached a boiling point. They started to churn with the onset of COVID and have maxed out now that the boys have transitioned to a more traditional school schedule. We are a high-risk family so we stick close to the house. There are lots of outdoor spaces to help ease the shelter-in-place life but we can’t take advantage of them. We try our best which includes a lot of crying from me and outbursts from them.

The start of school has helped ease some of their burdens. They don’t have time to sit around and think about how much this virus sucks and hot it is outside. It’s only doubled mine. Weekends are for respite and recharge. No logging on for class or heading to appointments. No virtual social stuff. Nothing. It’s hard to welcome the respite when the reality is I don’t get one. I know many parents feel this. The truth is parenting is a 24/7 job. It seems impossible to build in breaks when you lack access (regardless if it's by choice or because of the nature of your job) from your partner or family.

So on a Saturday morning where ideally I could switch off from mom mode until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I end up with 30 or so minutes here and there where I can squeeze in a yoga class from YouTube or listen to part of a podcast. Without fail, one of them will pop in for something. Sometimes I'm lucky and they stumble into something that steals their attention for an hour and if I’ve hit the jackpot all three of them simultaneously are entertained. Just repeat this cycle come Sunday.

Now there is a long weekend ahead and this weekend signifies the end of summer. Around here it’s just as if not hotter than any day in July or August. Instead of looking forward to family gatherings, barbecues, lazy mornings, and relaxing, I’m just hoping to avoid panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness that I’m sentenced to live the rest of my days here, and endless weeping.

We’ll muddle through as we always do but please don’t ask what I did or how my long weekend went.

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