“Dad, I said I was ‘sorry.’ Can you please just spank me now?” pleads my daughter with the overwrought exasperation that only a quarantined 16-year-old can muster.
Family Court is in session – and will be 24/7 for at least the next month or two. Or more likely three. At least.
We’re here all day together. All day. Every day. Together. We are proof positive that familiarity does, in fact, breed contempt… and conflict… and ennui. The transgressions add up quickly; this court’s docket can full by mid-morning.
“You’ve never been spanked in your life. What are you talking about?”
Must I worry about revisionist history on top of everything else?
Welcome to QFC — Quarantine Family Court—West Coast Edition. Starring… me, myself and I as the self-appointed judge, jury – and executioner; dead are all of those family bonding, Hallmark moments that I had delusions this ‘Safe at Home’ mandate would bring.
I am not safe at home. Neither is my family We are a danger to ourselves and each other. Even our dogs are done with us. Nowadays, our mutts run out of rooms when we enter them – who knew that the contempt of familiarity can manifest across species?
When not committing the familial crimes that clutter QFC’s docket, we are productive. In pairs or on our own we’re getting through long-put-off projects. My drawers and shelves are so optimally organized, dusted and disinfected it will be a miracle if I can ever find what’s in those fastidious files ever again. My paper shredder is exhausted, my label maker unwilling to print labels of any size, my stapler refuses to unclench –even the machines need a break.
And I need a break from my family. Everyone’s foibles are amplified and too often my sole focus. In my mind’s eye, Family Court is always in session: everyone’s every action, every minute of every day, is criminal. My lenses are the antithesis of rose-colored.
My husband’s fact-filled digressions are longer and more circumspect, his snoring louder and the pots required for breakfast trebled. My short-attention-span daughter is so stir crazy that she bakes at 11pm and voluntarily—voluntarily— works on extra credit schoolwork. We’ve cleaned her closet twice, shipped a box of clothes to her cousins, created Poshmark listings until the typing cramped our fingers… and yet her closet, like the rest of her room, looks like a hurricane organized it.
My younger son is doing schoolwork without being hounded and practicing the drums so intensely that I conduct most of my Zoom meetings in my closet. Yes, even in an amply sized house sound carries. Drums especially. And then he and his father play such intense, physical games that his father’s back went out. My husband could barely move, leaving him to read more, absorb more information and tell more brilliant, winding stories. What is wrong with the Peleton?
I annoy myself most of all. The sound I make to clear my throat might’ve been created by Lucifer. And, I twirl my hair both clockwise and counterclockwise in a pointless loop. The list of crimes against my sanity goes on, and on, and on.
Our foursome is a nuclear family all right. I may go nuclear if I hear yet another of my husband’s analyses of the IMHE’s pandemic model versus Johns Hopkins and how they compare to each other and the … well, it’s best for all concerned that I zone out; my husband is brilliant, his knowledge encyclopedic… my patience and passion for detail… more limited. Maybe all of us should be nuked – lest we go stark raving mad.
“You’ve never been spanked in your life. What are you talking about?” my husband echoes my surprise at our daughter’s perspective on punishment.
“It’s never too late to start, dad,” our daughter continues, “Please, pretty please?” She’s a “take-the-hit-and-get-outta-here kinda kid. . I’m sure that there is something positive about this trait. Something … that I might be able to see once I can get the hell away.
Then there are bugs to bug me. Ant infestations metastasize from the playroom to my office to God only knows where. I need my “Happy Face” reserve too make it through the meandering Minecraft musings my younger son is desperate for me to ‘get’. And to nod and smile at the tidal wave of Tik Tok videos my daughter is sure will amuse me. I am just too fucking old and crotchety to applaud Tik Tok as an app or an art form. Please, please, please let me out of this house.
But here I am, in the living room, aka the Court of Dad Appeals. The SOB is an actual attorney, so he appointed himself to a higher court lest the children continue their chants—their loud, redundant, grating loud—chants that my punishments do not fit their crimes.
“Will the Defendant explain to the court, this time in full sentences with proper nouns, please, why she thought giving the puppy …”
“And me too, dad,” chimes in her-12-year-old brother.
“Noted. Now wait your turn.”
“… and her brother,” the Appellate judge continues, “a ‘mani/pedi’ was a good use of acrylic paint…”
“Counsel, Amy, please, you can barely see the green sparkle on the floor anymore. By next week, it’ll be gone completely.”
Our days together pass as quickly as paint stains fade. I miss professional manicure/pedicures, the ones that don’t traumatize pets… or floors. I miss the “normal,” “pedestrian,” “mundane,” assumptions of human interaction that society will never take for granted again. .
April is the cruelest year-long month… during which my daughter will now Swiffer our floors weekly. The court of Dad Appeals reduced my sentence of daily toothbrush-floor-scrubbing to one my clan insist is “reasonable”.
“I knew spanking would’ve been better,” she responds.
“I bet you’d get a lot of likes for a Swiffer Tik Tok,” my quarantine-possessed self retorts.
“That was helpful, Amy” snarks my husband, “Court is adjourned.”
Family Court makes our arguments and tongues sharper. Our bond is sarcastic, silly and quite strong actually. When we come through this Pandemic Looking Glass my family will be a tighter unit, secure in our mutual contempt, and need to love each other — from more than six feet apart.
 I am being facetious here. If you are genuinely not safe in your home, there is help. Please, reach out. Here is one place to start. Here is another. There are resources for abusers too, start here. Love shouldn’t hurt. There are tools available so that you can stop misdirecting your rage.
originals of heart of children and gold scale by Gordon Johnson for Pixabay
original black scale by Michael Muller for Pixabay