written by Megan Dolan
“Hadley, where is your Invisalign?”
My 8-year-old daughter shrugs. “It’s in the case.”
That’s good. At least it’s not wedged somewhere -- naked and afraid -- see through plastic molds of my daughter’s teeth crammed in between the seats of the car or couch cushions. It is safely tucked inside the groovy purple case with her name and address neatly printed on the front.
When she first got the Invisalign, a few months ago, she’d wear the trays at night and take them out to eat breakfast, put them back in to go to school, take them out at snack time, then in until lunch, then out, in out, in out. There was a rhythm, a structure, but now she’s home ALL THE TIME and asking for snacks ALL THE TIME and the Invisalign is invisible in a whole new way.
“Well, we need to find it.” I say this with authority. Or at least what I think authority sounds like. At this point, I’ve lost all authority and we both know it.
We are a few weeks into the COVID-19 lockdown and I have regressed into a former version of myself—volatile, moody, depressed. I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood integrating these shadow qualities into a fairly healthy and functional person, but weeks of home school, plus providing all food and necessities for my aging parents, as well as the complete annihilation of any shred of my autonomy has sent me into some kind of emotional development wormhole. I’ve been spit back out as surly 19 year old me who only wants to eat , sleep, and binge watch Netflix. For the record, there was no Netflix when I was 19. The only way to binge watch anything was to get off the couch and drive to Blockbuster and if you had the platinum membership you could rent up to 5 videos.
But I am the mom, and if I check out, nothing gets done.
I’m lying on the floor of my daughter’s room, it’s been a rough morning. We’re taking a break from distance learning and playing a new board game called Super Secret Stealthy Spies. I’m holding the directions over my head, reluctantly reading them aloud and secretly hoping that the kids will just start playing without me so I can take a nap.
“How do you play, Mommy?”
“Well, it says the youngest player goes first.”
Already, we have a problem.
“Why does she get to go first? That’s not fair!” My ten-year-old son chimes in.
I lay blame on the game manufacturer—“It says it right here in the rules, Tyler.”
My son, a stringent rule follower, grabs the printed rule sheet, reads, then sighs and hands my daughter the die.
She rolls—“Six! One, two, three…can we go diagonal?”
“No!” he yells.
The game inches forward. The objective is becoming clear. After my turn I sense a small window--
“I’ll be right back.”
I slip out and head to the kitchen for some “breakfast chocolate. That’s right, just a small square or six of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lover’s 85% dark chocolate bar. Shit, I ran out yesterday. There’s no popping out to grab a bar of breakfast chocolate right now, not when I have to suit up, wait in line and don my mask, making sure to smile with my eyes to prove that the virus hasn’t won.
I choose instead a pink grapefruit; a sad substitute for breakfast chocolate but sacrifices must be made.
I hear a loud thud and muffled crying. I race back to my daughter’s room balancing the grapefruit on a small plate.
“Tyler got mad because I won and he pushed the gymnastics mat on top of the game and crushed it,” she says between convulsive sobs.
“She did not win!!!” My son’s disembodied voice screams from where he has barricaded himself in the closet.
It will take at least 30 minutes to get everyone calmed down and able to get back to work.
I enter the room and wade through the carnage, taking a seat on the floor. I dig into the grapefruit, and put a fleshy chunk in my mouth, tasting its sweetness and noticing the clenched feeling in my chest. I breathe; trying to stay in my body instead of rushing to blame myself, the kids, my husband—who’s blissfully cocooned in the home office 6 feet away--carrying about his workday with other rational adults.
As I go in for my second wedge, I notice a small flash of purple under my daughter’s bed. I lean, reach, and grab her Invisalign case and give it a shake. The light rattle confirms that the trays are indeed inside.
It’s a small victory but I’ll take it.
Megan is a mom, wife, writer, actor, and storyteller. She has written for L.A. Parent Magazine and been a guest speaker at the TEDx Pasadena Women's conference. Her successful solo show, Lemur Mom (because we can't all be tiger moms): one mother's adventures in autisim had sold-out performances in seven cities in Southern California and Arizona. She was recently a contributor to the first ever virtual Expressing Motherhood storytelling show.