My best friend and I have an inside joke about people who enjoy pain. We also
both watch a lot of TV.

There is an episode on the show Billions that centers around a high-powered attorney named Chuck Rhoades who wears a rubber band around his ankle. He does this so that when he has a masochistic urge — he’s, like, really
into pain — he can just reach down under his fancy suit pants and snap the band, rather than cheat on his wife by visiting a BSDM den.

“How many people do you think are walking around out there with rubber bands under their clothes?” I gasped as we discussed Chuck’s fetishes. “I mean, it’s got to be more common than we realize.”

I cocked my head to the left to clamp my phone between my ear and shoulder, which freed up my hands to simultaneously shoo away one of my kids while pointing at my phone: the universal gesture for go away, I’m talking about grown up stuff.

“You know who probably has a rubber band around his ankle? MIKE PENCE.”
Audrey could barely get the words out, she was laughing so hard.

“MIKE PENCE!!” I howled, now fully ignoring my kids, who by now were gathered around wanting to know what was so funny about the then-Vice-President of the United States.

From that point on, we always know what it means to say that so-and-so looks like the rubber band kind.

***

I’ve been a parent for over 13 years, and this whole time I operated under
the belief that being a parent meant doing everything within my power to give
my children the best possible outcome.

For us, that meant providing them with a healthy lunch to power them through the afternoon or paying for private preschool, so they’d be ahead when they started Kindergarten. It’s why I cart them to all the therapies and specialists, spend countless hours in parking lots waiting for appointments to end, and pick up endless amounts of prescriptions.

The entire pharmacy team at our local Albertson’s know me by name. I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyway, what those things are vary tremendously from family to family, but that’s what we do as parents, isn’t it? We fight for our kids to have what they need. It’s why I made the decision to get sober, because I knew my kids needed me to do it. I choose it still because I know I could never keep up with their needs if I was fucked up all the time.

Over the course of the past few years, though, it began to dawn on me that while these things do matter — the things we do to give our kids what they need to thrive— they aren’t nearly as important as I once believed. This realization crept in as we collectively stumbled through a global pandemic, wearing paper masks and rubber gloves, dealing with a Thing Beyond Our Control that could very well kill us all.

Every time I steered my children through a grocery store (stay 6 feet away! Pull your mask up over your nose!) or a visit at Grandma’s, I walked away from it thinking this is fucking heavy.

And then, a few weeks ago, we actually caught Covid, and we calmly assured ourselves that we would be okay because we really weren’t sure what else to believe. Sometime during the fever dream that was the five-day isolation period, I arrived at the realization that the one thing our children really, really need in addition to an emotionally healthy adult presence is resilience.

Resilience.

Duh.

The ability to stretch and snap back like a rubber band. Bending without breaking. And while yes, a quality education matters, nutrition matters, access to proper care and equity across racial lines and hope in the future matters, what matters the absolute most is modeling that tenacious elasticity so that our kids know what it looks like to adapt and overcome.

Shifting my worldview in this way has freed me from a metric ton of needless
guilt, and it allows me to be real with my kids by openly and fully embracing how terrible a thing might be. And then, after dragging the elastic out as far as it will go, we begin the process of snapping back.

I guess my point is, I’m beginning to think that we might be the rubber band kind.

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Harmony

Harmony

Writer, mother, and recovering alcoholic living in the Deep South.