I miss quiet. I literally can’t remember what quiet sounds like. Right now, I just hear 100 decibels of noise all goddamn day long. Since beginning our quarantine however many weeks ago, I do not know the pleasure of daytime silence. Because my six-year-old doesn’t understand the meaning of quiet. At all. I’m slowly descending into madness over here. Folks, this is a PSA to check on your friends with feral kids — we are not okay. Not even a little bit.
As soon as we got word of having to stay in the house indefinitely, I freaked. Not because I was worried about being stuck in the house; I’m a homebody. But I knew that this kiddo of mine would be off the rails by the end of that first weekend. Feral kids can only be inside for so long before they go wild. Knowing that I would be inside a small apartment with this wild child of mine was the scariest part of this whole thing.
It’s important to note that yes, if any child is cooped up inside for long periods of time, they will go feral. Honestly, that’s true of just about anyone. But feral kids are way different. Our wild kiddos are just born with an overwhelming amount of energy. They’re the kids that can run around for hours and not get tired. My kid wakes up at 100 percent charged and stays that way until he finally passes out at the end of the night. No amount of trying to get him to relax will help. For kids like that, you just need to keep finding ways to help them get that energy out somehow. And being inside eliminates a lot of our tools.
When you’re forced inside with these adorable tornadoes, trying to do anything other than exist is a real challenge. They’re climbing the walls, almost literally. Being inside with feral kids is hard AF, even when you have the option to go outside. But taking away that option? Holy shit, are we in for it. Before being forced to stay inside, I didn’t realize just how much I relied on our outside time for sanity.
We spend a lot of time outside when there’s no school. There’s a park with a playground in our neighborhood, so on a weekend afternoon it’s not surprising to find us there. My son gets to run around, and I get a few hours of peace in the sun to read a book. Our other favorite place to go is our local McDonalds because it has a PlayPlace. Again, he gets to run around — and bonus, I don’t have to make dinner and can enjoy fries while I read. But now, because of all those places shutting down, he has no outlet, and it’s killing me. Or at the very least, aging me even faster than ever.
I live in a very small apartment, which is why I rely so much on outside spaces; my son can only run back and forth so many times. But for many feral kids, a walk around the neighborhood or playing in the backyard for a bit isn’t always enough. Especially because we’re trying to reduce the amount of time they’re outside.
A 15-minute trip around the block to walk our dog doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. My kiddo sees a walk through the neighborhood as a means to an end. It’s not what he needs to feel physically fulfilled. He comes in just as full of energy as when we left.
I’m perfectly fine with sheltering at home. I have all of the things I could possibly need: my bed, TV, and an endless supply of snacks. If it wasn’t for my dog needing walks twice a day, I’d never leave. Our windows get a good amount of sunlight, and I would be content turning into a houseplant who reads books. But my kiddo is pretty much the exact opposite of that. He will look at me and ask where we’re going any given day. And I’ve learned that “Um, nowhere?” isn’t always the best answer. That’s why this is such a struggle for both of us.
On those days where it’s clear he’s going stir-crazy, I can’t just tell him to grab his scooter and head to the park. Not having the option to spend an hour at the PlayPlace so he can climb around hurts me just as much as him. Being together in a small space, knowing we can’t leave, may be the thing that pushes us both over the edge. Feral kids are just these balls of kinetic energy, and if they don’t burn it, they will explode. And it’s us, their poor parents, who are in the direct line of fire.
So reach out to your friends with wild children, because as they (literally) run circles around us, we’re really not okay.
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