How to parent in a world of bad news

By Morgan Baden
@MorganBaden

Day 1.

Wake up. Stretch your tired legs. Scroll through Twitter from your phone while keeping one eye on the baby monitor.

Discover online the day’s Horrible News. Fall down a rabbit hole of links, one more horrifying than the next. Feel a pinprick of fear bloom deep inside.

Hear your daughter stir. Reluctantly put down your phone, dash to the bathroom, wash your face, brush your teeth, half-heartedly put on some makeup. Now she’s awake. Snuggle on the couch, kiss those buttery cheeks, smooth that soft hair. Say goodbye, too soon. Mornings are frantic; you live a whole day before you even get to your office.

On the train, pull out your book but instead of opening it, check social media again. Learn more about the Horrible News. Look listlessly out the window, the greenery of New Jersey surprising in the late summer heatwave. Think about Horrible News. Think about it in between meetings, on your ride home, when your daughter throws her yogurt-covered spoon on the floor.

Think about it all day.

Day 2.

Wake up. Push husband so he rolls over, so he stops snoring. Check monitor; toddler is still out. Instead of using this time wisely, scroll through Twitter to discover everyone who has stopped talking about Horrible News is now focused on the new Awful News.

Inhale everything you can find about Awful News. On a cellular level, feel the weight of Horrible News and Awful News merging into your being, changing you. Both kinds of News aren’t the kind you easily forget.

Absentmindedly kiss your daughter and husband goodbye. Go to work. In meetings, think about Awful News, about Horrible News. Forget about a friend’s birthday. Send a belated birthday text. Don’t use emojis.

At home, kiss your daughter’s soft, flyaway hair, inhaling that sweet scent when you put her to bed. Flash back to those first few days and weeks of her life when her hair was thicker, darker; when she let you put headbands in it. Now, she bats away any accessory. There is a graveyard of hair bows in your bathroom drawer.

Forget, momentarily, about the news.

Day 3.

Wake up. Pick up your phone but put it back down before you can read anything. Decide to make the morning about your family.

Go into your daughter’s dark, white-noisy room when you hear her talking to herself. “Good day, good day,” she sings. For her it usually is. Take in her big smile, her hair messy with sleep. Open her windows. Let the sun shine in.

Unexpectedly feel the rise of Horrible News and Awful News coming up your throat. Push them back down.

All day, push them down—with food, conversation, drink, work, more food. With baby kisses, television, conversations with your mother. Look at old photos on your phone, videos of your daughter’s birth. “Remember when…” you prompt your husband, over and over.

Anything to keep them down.

Day 4.

Dream about things burning. Wake up before your alarm, listening for sounds in your new house, the one that’s bigger than your last three apartments combined, the one that sometimes makes you feel too small. Too alone. Hear the noises you haven’t adjusted to—the clicking of the air conditioner, the creaking from the wind, the footsteps of ghosts you haven’t met yet. When your daughter finally mews her wake-up cry, jump up in relief. You know that sound, at least. 

You’ve had one day of escape from the news and that is too much. You deserve to know everything, you must know everything. On the train, devour it all.

The fire from your dream turns into a rage that starts deep in your belly. It seeks out your spine, ticks against each vertebrae as it travels up, up, up into your shoulders, spreads over your arms, lands on your heart. Feel the rage burn your throat, your eyes. Get a headache.

All day, think about how to manage rage. Take Tylenol. Drink lots of fluids. Counter fire with water.

After you put the baby to bed, do some yoga while the news hums in the background. While in down dog, watch the world burn. 

Day 5.

When you wake up, there is more News. It is both Horrible and Awful but also Different. It is a distraction, really, because there is no space inside you for more grief.

And yet. More grief invades. Read everything you can about Different News. Wonder what will happen tomorrow, next week, next year. Ask yourself, how much can we all take?

During dinner, hear your toddler say new words. Listen to her squeal, listen to your husband exclaim, watch the room light up a little more. Feel your heart break open a little bit. Laugh at her unbridled joy, a real gut laugh, for the first time all week. 

This is why people have children, you suddenly remember.

Make a vow before bed. Turn things off for the weekend. Turn the world off. 

Nothing has changed but you sleep a little lighter. You ask your subconscious to dream of your daughter’s laughter. You don’t know if it works, but at least you don’t dream of fire.

Day 6.

Don’t turn on the television.

Don’t go online.

Take walks, take naps, get on the floor and play dolls and blocks and pretend to sleep when your toddler demands it. Watch Sesame Street. Laugh more than your daughter does.

Have a good day because she is having a good day.

Day 7.

Take a breath.

Breathe all day, deeply, at every chance. In the grocery store, unloading the dishwasher, in the backyard. The breaths help with the despair.

Midday, see what the world is doing. Check in online, on television.

Listen. Next to you, your daughter hums the alphabet song; this marvel of a thing that suddenly knows numbers and letters.

It is all still there—the good and the bad.

Breathe.

Morgan Baden is a mom of 1.5 kids and works full-time in children’s publishing. On occasion, she has managed to stay off Twitter for an entire weekend. 

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