Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Monsters Away (Weiss)

The kids were excited at first to set up our homeschool schedule. My eight-year-old wrote the date and month on a dry erase board, and we did circle time and researched turtles and Costa Rica, following the whims of whatever they were interested in that day. The novelty has worn off, though. I’m met with resistance to do assigned work from school. And mostly, I feel that I’m failing at everything I’m doing.

It’s a strange time. In the background, threatening to rise to the surface, there’s fear and panic, stories of illness and death. On the day-to-day, I try to get the kids outside to jump in puddles, hike and go for bike rides—which I’m so grateful to be able to do. I’m trying to find tiny pockets of headspace between homeschooling the kids, scrolling mindlessly on Facebook, and worrying about the world to finish revisions on my book. 

It’s hard to concentrate on writing with everything else going on. Around 7 pm, when my husband is finished with work and can take over with the kids, I lock the bedroom door to try to focus for the hour or two that I have, and right away, I hear somebody jiggling the doorknob and somebody knocking and hollering “let us in!” I feel guilty taking any time to myself when they do need me, right now, to let them in. 

Every third night around 3 am, my eight-year-old wakes up, calls out for us, and sometimes can’t get back to sleep. She’s picking at her fingers and lips, arguing with me every day about who is boss around here. She is angry and cries out. She says all she wants is to hug her friends.

I get it. I want to hug my friends, too. I miss my parents and wonder when I’ll see them again. 

About a week into the quarantine, my five-year-old daughter started to say she was scared of monsters. She squealed and burrowed into the covers, hiding her head. I told her we’d do anything to keep her safe, and I flicked my fingers at the window and chanted, Monsters away! Bom bom bom! Monsters away! Bom bom bom! And then, I sprinkled some magical fairy dust on her to keep her safe and sound while she was sleeping. She was mostly satisfied with that. She said that made the monsters go to the “second planet,” so they were probably too far away to come and get her. Every night, now, she asks me to do the chant. 

My kids are sensing that something is not right. I feel scared too. I wish there was someone in charge who would do whatever it took to protect us. 

I am listening to the pleas of friends of mine who work in healthcare—please stay home. They are putting themselves in danger without adequate gear to keep them safe, and that is absurd. There are so many vulnerable people right now—I try to let my kids know we’re thinking not only of ourselves by choosing to stay home. There are so many uncertainties, and all we can do is try to live day-to-day and try to believe we’ll make it through this, somehow.

The little chant I do—monsters away!—actually calms me down for an instant. If only I had the kind of power to say words that could fully protect the people that I love.

Sara Weiss’s writing has appeared in Bustle, Brain Child, Literary Mama, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Underwater New York, The Hook Magazine, Nyack News and Views and other places. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She teaches yoga and creative writing and lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and two beautiful daughters.


  1. This is beautiful, Sara. You've perfectly captured the pressure of being the grown-up and balancing all of this when it feels like the world is falling apart. I think we all need your chant.

  2. Such a grounding, relatable, heartfelt and beautifully written piece Sara. Thank you for this. We are all in this together.��Kerri

  3. Thank you so much, Kerri. ❤️

  4. I FELT every word! Thank you for sharing this... I love your writing so much!!!

    Andrea ��