I have a son. His name is Gus. He's been living with me (and his mom) for just over nine years now. Sometimes, I write him little letters.
8 April 2020
Yesterday morning, I was working upstairs because we’re all stuck here in the house under threat of COVID-19. You and Mom were playing downstairs, having a good time too, but then your shrieks of delight became shrieks of anger and frustration.
“Gus,” I called out, “Come on up here.”
“Why should I?” you said. You've taken quite the attitude lately. Mom and I keep reminding you that you're not a teenager yet, but you don't seem to fully appreciate what we mean by that.
“Because I want to give you hugs,” I said.
A few moments later, you appeared in my studio door: shoulders slumping, bottom lip drooping. I grabbed you in my arms and brought you over to the blue couch. That couch is a special spot for both of us. I sit here and meditate every morning. You sometimes like to read on that couch while I write. It’s a good spot.
“Sounds like you’re on the struggle bus, my friend,” I said. You nodded in agreement, so I continued, “You know what the great thing is about busses?” You shrugged your shoulders and then let them return to their slumpy, slouchy posture. “Busses have lots of stops. So we just gotta find where this struggle bus makes a stop so that we can get off.”
“That’s the thing, Dad,” you said, “This bus doesn’t have any stops. It just goes on struggling and struggling.” Then you looked at me with big, tearful eyes. “No end,” you said.
I told you about the pit of Tartarus in Ancient Greek mythology. I made up some crap about it, to be perfectly honest, because I thought it would be cool if Tartarus wasn't just a sort of dungeon, but a bottomless pit where you would just keep falling and falling and falling forever. Like your version of the struggle bus, my version of Tartarus would have no end.
“Sounds like skydiving,” you said, “Like you’re just falling forever. That could be pretty fun.”
We started to laugh and to talk about my fear of heights. You think it’s so silly that I’m afraid of heights and that I won’t let you up on the roof to clean off the sticks and leaves and debris that have been there since last fall.
I should let you up there. It might cause me some worry, but I’d have one less task to do. So, we agreed that the next time I got on the roof, you’d come with me. That promise seemed to have taken you right off the struggle bus. Turns out that route does have some stops, I guess.
But those stops are only momentary. Later, we'll find something else to set us off, some other frustration that will send us back on the emotional rollercoaster. I'll feel like I'm falling into a bottomless pit, and you'll feel like you're stuck on some public transit line that has no stops. (And I'm the one with the silly fear?)
Things are hard right now. It feels like summer, but it’s rainy and wet and we keep telling you that you have “academic work” to get done before lunch. And you can't go out and play with your friends. We’re isolated.
"Coronavirus sucks," you said. Mom and I let you use "sucks" even though we feel like it sounds kinda terrible coming from a kid's mouth. Each word has its time and its place, and we agree that this is indeed a the time and the place for "sucks."
Back on the struggle bus, I guess.
Ya know what, though? I think we learned a valuable lesson yesterday morning: the struggle bus does have some stops after all.
We’ll find those stops.
I just wish I could decommission the struggle bus altogether.