This is not the 2020 virus you are looking for.

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Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

When my 15-year-old daughter started struggling with acne this fall, I knew it was time for Accutane. If you’ve never had children, or acne, Accutane is a miracle cure for pimply teens. It’s like a magic wand that turns those painful-to-behold angsty faces into smooth templates of granite-like, youthful skin. But it comes with some serious side effects, so every prescribing physician is required to emphatically counsel females against pregnancy (helpful!) and run routine liver function tests before the first dose.

Two days after my daughter’s pre-Accutane blood draw, the dermatologist unexpectedly called me during dinner. She explained that two of Delia’s liver enzymes known as ALT and AST were unusually elevated and that she’d prefer we consult with pediatric GI specialist before starting Accutane. Elevated levels could be triggered for any number of benign reasons, but they were high enough that she couldn’t proceed with the Accutane yet. She wasn’t concerned, she insisted. …

Your 2020 Step-by-Step Guide

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Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

Step 1: Find An Actual Goatherd

Retreat for the summer to your family’s weekend cottage in Minnesota for what you adorably believe will be the last few months of a pandemic. Optimistically anticipate it will be over by July 4th. Settle in with a collection of family members who all had the same idea, an obscene number of dogs, and way too many WIFI-enabled devices for the “cozy” little river cottage to handle. Wait until you have one moment away from Zoom calls to notice that, while fighting the good fight, the family homestead is in dire need of some love.

In particular, note the ridiculous jungle surrounding it that threatens to inflict poison ivy upon unwitting children and forces you to machete your way to and from the front door. Realize that 8/10th of the property is completely unusable because of suffocating foliage and thick vines. Imagine using that space to get away from everyone sheltering from the world alongside you. Consider burning it all down and starting over. …

Let’s just get this over with, shall we?

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Photo by Matthew Angus on Unsplash

I’m at the Miss Havisham stage of the pandemic. Life has been on hold for so long I’ve stopped noticing. But rather than an old wedding dress, I’ve shaken that Dickensian image with a muumuu to disguise the absence of a bra, and instead of manipulating my teen children, I ignore them by binge-listening true crime podcasts while we pass each other in the kitchen like ghosts. That’s because we, unlike a lot of the world, are still fastidiously trying to avoid COVID.

My husband’s cousin and his wife on the east coast are also hunkered down, but they were recently forced to embrace life’s persistent forward momentum. After several rescheduling attempts, they accepted reality and gently convinced their 13-year-old daughter that it was time have her bat mitzvah virtually. When they shared the news with guests, we finally cancelled the hotel and flight reservations we’d optimistically rescheduled a couple of times since March. …

I live on your campus. And I definitely wish you were here.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

My family and I live on one of the thousands of college campuses across the globe that abruptly closed in the wake of the pandemic.

When I say that we live on campus, I mean we literally live in one of the residential colleges that houses hundreds of first and second year student at a private mid-western university. I am accustomed to the sights and sounds of scores of undergraduates living their lives within a few feet of us at all hours of the day and night. …

And Other Recent Discoveries.

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Photo by Maxim Shklyaev on Unsplash

Ok! Show of hands from those doing some light hoarding? Anyone?

Relax. I was where you are about a month ago. Rumors of shortages sparked my panic purchase of canned and frozen foods, leaving my shopping cart filled with absolutely no fresh fruit or vegetables whatsoever. I never hoarded toilet paper, I’m proud to say. But my growing anxiety was on full display as I made makeshift gloves up to my elbows from the complementary disinfecting wipes dispenser at entrance of the store. …

This is not a coronavirus essay.

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Photo by Willie Fineberg on Unsplash

In the fall of 1983, I was in the 7th grade. My older teenage brother shipped himself off to boarding school to escape our narrow minded small town making me suddenly an only child. My parents, experiencing premature and incomplete empty nesting, weren’t sure what to do with me, so when they decided to leave town for the weekend, they did what most 80’s parents found perfectly acceptable: They left me in the care of another teenager.

The girl they selected was well known to them, and, in fairness, she was as reasonable a sixteen year old as any to keep me alive for 48 hours. I wasn’t a baby, after all. She was a licensed driver with a (somewhat) clean record. She was familiar with all of my activities and very dutifully stuck to my schedule. She knew how to operate my parents newly purchased, first generation microwave, and already knew that putting a fresh egg in one was a really bad idea. She and I were actually pretty chummy and though I might have imagined we were having a fun, rebellious girls weekend, she was, by every standard, a very responsible caregiver to only-slightly-younger me. …

And not in a good way.

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Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

It all started on the elliptical one morning. I’d known for several months that I had a problem, but my workout awoke something menacing. It was like my body was trying to eject a jagged, evil demon but it just couldn’t do it. Dr. Google said stones and referred me to a urologist.

After my first visit, I was sent home with a lot of plastic, and it was all about pee. One piece of plastic to pee in, one to sift the pee through, and another in which to store the pee for further analysis. I set up a makeshift lab in my bathroom to capture and diagnose stones, as well as create the little samples of urine to be sent off for testing. …

Clarity. That’s all we ask.

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Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash

My kid is on the debate team. This is how I know he is proficient in at least one language. He also doesn’t hesitate to sit at the edge of my bed, late in the evening, long past the point where I feign interest in whatever argument he’s making, talking himself in circles. If he notices me dozing, I insist I’m thinking deeply about what he’s saying. But I’m totally lying. I’m asleep.

The kid loves to talk. Talking is his jam.

It helps to remember this when I struggle to communicate with him via text. When it comes to texting, he’s a clam. …

I get it. I’m trying.

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Photo by Zuzana on Unsplash

I recently emerged from semi-retirement into a pretty demanding new job. It was a surprise move, but after a blissful stint doing relatively little, it was time to re-engage. The therapist who lives in my head, yet still costs me a fortune, suggested I was too young to be throwing in the towel on a career that hadn’t reached its shelf life just yet. So back to work I went.

The fact that my doing so was ever a question automatically makes me a “Karen.” It screams entitlement. Full disclosure: Like any self-respecting Karen, I also drive a minivan and I am raising at least one son. Although I wear my hair dark and long, rather than blond and bobbed, I am not, by some miracle, divorced. …

Parents prepare, as punishment for your hubris awaits.

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Photo by Kim Gorga on Unsplash

Don’t know what Section 5 is? Just wait. You will.

You’re lucky — your kid is smart and brimming with potential. High school is cruising along, and they are checking all the boxes. They even appear to be enjoying themselves. Things are heading in a fantastic direction, and everyone is excited about the future if this sounds like your kid, Congratulations! You’re doing it right! Live in the moment. Ignore my obvious foreshadowing. It’s just that.

I’m Guessing You Haven’t Hit Junior Year Yet

It’s ok — your smugness is forgivable. You’ve cruise-directed the living crap out of your kiddo’s childhood with a Lido deck full of enrichment. Perhaps, like me, you’ve had it kind of easy parenting-wise. You’ve even worn yourself out by semi-privately patting yourself on the back for raising such a neat little overachiever. But this junior year thing that’s waiting for you? It’s coming. …


Leslie Kleinberg Zacks

Writing about whatever I feel like. Mom with a career. Filled with love and rage. It’s cool- I’m not for everyone. twitter @lesliezacks

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