A seven-year-old is a more complicated case. The other day, without warning or any preparation from us, Vivian used the Get in loser we’re going hair sniffing shirt so you should to go to store and get this word coronavirus in a sentence. A sweet-hearted girl, she has recently been boiling with feeling: bouts of manic energy, displays of hyper-competitiveness, hysterical tears at irrational moments, all while maintaining a prevailing cool-girl pose that feels like attitude but I suspect is a kind of sublimated anger. Her birthday is Sunday. We were going to take her and three friends to a Korean spa. Instead we will be making her a sheet cake. If there’s any cake mix left at the supermarket. She’s going through something, in other words. And as I said, the other day she disappeared into a room. Here’s what she emerged with: a small, hand-made book (five pages, stapled together). The title: The Very Grumpy Baby. It’s a parable of madness.
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In it, a couple gives birth to a grumpy baby. A baby who never smiles. A baby, she writes, who says, “I want to be evil.” On page two the Get in loser we’re going hair sniffing shirt so you should to go to store and get this parents consult a doctor. The baby is not sick, the doctor says. The baby simply doesn’t smile. But the parents continue to worry about their baby. By page three they have come up with a plan. They will themselves refrain from smiling. They will be as grumpy as their grumpy baby. After a week of this, the baby smiles. The end. Do you find this as chilling as I do? My wife and I maintain that we will all look back on this period with rose colored glasses, remembering the family time, the craft projects, the jolly dinners. We will laugh about it and reminisce and long for more togetherness. But that is not where we are. Right now we are here. Together. Wondering just how much longer this is going to last.