Family of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
Love and Chris

Opinions on Kinetic Sand

The other day, Tommy got out his kinetic sand and played with it for hours at the dining room table. When he was done he cleaned it up. For those of you with young children, you know that “cleaning up” kinetic sand is just like cleaning up real sand, except that it is also neon and somehow sticks to surfaces even worse than the real thing.

“This stuff is terrible,” Chris said, as he tried to scrape little bits of it out of the crevices of the table.

“I know,” I said. “I don’t even know why we have it except that Tommy loves it.”

We joked about what kind of person would want to invent such a toy. Certainly it was someone who didn’t like parents.

“A year ago, I didn’t even know what this stuff was,” Chris said, “and now, I have very strong feelings about kinetic sand.”

We both laughed, and then I told him that I was going to write a blog post called “opinions on kinetic sand.” I didn’t really know what else I’d write about, but likely there were other such things in our house that could fall in this category.

A few days later, as I was trying to think of what to put in this blog post, I got an email from the administration of my school. It was time for all of the teachers to return.

I knew this email was coming, but it still made my heart race when I read it. I work at a private school with lots of space and other resources, so we can reopen. Claire, Austin and Tommy go to the local public school, one that is open for a small group of kids, but not for everyone yet. They are still learning virtually.

And while virtual learning has been really difficult for so many people, it’s been okay for us. In between my classes, I help Austin craft topic sentences, and during his breaks, Chris practices Spanish with Claire. We both help Tommy with subtraction in all the breaks we have. The kids’ teachers are thoughtful and responsive and probably just a little nicer to us because they know we have a teacher in the house, too. We know we are lucky to have us both at home, even if we are both also trying to work.

But that is about to end. “How are we going to do this?” I said to Chris that night.

“It will be fine,” he reassured. “I can handle it.”

“I know,” I said, “but it will be so hard.”

“It will be okay,” he said.

I pointed out that it is actually really hard to work and also homeschool three kids on your own – I’d done it this spring, before his permanent arrival in our house this summer, and it was some of the hardest single parenting of my life. He pointed out that he wasn’t going to be single parenting, because I’d be home in the afternoon.

“It’s still going to be a lot,” I said.

He nodded. “That’s probably true, but it’s okay.”

It made me think about the kinetic sand, actually. A year ago, Chris had responsibilities at his job, of course, but he mostly spent his free time riding his bike and fixing things in his garage and volunteering in his community. He went out with friends and traveled and sometimes spent an entire afternoon watching Netflix.

And now, he has a family.

“This is what I signed up for,” Chris said to me. “This is parenting.”

I pointed out that no one signed up for virtual homeschool and a global pandemic. But sure, I agreed, parenting means a lot of sacrifice.

Sometimes, when I’m watching him do something totally normal – like help Tommy load the dishwasher or sit with Claire as she does her homework or fix something in the garage with Austin – I’m bowled over with how much he loves them.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised – I know he loves them – but it’s still something that is so powerful every time that I step back and observe it. He took fifteen full minutes to read Tommy’s report card yesterday, which is a simple act, but it’s an act that only a parent would do.

There are, of course, a million other examples of ways life is different for Chris, now that he’s parenting three kids. There are a million more tiny stressors like the bits of kinetic sand that he’s still trying to get off of the table. But there are also a million more tiny joys.

Just as I was writing this, in fact, I looked over and saw that Chris had come down on his break. He was bent over the Lego pile with Tommy, and they were almost finished with their project. A few minutes later, Tommy popped up holding the completed Star Wars ship and said, “I did it!” His face was shining.

I looked at Chris. He was smiling, too.

Another tiny joy.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.


  • Laura Ernst-Davies

    Same thing with my Chapter 2! Tom had never married and didn’t have kids when we married almost three years ago and also moved in with me and my 5 kids. I keep teasing him he didn’t know what he was getting in to when he told me “I want it all” when we were dating. But he loves having the chance to be a dad and yes there was a lot more free time and freedom for Tom before we met but he says we make his life bigger and better and there are people who care that he’s home at night ❤️

    • M Brimley

      Oh, I love everything about this – the story and the obvious love you share with him, and that he shares with your kids.

  • Emilee

    I love this picture! It so perfectly shows just what you wrote, how much Chris loves these kids too!
    A friend of a friend lost her husband and two kids last week and it sure helps my heart to see your family where you are now. I know your journey has not always been so happy, but pictures like this bring hope.

  • Dolores Bradley

    This post just makes me cry-in a good way. Kinetic Sand is not part of my household, but it’s a great metaphor: rye/catching, sticky, messy fun. Just like life. With 3 kids. In a pandemic. While Mom returns to work. Joyful moments among chaos. And a man who loves them dearly and says: it’ll be ok.

  • Rachel

    I love this and really feel the sentiment- sometimes I am just totally amazed at the willingness of my partner to love and care for the kids like his own, when he barely knew them less than two years ago. It’s a different way to build a family then the one I originally had but it’s really special and just beautiful to see.

    • M Brimley

      Yes, I agree. It may not have been what I thought my family would one day look like, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.