Aliens in the House
*the term aliens may be substituted for another word beginning in "a" and ending in "holes"
No one tells you your children disappear.
One day, you’re slicing an after-school snack of seedless watermelon just so, or deciding what Pixar movie to watch again, and you get hit with a response you never saw coming and didn’t deserve, like a slap in the face by a stranger who thought you were someone else: “This movie sucks” or “Those carrots are dust. Do we have any good food?”
Your children have gone. And in their place, aliens.
Yes, one day there are aliens in your home where once were cherubic, innocent babes with downy hair, hairless skin and partially toothy grins of wide-eyed wonder and fierce love. This is the sweet spot between drowning and driving: those years after naps and diapers but before Tik Tok bingeing and demanding to be dropped off fifty yards from a destination so as not to be see with you. When children are between ages 4 and 10 – when the days are endless but the years are fleeting, this is the closest to magic most of us will ever come. There’s no richer feeling than having these funny little beings around who need you and worship you and who you would, let’s be honest, fucking die for. Like your own childhood, time feels endless, you think it will last forever, and you have no idea how magical it was until it’s over.
Then comes middle school. And you’re caught without a basement in a tornado of being thirteen during epidemic viruses, school shootings, climate disaster, the collapse of democracy and death of journalism and civility, the absence of heroes outside the Marvel universe and the descent into social media in all its soul crushing distraction. That is to say – the fact that your children have been replaced by aliens is not their fault. Or yours. This is what happens now. The aliens have landed, and the harder you strive to understand them, the more maddening the relationship becomes. And unlike in a movie,. you can't simply ask them to leave. (I have tried).
As they age, the aliens’ insults become increasingly personal and sophisticated. “Mom, chill. You have serious anger issues.” You ache to reply, “True, but only since you turned thirteen. Before you arrived I was never this angry.” But you don’t. Because the alien is thirteen and you’re fifty something. YOU should know better. But damn if that little alien doesn’t know just how to push your Gen X buttons. How did he learn that? He’s intuitive and smart, resourceful and cunning. Like a crafty rodent, if there’s an opening, no matter how small, he’ll find it. Actually, it’s not a terrible skill to have. You take credit for that. Why not.
The right dis, perfectly delivered and devastatingly effective, is the new wedgie. The elder alien in my house told the other, after being denied a share of Twizzlers, “You’ll never amount to anything, Henry.” Alien Henry was so gob smacked by the laser focused ruthlessness of this barb, he failed to reply or even punch his brother. Or his air pods were in, who knows.
When the aliens first arrive in your house, you naturally blame your spouse. Who are those aliens you let in the house?
I don’t know. I thought you let them in.
Why would I let them in? I don’t know them.
Well, how did they get in here then?
While we were sleeping, or calculating tuition costs?
But who are they? What do they want?
The aliens can and do transform back into charming and polite human beings at will - when they are not in your house and/or you are not present. You hear rumors of it all the time, how they helped clear a dinner table (not yours) unload groceries (also not yours) or were incredibly helpful and kind to a younger sibling (not theirs).
The aliens have a fine-honed talent for being extra-spicy hurtful without even trying, usually by text.
Mom Wheat bread sucks.
Can I use my birthday gift card to get a pellet gun. I already bought it.
Why can’t I have braces now? You said.
Can we door dash McDonalds? The stuff you made is bad.
When we pick up ryan can you please not sing in the car
In many ways, the aliens in your house are like ghosts. They slam doors and don’t apologize. They turn things on when they should be off, and off when they should be on. They leave a loud and visible trail of clues to their presence, like open refrigerator doors, urine-filled toilets and empty Lay’s bags, but you might not see them for days. And you sense their spirit is off, like maybe their soul is horribly lost in some no-fly zone between the living and the dead and social media influencers. But their energy – that’s ever present and palpable. Its power can effortlessly empty a room, ruin a perfect meal, or flummox a grandparent.
Sometimes the aliens bring other aliens over to your house. Sometimes you come home and find an alien party in full swing in the house you were just out paying for. You want to call the police on the aliens, to teach them a lesson, but you won’t. You’d only have to bail them out, and they’re just going to come back to your house with their empty Lay’s bags anyway.
The aliens rarely make eye contact and have a language all their own that you are powerless to understand. Most of it is nonverbal and involves grunts, mumbling, eye rolling, shoulder shrugging, stomping or trudging of feet, sighing in disgust, or casually feigning deafness while doing all of the above. However, there is one word in common with English language on which the aliens steadily rely, a word you recognize that they use all the time, for any manner of communication or level of urgency. It’s quite a versatile word when used by the aliens in your house, and for this discovery you reluctantly give them credit for creativity, even if that creativity is employed to casually grind a dagger into your back while you’re at the sink washing their dishes.
What? What?! (eye roll)
Sometimes flashes of your former children appear unexpectedly through the aliens. You’re sliced with a glimmer of hope that the aliens are channeling the charming people your children used to be. One Saturday you’re finishing a yoga class early, so you can get home before the aliens need you to do something for them that they probably could but likely won’t do for themselves. Like pour a glass of orange juice or cook a slice of bread by pushing a button.
By the time you finish the class and look at your phone, that last loving shackle of parenthood, you have three texts and two voicemails. You briefly panic - something is terribly wrong! There’s been an accident involving a bicycle or chainsaw or unstable neighbor... Then you remember there are aliens in your house who, through no fault of their own and due to how they were raised, have no social awareness of the needs of others.
.Please approve the app I sent: Zombie Crossing Mrder Zone.
OK I’ll pay half.
When are you coming back?
Voicemail #1: Can you get us breakfast – three bacon egg and cheese, one on croissant and two on bagels, pink frosted donut and 2 large ice chai.
Voicemail #2. Get straws this time.
Text #3: WHERE ARE YOU.
And you think, I am needed. Perhaps not loved, appreciated or adored but needed. And that’s something.
I know someday the aliens will be gone, as quicky as they appeared. I don’t know if or when my children will be back, but I’m told it does happen. It might not be until they have aliens of their own in their house which they are, hopefully, paying for. But I look forward to the day they invite me over, offer to make me a meal, and tell me all about it.