I published my first blog on parenting during Coronavirus on March 15th when we had just found out that our kids would be out of school for a month (https://theordinarymom.com/ljow). Little did I know then that they would not go back in person at all that semester and it’s looking like they will not go back in person this fall either.
I blogged each week for the first eight weeks about parenting during this time and chronicled what was happening in our household in case others were experiencing similar things and, hopefully, to give folks some laughs with honest parenting admissions. And then I stopped. After eight weeks of weekly blogging, I didn’t have anything more to say. The world had changed and, frankly, I was tired and scared. Then George Floyd was murdered and I was consumed with everything that happened after that. I couldn’t find my voice for a while but then I did find my voice again and blogged about it (https://theordinarymom.com/av4x).
It was four months ago this week when our schools in California shut down and we all had to adjust to a new normal in both life and parenting. Recently states have opened up and many people forgot that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic. COVID cases have spiked in the last month and so many things about this pandemic have become political in the U.S. I don’t feel like getting into the politics of it and I also don’t pretend to know what the future will bring. I do think it’s safe to say that this will not end in the near future and the short term effects of our nation coming together to fight this pandemic in March and April have worn off and our country is once again divided.
We are in unprecedented times and there is no roadmap to help us parent through this. I share the experiences of our family but I realize that every family has different experiences. We have been privileged not to have lost our jobs or have anyone in our house get sick so I know I am not speaking for everyone when I share our experiences. I do think I speak for many others when I say that distance learning in the spring was tough. Teachers did an amazing job with the resources that they had but they had not been trained in distance learning and most of us thought it was a temporary solution until kids could go back in person.
We learned quickly how differently our three kids adjusted (or didn’t adjust) to distance learning and we tried to help but we were also trying to do our jobs from home and didn’t always give them what they needed. We were thankful to still have our jobs but it was tough trying to be productive at work with three kids doing school from home.
Once all of our summer plans/camps etc. were cancelled, we told our kids that we are going to have to make lemonade out of lemons this summer. It is not always fun or exciting in our house but we are doing our best to make the summer still seem like summer for our kids. We watch movies together, let them stay up late (too late so don’t ask), let them sleep in, and both of us parents are trying to carve out time with each kid to do something fun at home or find an outdoor activity that we can do while socially distancing. Again, I know we are lucky that we are not financially strapped or sick during this time. I am realizing that kids don’t need all of the busyness and stimulation that pre-COVID life entailed but they do need dedicated time and connection with people that they love and they need to know that they are safe inside their homes even if the world is scary just outside their front door.
I have been reflecting lately on what parenting has been like me for during Coronavirus and here are some of my thoughts from my bubble:
- I have (mostly) loved spending more time with my family. I go on daily walks with my ten-year-old when she wakes up, watch different shows on Netflix with each kid, I look forward to family movie nights on the weekend (and we have watched some great ones like Catch Me If You Can, While You Were Sleeping, and Back To The Future) and my wife and I have had more time and energy to connect with each other and spend less time talking about kid related logistics. My sister, Lisa, commented that having all of this family time is what she thought parenthood would be like before she had kids but then she became a parent and was so busy with all of the kid activities that it was hard to enjoy the moment. I completely agree.
- The things I look forward to have changed. I’m not obsessing about traveling around the world right now (and we had some pretty exciting travel plans that were cancelled) but instead I’m looking forward to simple things like walking the dog around the block ~6 times a day, having take out pizza on Friday nights (and the kids each get a coke so they love it), nightly after dinner walks with my wife, going to the dog park to socially distance socialize with friends, playing cards or board games with my kids, and finding any type of water (creeks and lakes) to go swimming with our swimming obsessed eight-year-old since the pools are all closed.
- I’ve said this before and I’ll keep screaming it from the rooftops, “Teachers are rockstars!”. Thank you to every teacher who turned on a dime, learned new things, and did your best to to keep kids engaged when your worlds had turned upside down too. Please know that we parents have not forgotten about you this summer and we are thinking of your safety too when we fill out surveys and give our input to the school districts about the different options for school in the fall.
- Work travel is exhausting. It’s taken four months of not traveling to realize how exhausting it is to travel for work while raising kids. For the first month, I slept later than I had in years because I had a sleep deficit from both parenting and business travel. I am not sure what that means for me as I am so happy to have a job right now and it’s one that I enjoy but I don’t miss the constant travel during the week.
- My wife and I have discussed being very thoughtful about what we put back on our plates when the world opens up again. We were asked recently if one of us would be on the board at the local children’s theater company, which our son is so passionate about. We love and support this theater but decided against adding such a large commitment to either of our plates right now. Maybe next year. Maybe not.
- I am amazed and a little sad how quickly my kids have adapted to this new world. I was driving with my eight-year-old this week and she pointed out an Arizona license plate and I said, “They must be on vacation” and she replied, “Mommy, did you forget about the Coronavirus? You can’t go on vacation to another state anymore”. It made me sad that she just accepted this as the new normal. Our kids also accept that they have to wear masks when we go out of the house and they don’t even complain about it any more. We ordered some cool masks from a friend of a friend and we all have our favorites (see photo of mine).
- I’d give almost anything to have an hour to sit in my parent’s front yard while they sit on their porch and get caught up with them in person. Unfortunately, they live in Texas and I live in California so it’s not possible right now. I don’t know when I’ll see them in person again, but I’m glad they are being careful. I’m also thankful that I have a brother and sister who live close to them and their families are able to do socially distanced outdoor visits as well take care of their needs.
- I have a mostly hate relationship (and just a little love) with video games. I have never been a gamer. I’m more of a reader or a TV watcher but my kids are gamers and I think most kids now are as well (as I wrote that sentence, I imagined my 13-year-old son jokingly saying, “You are such a boomer!”). I can’t go five minutes without one of my kids telling me about something from Fortnite, Roblox, or Super Smash Brothers. What I have learned to love a little is that this is how my kids have been connecting with their friends since schools closed. I have to accept that socializing for our kids is often done on the computer or over the phone and it’s not like when I grew up in Texas where we dressed up and went to the mall to see friends (again I’m hearing “You are such a boomer!” in my head).
- Our school district is most likely going to do distance learning in the fall as so many other districts have already announced. My wife wisely pointed out that our family has been very insular over the last four months and, since Coronavirus is not going to magically end soon, we need to think about how we can come out of our shells and contribute to our greater community. Her work is in the trauma and resilience space (https://originstraining.org/) and she so spends a lot of time thinking about what causes trauma and how to help people and organizations become more resilient around it. Around the same time, our daughter’s former teacher posted on Facebook that she is going to offer free virtual tutoring on Saturdays in the fall (while teaching Monday-Friday). She has her own kids but she wants to make sure she gives back to the community. She ended her post with, “What will you do?”. We are just starting to think about what skills, resources etc. we have that we can offer to others who may be struggling or need some extra help now and to make our community stronger so stay tuned as we think about what we can do. I also challenge you by asking, “What will you do?”.
The world has forever changed and we don’t know what the future will bring. Our family has been so lucky that we have not had any major financial hits or illnesses during this but we know so many other people have (for which I am deeply sorry) and none of us know what the future will bring.