I remember Friday, March 13, 2020 vividly; it was two years ago today. I was at high school in beautiful Auburn, California. My associates and I were training the teachers on our educational curriculum and some of them kept leaving the presentation. I honestly thought it was a bit rude but it turns out they were leaving to listen to our Governor, Gavin Newsom, announce that all California schools were going to close for an unknown period of time.
Those of us there that day were parents and/or educators and we left that training in a daze of not knowing what the future would bring for our world, our jobs, and our families.
I picked up our youngest from school later that day and parents were standing around talking about how long schools might be closed. They were speculating a week or maybe as much as a month but one parent had the audacity to say, “I wonder if schools will open back up before summer”. We all stared at her in horror. It was unthinkable. I realize in hindsight my ignorance was a gift.
Fast forward two years. Sadly, ~968k people in the just the US have died due to COVID, many more were sick but did not die, the world pretty much shut down for ~3 months in 2020, many businesses had to close and many people lost their jobs, there was civil unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd, we elected a new President, rioters attacked the capital, Russia invaded Ukraine, and so much more.
On a more personal level at our house we muddled through the first year but each of us tapped into our creativity in some way, I was put at 80% pay at my job for 4 months in 2020 but neither of us lost our jobs, I published a sales book, my dad published his memoir, two of our three kids did not go back to the physical school building until 13 months to the day that they left, we got two adorable kittens (Fred and George Weasley), my dad died (not from COVID) and my daughters and wife did not get to fly attend his funeral because of the “new” Delta variant, Lucy broke her foot, we were lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Tahoe, we got a ping pong table as a present from my mother-in-law and some combination of us play almost daily, the kids are back playing organized sports and we are all grateful for that, all three kids are still required to wear masks at school, and COVID is a commonplace word in our daily vocabulary.
I documented the early days of COVID in by blogging weekly and here are some excerpts to remind us of how uncertain things were back then (as I was trying to find humor in that initial uncertainty):
- We found out that our kids are going to be off school and at home for four weeks. As most parents in this situation, after the profanity (luckily it was all in my head), we are trying to figure out what we need to do as a family to get through this time.
- We are going to try to limit our contact with others to help flatten the curve. We are still trying to figure out what this means. Can we go to the dentist and doctor appointments that were scheduled in the next couple of weeks? Do we let our cleaners come to the house? Do I get to go to hot yoga or can my wife go to Crossfit? Can our kids see their friends? One thing that does mean is that there will be 5 of us (and 1 fluffy 75-pound dog) in the house every day, all day. Cozy.
- Since we are looking at four weeks with no school, camps and, possibly, no playdates or friends over, we decided to come up with a schedule of how our kids need to spend their time during the week when they are at home from school and we are working. Luckily, at 8, 10 & 13, they are old enough to be somewhat self sufficient so this might be a good experience for them to have to follow a schedule without much adult/parental help.
- “Put the hammer down” I heard my wife yell at our 8 and 10-year-olds. That’s how our 1st week of school closures/homeschooling started.
- I love kids but they are inherently loud and needy. They are loud when they talk, when they walk, when they come into your office and they try to whisper when you are on a work call or video conference and they are certainly loud when they fight. Our girls were definitely loud when they were beating the poor toy electronic dog with the hammer and laughing like maniacs.
- Fuse beads require an iron so during the first couple of days, the girls would yell, “Iron!” and want a parent to come immediately to iron their creations. On the third day, I got them to yell, “Iron, please!” and wait 5 minutes before yelling again. On Friday, I taught them how to use the iron themselves and just hoped for the best. This homeschool teaches life skills.
- I checked in more with our 8-year-old, Ellie, and would take breaks to play a board game (Clue, Connect Four or Labyrinth) or I’d bring her along when I took the dog for one of the many walks around the neighborhood. We watched some Garfield and read a lot of Dog Man books together. Her reading has come a long way in the last couple of months and instead of me always reading to her, she was often reading to me, which is huge since she is dyslexic.
- I carved out little 15 minute breaks with my 10-year-old, Lucy, to play Chess (she always beats me– except that one time 2 years ago that I’ll never forget), Scrabble (we’re about even on this one) or when I bike around the neighborhood as she scooters next to me (because I’m too slow a biker for her to ride her bike with me). We got to talk more than usual and here are 3 things that I learned from her this week 1. She misses her teacher (the amazing Mrs. Neal) and about 5 friends from school but most everyone else in 4th grade is annoying (especially the boys because they all think they are so great) 2. The things she likes better at home than school are that she gets to wake up whenever she wants and she can have a snack whenever she is hungry, and 3. She likes weekends because she can have more screen time and her parents are not as busy.
- Our 13-year-old, Jackson, was still pretty self-sufficient but I made more time to just check in with him during the day or watch a show sometimes in the evening with him. He looked really tall to me last week and when we stood back to back, he was officially taller than me. Wow. It was a momentous week.
- This week I really tried to get dressed in the morning at a normal time and not hang out in my pajamas all morning like I had been doing for the last two weeks. I think I should get a gold star for my efforts.
- Ellie thinks she’s a dog (again).
- I just realized that none of our kids have been in a car for three weeks.
- Our PE teacher, Jackson, is tough. I overheard him making the girls do a 5-minute bent arm plank. I don’t think I can do a 5-minute bent arm plank. He showed them a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and told them he’s going to get them to look like him soon. I’m just picturing little Ellie and Lucy with their sweet faces on Arnold’s jacked up body.
- The kids thought I was touching my face too much so they challenged me to not touch my face for 5 minutes. They kept changing the timer to longer (which I knew) but I was determined to win their challenge, much to Lori’s amusement. I ended up going 12 minutes without touching my face. Try it, it’s really hard.
- Lucy spent a lot of her educational time this week creating rainbow loom figures. She is quite amazing at it. Sometimes she watches YouTube to learn them and sometimes she makes her own designs. We didn’t stress that she wasn’t doing as much reading or math. It’s her “spring break” and her distance learning officially starts next week so we gave her a little break.
- I’ve been watching Tiger King on Netflix. It is so bizarre but I can’t stop watching it. Are these people for real? I keep thinking they are going to say that it’s a mockumentary.
- Ellie told me, “It’s a great time for parents to have kids right now”. When I asked her why she said, “It gives parents someone to play with when they are at home all day”. Ok, that made me stop and think about this from an eight-year-old’s point of view.
- On one of my many dog walks, I saw a woman walking her cat on a leash. Is that a thing?
- The kids are starting to learn what it takes to keep a house clean. In full disclosure it’s a painful experience all around but at least they are learning that the house doesn’t magically clean itself.
- We started taking sunset walks on a path next to the farm behind our neighborhood. It’s a nice way to wind down after dinner and our sunsets are beautiful.
- Our county just announced that masks are mandatory in public.
- I’m going to say something brilliant and give 100% credit to my wife; less technology equals more creativity. The girls have started to be more creative because they have been losing technology a lot lately (ahem, fighting). Their favorite game is putting on their bathing suits, going to the back yard, making the other guess what color toy is behind their back and if they guess the wrong color, they dump water on each other’s heads.
- We are still taking our sunset walks. Usually it’s just Lori and myself but Jackson did join us one evening to walk in the farm behind where we live to see a beautiful sunset.
- There is a bear roaming around our town this week. The local paper’s headline was awesome; “Bear sheltering in place at West Pond”.
- Sad news. The bear, Gilligan, that was wandering around our town was hit by a car and died.
- Lucy started making sock puppets. They are adorable.
- Ellie did a 10-minute bent arm blank.
If you had asked me two years ago to come up with the craziest scenario I could, I would never have predicted what we have all gone through. I think for me, not knowing the future was a small gift.
When the mom at Ellie’s school suggested the kids might not go back at all in the spring of 2020, I was horrified and could not comprehend it just as I would not have understood what I was seeing if I had a crystal ball back in March 2020.
If someone had told me then that two of my three kids would not be back in person for 13 months, it might have put me over the edge, so I am glad I did not know.
Somehow most of us have gotten through it and we parents have done the best that we can. I alway said parenting was the hardest but best job I ever had and that was before COVID. I am giving all parents ten gold stars for their sticker charts for making it through the craziness that has been the last two years.