Leave It To A Pandemic To Turn Life Upside Down

As I write this, it’s been 148 days since St. Patrick’s Day. I can’t remember all the exact details, but that’s when it feels like the quarantine thing started here in New York. I had good timing in that regard as the boy and I got haircuts just a day or two before everything shut down, though the desire to get my locks chopped did not weigh as heavily on me as some of my fellow humans.

It’s utterly insane that I feel even the remotest need to write the following, but we’re taking Covid-19 very seriously. Though I was skeptical about the whole thing to begin with, it became readily apparent to me that I needed to be careful to protect my family, so that’s what I did. Our kids’ school closed down and everyone remained in-house the whole time, except for my weekly trips to the grocery store and occasional necessary errands (to which I still wear a mask and, often, plastic gloves).

The way I look at it, we all live in one giant community, so I’ve got no problem looking out not just for my immediate family, but also all the strangers I interact with on a daily basis. The insidious thing about this virus (not to anthropomorphize it too much) is that you can have it without knowing it, pass it to an unknown number of other people and accidentally hurt someone without even knowing it. Some might say that if you don’t know it, then what’s the big deal, but I call those people sociopaths. As those very talented kids in that Disney high school once said, we’re all in this together, so don’t be a jerk.

Anyway, between the schools closing and my wife shifting to working from home, my hopes of having a full school year to myself during the day quickly vanished. I went from being a guy who could watch dumb movies while I worked on the living room couch to figuring out how to keep up with two kids’ school work, not to mention my own freelance (which took a hit, but not a terrible one).

When everything started, the schools sent a few supplies home with the kids to keep them going for a short time, but did not give a lot of instruction. So, my wife and I figured out an hourly schedule to keep our kindergartner and third grader on task using those materials as well as our own resources. Ultimately, while I did enjoy coming up with a few music lessons, this was not built to last and eventually fell to the wayside as I did need to actually get my own work done and not spend eight hours teaching.

Thankfully, our teachers got in the swing of the whole teaching-from-home thing pretty quickly. Before long, we had schedules of class meetings for both kids as well as lessons to tackle through Google Classroom, workbook work and a variety of online resources to keep the kids engaged in educational endeavors (hey, that could make for a good post in and of itself). Since my daughter’s older, she was able to do most of her schoolwork on her own, which was a huge relief. Our little dude needed more guidance, but got the hang of it pretty quickly. The hardest part in all of that was finding computer equipment for everyone to use. My wife had her work laptop, my daughter would often wind up using my desktop and then my son would use the laptop with my help. That often left me trying to get things done on my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard I picked up for just such occasions.

Even though we had a solid handle on things, it was still rough going at times. I’m glad the kids are younger and didn’t question why they were doing any of this because I don’t know if I would have had a good answer. As it was, we were nearing and then fully into the end of the school year, which we all qualifies as coasting. I did still have days where I was freaking out not just about trying to get my work done, but also about keeping the kids entertained. Left to their own devices, they would just watch devices all day. We would boot them outside for recess, weather permitting, but even that didn’t feel like enough. I’m not sure how they felt, but I was crushed for them that these two very social kiddos no longer had that particular outlet anymore as dance, gymnastics and scouts all fell to the wayside.

We even made it a point to social distance from their grandparents. My folks live about 10 minutes away and my in-laws just moved to Rhode Island at the beginning of the year. I got pretty good at setting the backyard up for meet-ups with them, but only them. Finally, after months, we opened up our circle to grandparents on Father’s Day. We celebrated by having my folks over for a nice dinner (preceded by lots of hugs as you can imagine) and then heading to RI to visit my wife’s parents at their new place for our first overnight there (and plenty more hugs). We’re all still very careful, but it’s so nice to have those options open, especially when it means that someone else fields near-constant requests for food and attention or demands to know “what should I do now?”

And that’s pretty much where we’ve been at aside from an RV-enabled trip to Michigan that I’ll get to in another post. Aside from a few trips and appointments, my wife and kids have barely left the house/yard and rarely complain about it which warms my heart. I try to remember how damn hard this must be on them and do my best to honor that when dealing with them, though I don’t always succeed. I’m also so glad that they seem to get where we’re coming from with our precautions. The thought of someone not wearing a mask in public stuns them and they took the fact that they won’t be returning to the actual school building (or the dance school or the scout meetings or the gymnastics studio) any time soon in stride.

At this point, the whole 2020-2021 school year is still a bit of sticky wicket, but I’m hoping it gets worked out pretty soon. Whatever the case, I know for sure my children will not be attending a physical school and I will be playing teacher to some extent for a time. Speaking of which, I’ve always supported teachers, but after the past several months, I now think they should all be paid a million dollars and not be forced into risking their lives to fulfill their desire to help mold children’s minds.

With that, stay safe and wear a damn mask!



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