Parenting during the pandemic has certainly been an adventure.
When school started in the fall, we were already anticipating a stressful, yet exciting, year. Our two sons, 17 and 13 years old, are graduating from high school and middle school respectively. I still don’t know how we survived August to December running our small business, attending to my clinical and forensic psychology practice, applying to colleges and high schools at the same time, and helping the boys with application forms, extensive essay questions (some requiring video responses) and personal statements.
Our high school senior was looking forward to traditional events such as senior retreats, the prom, grad night and of course, the much anticipated graduation ceremony. To a lesser degree, but equally important, our 8th grader also had on his docket the traditional dinner dances, sports awards night, and graduation.
These plans came crashing down when the pandemic hit and we began sheltering-in-place.
Safety and health were our first priority as we made adjustments to our daily schedule and routines. We faced the challenges of distance learning while trying to help the boys navigate a gauntlet of emotions — including frustration, boredom, disappointment and anger — at the same time trying to keep our own feelings of fear, worry, and uncertainty under control. Only one member seems to be taking this experience entirely in stride: our 3-year-old beagle-mix, Molly. Instead of being alone at our Mission Terrace home for hours at a time, she now has us all day.
Our business, which provides disability evaluations, was shut down by the shelter-in-place order, but my private practice has remained busy. While my husband was tasked with applying for the available government loans and moratoriums for small businesses, I was juggling homeschooling and Zoom tele-psych sessions with my clients. I started working in my home office so that in between sessions, I could prepare lunch and snacks for the boys and be present for them as a sounding board for various complaints on remote schooling, the inability to see their friends or play spring sports.
As we approach the third month of shelter-in-place, the quarantine lifestyle has become our new norm, as it has for so many families. As an extrovert, social distancing has hit me harder than my introverted husband. Aside from the stress of having our business close down — hopefully only temporarily — the sheltering-in-place lifestyle seems to come as second nature to him. Prior to the pandemic, he only socialized, sometimes begrudgingly, when I dragged him to events with my friends or parents from the boys’ school and sports teams. During the lockdown, he has been content watching syndicated sitcoms like Friends and That ’70s Show. I have even caught him watching older shows, such as I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke.
I, on the other hand, spend time reaching out to friends and family and calling my 76-year-old mother, who lives in Southern California. She and her other senior friends were the last to shelter in place and continued to congregate in church and engage in community activities even after the initial mayor’s lockdown announcement. Thus, it took quite a bit of effort to convince her that she needed to stay home. I have frequent FaceTime chats with friends, virtual wine tastings, and online Zumba and yoga classes with groups of people.
In addition, as my younger son’s school PTA president, I stay in touch with the school community via newsletters, Facebook posts with links to various resources and chats with a group of moms. We often exchange texts with funny memes pertaining to the lockdown. I still get cabin fever at times, but allowing my extroverted self to continue to reach out to others has been comforting.
Although this time has been challenging, I have chosen to focus on the silver lining. We get to spend more time with our two sons, who otherwise are very busy with sports, after-school activities and socializing with friends. We especially appreciate this togetherness as we are already feeling the impending departure of our eldest to a university in Southern California in the fall. My 13-year-old’s interest in cooking has been reignited since the time I sent him to “Culinary Dudes’ Camp” when he was 8. He has taken an interest in making homemade dough and putting together pizza kits for family friends who are seniors or frontline workers — until the stores ran out of flour and yeast.
At dinner, after saying blessings, we each go around the table and say two things we are grateful for. Gratitude is one of the keys to managing negative emotions and it has been effective for us. Although the boys often choose “I’m grateful I don’t have coronavirus” as a favorite, we encourage them to think of other comments. As teenagers with endless appetites, they often choose food as the object of their gratitude (“I’m grateful dad made steak for dinner,” “I’m grateful mom made cookies for dessert.”)
I hope the quarantine will end soon, but for now, we are staying put — here in our own home and occasionally on socially distant walks — enjoying each other and appreciating our special time together. I, personally, am thankful that we have found ways to cope and experience joy.
Quarantine Thoughts is an ongoing personal essay series focused on how the coronavirus, social distancing mandates and the economic fallout of COVID-19 is impacting locals. Read more essays here.