Parenting In The Time of COVID

I think every parent, across the globe, has at some point in the past nine months thought, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” Parenting – at the best of times – is hard. It makes sense: you are invested in the outcome at a level unseen in any other venture. Your very heart is walking around outside your body. The results of your efforts will long outlive you. It’s kind of a big deal. And we all enter into it with certain ideas and expectations, even those of us that hadn’t actually planned on becoming parents quite yet when we did.

Parenting during a global pandemic is a whole new adventure for which none of us were prepared. Sure, some parents were already homeschooling, but the majority of them also still had their kids in sports or clubs or other groups to make friends. Sure, some parents were already working from home, but most were doing so with the idea that they could expect others (school, daycare, etc) to care for their children for a certain number of hours each day while they worked without interruption. Sure, some of us were already stay-at-home parents that didn’t depend on that second income to keep things afloat, but we were doing it under the situation of being able to get out of the house with our kids, taking them to the library and into stores to run errands, and sending some off to school, and occasionally going out with friends for a Mom’s Night Out without kids. We were all living in a world where – time and funds permitting – we could visit our parents and grandparents, take a trip to Disneyland, go to an occasional movie. All of that has now been upended, suspended indefinitely,

Eleanor’s “classroom” at a small vanity in my bedroom, where she can see out the window.

When schools closed in March, it was an exercise in frustration for all of us here in Clegg house. Alden developed aggressive behaviors for the first time ever, as his regular schedule and routine and beloved teachers vanished overnight. Zoey was left in tears several times a week as she warred with the executive functioning areas of her brain to know where and how to start with her school work. Eleanor was left despondent with the lack of social time with her group of friends. I was sicker than I have ever been and struggling to just stay awake through a day, much less help my kids through this major transition. Zach was trying to work from home, care for me, and guide the kids through their “new normal” all at the same time – an impossible task for anyone, but one he took on without complaint.

Zoey prefers to sit on a yoga ball and attend school in her bedroom.

With the return to school this fall, we had the benefit of being able to prepare the kids for what to expect. They also got direct instruction time from their teachers via Google Classroom each day, which was a big improvement from the spring. Then, with the return to in-person school two days a week, ALL of us experienced a boost in mental health. I was able to run the occasional errand out of the house with only Dinah along. The kids got to do hands-on learning and *gasp* actual art projects and P.E. again, along with seeing friends. This week, however, is our last week of in-person until at least mid-January.

Alden has developed a strong need to be a small, cozy places lately. I think he finds them comforting and enjoys not having to maintain an upright posture.

Our school district staff and bus drivers are dropping like flies from overwhelming community spread here in Idaho (the district has done a fantastic job limiting spread within the schools) and there are no longer enough staff to keep the schools going. Virtual learning is extended until at least mid-January because the community here cannot be trusted to not all get together and party at New Year’s. It is disheartening – maddening, really – to see people be so cavalier about something that has left me so sick for so long, has killed a quarter million Americans and left millions more with permanent, ongoing health concerns. It is heartbreaking, really.

We are facing all this with as positive an attitude as we can. I tell the kids how much I treasure getting to spend extra time with them that I otherwise wouldn’t get. Yesterday, when ClassLink was down nationwide, we took advantage of the free time and went on a spontaneous bike ride around the neighborhood – something we couldn’t do if they were in school. Eleanor has been able to avoid reading requirements at school while she makes her way through dyslexia tutoring. Dinah, of course, loves having her siblings around to play with all the time. We are all learning computer and technology skills that will serve us for the rest of our lives.

As I continue to watch press conferences from our city and state leaders and school boards, showcasing healthcare professionals warning of overflowing hospitals, overworked and sick nurses and doctors, and the future rationing of care if things don’t change, I find myself often thinking of a quote from Dr. Suess’ The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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