Having an underlying medical condition, I’m doing my best to maintain safe practices during the pandemic. The good news is that “staying home” was what I did before someone ate “bat tartare” in China. Yes, I desperately miss the coffee shops I wrote in, my weekly writer’s group, and the book discussion that I attended regularly – but being told to shelter in place didn’t involve a sea-change in my life.
Except for all these other people around.
I’m referring to my wife and two kids. For the past several years Monica has “worked from home” but she was never here. She was constantly in meetings and on lunch appointments in her quest to preserve St. Pete’s historic character. Now, with her and the kids home 24/7, I’m finding that quarantining is the opposite of lonely. Believe me, I’m grateful for the company. There’s no one I’d rather be trapped with. I have single friends who are really feeling the isolation. And let’s face it, we’re only a couple of weeks in to this thing.
But sometimes I think I actually live with a dozen people. I think this when I look at the top rack of the dishwasher and survey the number of cups and glasses that have been dirtied in 8 hours. I drink out of an insulated water bottle, so I don’t use our glasses. I created a little score card of drinking vessels:
- Me: 1 coffee cup, 1 cup for my evening tea (I knew a tea drinker in college who once remarked of himself, “I’m a little more European than most people like to think.”)
- Monica: 1 to 2 coffee cups, 1 Tervis cup (that she always sets on the counter by the dishwasher and then says, “Hey, where’d my water go?” when it ends up in the dishwasher.)
- 2 kids: 9 to 11 plastic cups, each used for the duration of one sip of water.
At the end of a day, our dishwasher looks like we had a birthday party.
I’m the cook in the house too. Suddenly, I have four people eating here three times a day. Prior to this, we spent a fair amount of time in restaurants. In an abundance of caution we’re not doing takeout. I went from making maybe ten or twelve meals a week to 21. Plus, my kids are like cattle – they eat all day and I don’t have proof that they don’t have four stomachs. In fact, finishing their meal is the equivalent to earning a snack. “Dad, I finished my dinner, can I go eat two lbs of chips?” In fairness, I was hungry from the age of 9 to about 33, so I understand.
On the plus side, I’m not packing school lunches. I hate packing lunches. I hate packing lunches so much that it makes me consider homeschooling permanently. You ask, “Why do you hate packing lunches?” I’m so glad you asked. I have two kids whose food choices rarely overlap in a Venn diagram. So packing two lunches is a daily challenge of assembling 8-10 little snacks. My heart sinks the next morning when I open the previous day’s lunch box and their food is crushed into a slurry of smashed orange peels, bread pieces and Extra Toasty Cheez-It that appear to be the entire previous day’s contents.
Speaking of Venn diagrams. This not-so-wonderful program the schools use called “Dream Box” (aka Scream Box) asked students to create their own Venn diagrams. It then proceeds to grade our chosen diagram incorrect, and then redraw one, with EXACTLY the same meaning. Just one of several errors I uncovered in my brief time using this handy tool for teaching kids to be frustrated with math.
Speaking of homeschooling…
Since the quarantine started, Monica has been running 10-15 miles a day. So by mid morning, when I’m feeling a little cooped up, she’s seen half the city. I’m not complaining. I’m usually in the throes of the day’s online school lessons. School is an interesting problem during the pandemic. Is the online leaning platform that the school district assembled over a period of five days for tens of thousands of kids to access perfect? Shockingly, it’s not. The fact that it works at all is a miracle. I’m truly impressed.
I’m just looking for something to give the kids some structure and normalcy. I don’t care if they master every skill that was in the curriculum this year. I see elementary school parents on social media talking about how their kids are all freaked out about getting their assignments in and maintaining a good grade. My questions is: What have you done to your kids? This is elementary school. Readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmatic. We’re in a pandemic. There are all sorts of reasons that this whole thing might be traumatic – such as death, loss of economic stability, and the end of the world as we know it. If your kids is into learning, make sure they’re having fun.
That’s not to say every moment of “homeschooling” at our house has been fun. My wife will tell you about the day I tried to explain fractions to our son. It got a little tense. But we’re taking everything in 30 minute bites, and he learned something about fractions, and I learned that I cannot teach math. Please, everyone chill out about school. Make it fun. (I say this after my son’s “Keyboarding Without Tears” lesson ended in, yes, tears.)
If I had a time machine, I’d got back to 2005 and tell my wife to drop out of grad school and become a hair stylist.
After this, it’s going to be hard to warn our kids against meeting people on the internet.
In a previous post I mentioned how grateful we are to the friends who let us through their side gate to swim off their dock. It’s a priceless 2 hour diversion every week. And we’re really lucky to have some trails nearby to explore. My brother in California said hiking trails there were so overrun that they had to be closed. Here, we spotted one other family on our walk through the mangroves.
If Monica keeps up the baking, I’m going to look like this manatee who greeted us on Sunday morning.
As the days and weeks pile up, we can only hope they continue to be mundane, and that our family and friends continue to be well. Take care of those who need help and take care of yourselves.
“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Jon’s 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at email@example.com. Monica is a leader of a local non-profit, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker.