March 18, 2020, 8 am
As it turns out, it is not possible to take care of a 9-month-old, homeschool a preschooler, and also work full-time all from inside the same apartment. Especially when that apartment has only four rooms. Add to this the monumental task of explaining things to a sensitive, smart, anxious four-year-old and then helping him navigate his emotional reaction to it all. Life here in Covid City is intense.
Like many parents, Dave and I went from having 75 hours a week of childcare (L at school 8:15-5:30/6 five days a week, the baby with my in-laws from 9-6 three days a week) to having no back-up at all. M is completely off-the-hook, requiring someone on him every waking moment; literally, if you turn away for a second, he tries to kill himself. I somehow managed to work from our makeshift bedroom office on Monday while Dave kept both kids alive, and poor L was bored, sad, and emotional all day. By mid-afternoon, he broke down crying and demanded my attention (“I need more hugs,” he later said to Dave).
He needs more of a lot of things right now. To make matters harder, the only time Dave and I can plan, prep, and work through how to best provide this support is once L is asleep, which isn’t happening until 9:30/10:00 pm nowadays. And, let’s be honest, whoever is doing bedtime usually falls asleep in L’s bed before we get the chance to talk; L has been having nightmares, M has been teething, and so Dave and I are maybe getting four hours of broken sleep a night. These two kiddos are exhausting.
Shockingly, I did get some work done on Monday. And you know what? It felt completely irrelevant. Why was I writing a biweekly report instead of writing homeschool plans or emails to my loved ones? Why was I confirming advisement calls when we have no idea what next semester will even look like? Another COVID-19 season will arrive before a vaccine has been properly tested and put into place. Society as we know is only going to keep changing.
CUNY, and all other employers, need a long-term plan here, not just some weird attempt to move old routines and expectations from offices into homes. Too many people, higher-ups in particular, are clinging to a model that has quickly become ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense to keep working as usual right now.
I’m personally lucky enough to have some PTO to use for the rest of this week, but even that phrase, “PTO to use,” feels absurd. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, to the point that the unemployment website crashed when Dave tried to access it last night (now they’re doing a staggered schedule based on last name, so Dave’s assigned time slot to apply is Thursday morning). Our entire global economy is ready to collapse. Healthcare facilities are overwhelmed as confirmed cases continue to rise. Right now, what matters most to me is not clocking in work hours. Instead I need to focus on taking proper care of these kids, staying connected to my people, and squeezing in self-care as I can, which means writing and meditating because that is how I stay sane.
Also how I stay sane: pointing out the positives, no matter how small they are. Here are some of my positives for you:
- It is wonderful to not rush around every morning, racing to get everyone dressed, fed, and dropped off so that I can get to the office on time.
- It is equally wonderful to forgo the mad dash from the office to the subway to L’s school for pick-up by 6 pm.
- Homeschool is actually fun. I mean, I studied Early Childhood Education and taught preschool for years so that helps. And L is super into learning. But even if those things weren’t true, there’s something special about doing this together.
- M is nine months old today! And he is trying to talk! Cannot wait to hear what his first word is.
- These kids eat SO MUCH food. It’s impressive. But also my kitchen is a disaster. But also, that’s okay.
- The pets are thrilled. They are quite therapeutic, and it’s super sweet to watch them bond with the baby. I love how oblivious those three are.
- Signs of spring are everywhere. When L spots a dandelion during a dog walk, he gleefully squeals and runs over to pick this weed of a flower then show it off to me with reverence. Adults have strayed way too far from the things that matter.
As crazy as it is to be a parent under quarantine in Covid City, it’s also fun; my adorable little life-suckers provide quite a bit of welcome levity, and they do an excellent job of distracting me from the news. That being said, I don’t think yesterday would have gone as well if we hadn’t implemented a new schedule with multiple activities. I know not every family and kid needs that kind of structure, but if you’re like us, I pasted our adjusted schedule and new ideas for you below. Keep in mind that we don’t intend to do this every day. In fact, L is watching Moana right now.
Parents, whether you’re homeschooling, doing art projects, or watching shows and eating Cheetos all day, you’re a freaking badass. Stay strong.
New Schedule, Adjusted After Homeschool Experiment Day 1, and Very Loosely Interpreted on Day 2
9:00 Family Circle Time: Good morning / Day & Date / Feelings Check-in / Book
9:30 Independent work at dining table (details below)
10:00 Center time: Creative, Science, Math, Library, Music, Computer, or just TV (more below)
10:55 Meditation/breathing exercise
11:00 Project Time –“animal of the week” (see below) or a one-off
11:30 Clean Up
11:35 Dance party
11:45 Reading on the couch (L reads a book or sight-word cards)
12:00 Adult does lunch prep while L watched Doodles with Mo Willems (this is great, L likes it)
12:45 Quiet/alone time in room
1:30 Family exercises (see below)
1:45 Nature walk with Basil or watch TV or Center Time Rd 2 (same centers as Rd 1)
3:30 Meditation/breathing exercise
3:35 Family meeting
3:45 Homeschool ends, turn the TV on and bring me a margarita immediately
Independent Work: High Five puzzle book, math sheets from the web, writing letters in a notebook
Center Ideas & Locations:
-Creative on coffee table: coloring pages, paper and crayons, stickers, cutting things out
-Science on balcony: nature box, planting and watering seeds, dissecting my dead garden, digging in a planter full of dirt, using a magnifying glass to inspect the random things out there
-Math on dining table: addition/subtraction puzzle, counting & sorting items, toy abacus
-Library on couch: Lots of cozy pillows with books and sight-word cards
-Music in living room: play instruments, sing karaoke, pick a record and discuss what instruments you hear
Animal of the week: Choose an animal and throughout the week, watch Nat Geo and Animal Planet videos, makes notes of facts about it, do art projects, listen to songs, “dance” like the animal, discuss what it eats, look at map to see where it lives
This week for us is the octopus: Nat Geo Doc (4 mins), Nat Geo Pics & Facts Slideshow, “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles, making octopus tentacles with tissue paper leftover from Xmas, acting like an octopus, finding sets of 8 things around the apartment