Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus

by Abby on March 16, 2020

Hello readers, old and new! I haven’t been writing regularly on this blog for a few years, for a variety of reasons. But I’ve decided to start again, at least for the next little while. This is a historic time we’re living through, and it feels important to document it in my own words. 

Wegmans produce dept., empty of any organic green apples during COVID-19 outbreak, but otherwise well-stocked.

In the olden days of blogging (I started my first blog in 2005), one of the things I liked best was hearing from readers in different parts of the U.S. and around the world about their own experiences. We can fall under the assumption that we know everything about everyone, everywhere, thanks to social media, the 24/7 news cycle, and the internet in general. But it’s not really true, and it’s not the same as people telling their own stories in longer, more lasting form than tweets and TikToks. So here I go. 

Bear in mind that I am writing this as things are unfolding in real time. The news changes by the hour, and we are all learning as we go. Meaning: if you read this in a week or a month and all the rules for hand-washing and social distancing have changed (as they probably will), do not criticize or shame me for my ignorance. I get enough of that from my kids. 

Speaking of my kids, my sons are now 11 and 13 and don’t suffer fools gladly. And by fools, I mean Boomers. And by Boomers, I mean Gen-Xers like me or anyone older than them. I’ve tried to explain the generational differences to them. They don’t care. “OK, Boomer.” Tweens and teens are fun. 

My sons, ages 11 and 13, on a ski lift earlier this year

Anyway, let’s get into the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation, shall we? 

Like everyone, everywhere, we’d been hearing the news about China and Italy for weeks. On March 11, our public school system in the Baltimore suburbs announced they were cancelling field trips outside of Maryland and DC for the remainder of the school year. This was super-disappointing to R., my 5th grader, because his class was scheduled to go on a field trip to Philadelphia later in the month. On a real coach bus with reclining seats and movie screens!

A day later, schools announced they were closing immediately for the 2 weeks leading up to Spring Break.* I’ll be honest and tell you that my first thoughts upon learning–with zero notice–that my children would be home from school for 3 straight weeks were not about how many people’s health would be protected. Emails and voicemails about online learning, grab-and-go lunches, and field trip refunds began circulating hourly. 

The next day, Friday, my kids came home from their last day of school with some extra worksheets and links to online resources. That’s it. I’ve heard some of the private schools are conducting online lessons in real-time via Zoom or other platforms. Kids must login at certain times and complete daily lessons. That is not the case for us. Not yet, anyway. 

Healthy and not-so-healthy snack food my teen and tween have consumed during coronavirus quarantine.
I cannot overstate the amount of snack food bored/anxious tween/teen boys consume on the daily. Notice how the “healthy” options on the left are untouched, while the “junk food” on the right is decimated.

Like many people trying to keep on top on the ever-evolving news, I have been closely following social media. I follow thousands of people on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. If this sounds like information overload, it is. But it’s also very helpful at times. Many people began posting homeschooling schedules, like this one. At first I found this helpful and inspiring. Very quickly, however, I tipped into overwhelm and despair. My kids announced that they were not going to be “forced” to do “tons of pointless work.” 

Listen. In the best of times, I find it frustrating maddening challenging to get my kids to do their homework in a thorough and timely fashion. If I dare suggest, say, that “we” review “our” work, check our answers, or look up the correct spelling of “ancwsers,” I am met with great wailing and gnashing of teeth. So I don’t see enforcing a strict homeschooling schedule broken into 30 min. increments. It will not go well. For any of us. 

In fact, there was so much wailing and moaning leading UP to today (Monday, the first official “homeschool” day), that we were all worn out and slept in. In fact, I let M., my 8th grader, sleep in till 11:30 a.m. Yep, I did. That was 3 extra blissful hours I didn’t have to spend fighting with him over screentime, so yeah, I let him sleep in. Come at me, bro.

Also? I need to somehow squeeze MY work into this strange new schedule of ours. I have never felt so lucky to be a work-at-home writer who can continue to generate income even in our current circumstances. For me, working remotely ain’t no thang. It’s what I do. My heart is breaking for all these employees I’m hearing about who can’t work from home, who still have to work even though their kids’ schools or daycare is closed. (And many are still having to pay for childcare or backup childcare.) And the restaurant workers, now that MD has shut down bars and restaurants starting tonight. And don’t even get me started on all those healthcare workers. It’s a nightmare. How is anyone going to make this work?

MD Governor Orders Restaurants, Bars, Gyms, Theaters to Close as of March 16 at 5 p.m.

It’s now been 3 days—only 3 days!—since life as we know it ended abruptly. All the sports and activities have been cancelled. All the movie theaters and gyms are closed. On Sat. one son had a friend over and my other son played outside with neighbors. On Sun. I woke up to online admonishments to cancel playdates and avoid playgrounds. I don’t know what to do. (Besides, OBVS, washing our hands nonstop!)

Here’s where I must insert some Grandma-shaming which will surely hurt some feelings. But when someone (without kids at home) suggests, “Go for a walk! Bake some cookies! Watch a movie!” it takes all my strength to suppress a violent eye roll and not scream, “And what about the other 13 freaking hours of the day?!” As one single mom of 3 said on Instagram, “Parenting is relentless AF.” And never more so than during a pandemic when all the Skyzones and Smoothie Kings are closed.

Hell hath no fury like an active elementary schooler whose after-school activities, sports practices, field trips, and playdates have all been abruptly cancelled. And not even fury. Real, understandable, crushing disappointment, bewilderment, fear, and anxiety. It’s a lot for any kid. And any parent. For now, we’re just getting by the best we can, hour by hour. Stay tuned and stay safe. 

Card games, puzzles, and gummy worms are social distancing essentials

*As of 5:07 p.m. 3/16/20, Maryland school leaders and health experts say the shutdown could last through the end of the school year. Yay. 

LINKS O’ THE DAY: This Twitter thread about Gen-Xers made me LOL in recognition. Warning: includes adult language. Dark times call for dark humor. 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Basi March 17, 2020 at 7:26 am

FWIW, I was schooled by my 14- and almost-11-yo late last week that culturally, “Boomers” means anyone over fifty. So maybe these kiddos need to get their stories straight. 🙂

On the working from home, yup, I’m with you. I have a child with Down syndrome and the idea of trying to battle ANY learning with her, which is all very hands-on, is giving me heart palpitations. And I, too, have been dealing with wailing and crushed disappointment of cancellations, totally understandable. Today is our last day of school. They are tentatively supposed to go back after Easter. We shall see how things unfold.


Abby March 17, 2020 at 8:57 am

Kathleen! Good to hear from you. The struggle is real. I guess we’ll all just do the best we can and give ourselves a lot of grace. Good luck!


Julie Rector March 17, 2020 at 10:08 am

So good to hear from you again! We’re in the same boat on this coast – schools cancelled, restaurants and movie theaters closed. While my oldest (9) thrives on routine, her 7 year old sister’s dream day off is staying in pjs and amusing herself with whatever comes along – “Mom, I just found this ribbon! “ (plays with ribbon for 10 hours). Lots of hurt feelings that Lil Sis doesn’t want to do math worksheets at 10 am, followed by chores at 11! Tons of frustration that Big Sis keeps nagging about the need to read quietly RIGHT NOW!


Abby March 19, 2020 at 10:58 am

Hi Julie! It’s crazy how different kids are, isn’t it? I mean, not crazy, pretty understandable, actually, but it certainly makes it challenging to navigate your days when you’re all stuck at home together.


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