I was going to write a post about how to help your little kids burn off all that cooped-up energy that is emanating out of them right now—and I still will—but I needed to press pause on the hacks for a second to tell you something important: If you’re struggling, it’s okay. If you’re totally and completely overwhelmed and fighting tears back most of the time, that’s also okay. I’d be more than surprised if you weren’t. Because we all are.
I am home with just one child, and that one child is nine years old. His father is also here, and although we’re both working from home, that’s an excellent parent-to-child ratio in this situation. And yet it took me 45 minutes to write that first paragraph.
Why did it take me 45 minutes? Because I was trying to write it during my son’s reading time. But he has run out of books. He has, quite literally, re-read every single chapter book he owns, plus a handful of new ones I’ve had shipped to the house over the past couple of weeks. He is the type of kid who really thrives under structure; if that structure starts to crumble, his emotional well-being could go right along with it. So until the next shipment of books arrives, I’ve got to keep him doing something somewhat related to reading during this time.
Luckily, during my usual morning skimming of parenting news, I discovered that J.K. Rowling launched a “Harry Potter At Home” website with a variety of activities for kids. We are currently reading the series together, so Potter-related games counts as reading right now, as far as I’m concerned. But in order for him to be sorted into a Hogwarts house, I had to get him set up with an account that required email confirmations and account registrations. His Chromebook wasn’t cooperating, so I needed to set him up on my desktop computer, which has a mouse he’s not used to using. So every 4-5 minutes, he needed help navigating to a page or clicking through a slideshow.
And every time, it was a break in my concentration. Every time meant setting my laptop aside and walking across the room to click an arrow or refresh a page.
His reading time is, mercifully, over but now he’s telling me about a dream he had last night.
Whatever day or week you are on in this claustrophobic new world we’re living in, it’s been at least one day or week too long. You’re either under the stress of trying to work from home and also make sure they’re logged in at the right time for the class Zoom meeting or you’re not working from home because your job can’t be done from home. And that means it’s quite possible you’re under financial stress or you’re working in an essential job and risking exposure to the coronavirus every day. I’m not a fan of any of these scenarios.
Now he’s telling me he thinks there is a spider on our sunporch because he saw a spiderweb under a cabinet while he was vacuuming a few days ago.
I was listening to the One Bad Mother podcast the other day and the topic was all about how overwhelming and unhelpful all those lists are right now. You know: 20 crafts you can do with xyz material, 50 activities to do indoors, all the museum tours your kids should take, and the truly endless pit of free educational resources being offered right now by any company or organization that is even the slightest bit educational.
All these lists and resources are meant to be helpful. But it’s a lot to sort through when you’re already sorting through how to live, 24-7, in a confined space with young children who need to keep learning despite the fact that you are not a teacher—or you are a teacher, but you’re home with your own kids. Plus, you’re worried about your job. Plus, you’re worried about the health of your older relatives. You’re worried that it’s not just the rest of the school year that will be canceled but that all of summer could be canceled, along with summer camps and vacations and barbecues and life.
Now he’s calling to me for help because he’s taking a shower but forgot to grab a towel.
If you are a parent who has kids at home, you are struggling right now, and that’s okay. You’re going to have days where just getting to the end of it with everyone physically (if not emotionally) in one piece is enough. It may even be the goal. And if I decide to blow up my son’s academic schedule because the stress of finding him something new to read begins to outweigh the benefits of keeping his day structured, that’s okay.
He just asked me how to spell “alligators.”
Listen, I’m here. I will keep showing up here every day to tell you that LeVar Burton is going to read to us on Twitter. Or that if you want to take a virtual trip with your kids, you might as well make it Disney World. Or that Baby Shark has a new hand-washing video, and you can try it if you’re desperate.
Take what is helpful and leave the rest. And if you need help with a specific aspect of parenting through this pandemic, drop it here in the comments. This is not the time for us to try to be perfect; this is the time do what we need to do to survive this. Because whether you’re working or not, whether you have one kid or four kids, whether you’re in a four-bedroom home or a 500-square-foot apartment, this is hard.