Because of the coronavirus, San Benito County students spent St. Patrick’s Day at home instead of school. What was originally supposed to be a week of closures has turned into a month.
As I read the news and saw my carefree children wearing green and playing in the yard with my husband, I couldn’t bring myself to share what I had just found out. A bit later we sat down with our children—daughter Bella, a third grader, and son Luca, a kindergartner—and explained the situation.
The first thing our daughter said was, “what about my birthday?” She turned nine on March 25 and was looking forward to her classmates singing happy birthday, and had already decided on what treats she would be taking to school to share. Amid the confusion, there were more questions than concrete answers. More questions soon followed: What about my friends? My teachers? Our field trips?
Before COVID-19, our regular school day morning included me whizzing around the house—first serving my coffee, then making lunches, waking up the kids, helping them be presentable for school, whipping up a to-go breakfast, double-checking bags for homework to turn in and signing permission slips that somehow never made it out of the bag the night before.
Then we’d rush out the door, pile in the car and make it to school on time. On my drive home, I’d take a deep breath and pray they would have a good day at school.
I looked forward to finishing my coffee and getting on with my regular routine. While the kids were in school from 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., I was able to do my daily household chores, run errands at the supermarket or pharmacy, feed and exercise our two dogs, work on my assignments from BenitoLink, go to meetings, or go to doctor or dentist appointments.
Since school closures and sheltering-in-place were ordered to control the spread of COVID-19, our routine quickly spiraled into no routine at all. One day, we laid around following the shelter-in-place order, taking it to the extreme of hibernation.
The kids’ infighting, running wild and being stuck on screens was getting out of control. I nearly lost my mind. Before the coronavirus, many days it was a struggle to get the kids up and ready for school. Now that they don’t have school, they seem to be missing it.
Together, our family came up with an hour-by-hour schedule that lined out the kids’ day so they would know what was next. Mimicking the school day, we incorporated math, reading, P.E., art, lunch and free time—and integrated hygiene, housework, gardening, and cooking. This was my saving grace. I realized that while my kids and I both know what’s on the agenda for the day, it has become easier for all of us to stay focused and continue being productive.
Now in week two, we have successfully been following the schedule (for the most part). At the very least it keeps us on track or reels us back in when we lose focus. My daughter celebrated her birthday from home. We made it special by making a cake and allowing her to choose take out food for lunch and dinner. Still under the shelter-in-place order, we will not be meeting up with any of her friends as in years past, but it will be even more memorable because of how we celebrated her birthday during a worldwide pandemic and statewide shelter-in-place.
Going into week three, I hope what we started in weeks one and two lasts. As with this ever-changing pandemic, parenting during COVID-19 is navigating uncharted territory. You don’t know what lies ahead.