As a father living through this historic time — and with a bunch of time on my hands (ha!) — I wanted to record the universal (I mean upper-middle class) experience of parents stranded at home with their kids during the COVID-19 pandemic. I assume that one hundred years from now, scholars will vigorously study and teach my account of the time. You’re welcome, future historians! Oh, and far in the future if someone makes a movie of our experience, take note: I would like to be played by Kit Harrington’s great-grandson.
Day 1: Sun’s out, fun’s out!
There may be a global pandemic, but it’s beautiful outside. The sun shines. Birds sing. My wife and I take our 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to ride their bike and scooter through the nature preserve. Then we walk the dogs around the neighborhood, and our neighbors ask about our well-being from an acceptable distance. We cook out, and I drink a craft IPA on the deck while the sun sets. This quarantine will actually be great!
Day 2: Sun’s going, fun’s going
It’s cloudy, but we still take a great hike. The kids love this break from school, and they’re in great moods. This quarantine might be okay. Sure, the kids spend half the afternoon playing a game they call “Baby,” in which they pretend to be babies, alternating between fake crying and actual crying until I cannot tell the difference. But at least they’re keeping themselves entertained!
Day 3: Yo, sound the bells, homeschool is in (sucker!)
Time for some homeschool! Who needs worksheets or textbooks or the entire infrastructure of the public school system? The world is our classroom! For today’s science lesson, I plan to download an insect-classifying app to identify a weird bug the kids found on the deck. But it takes me ten minutes to remember my iTunes password, at which point both children have left the room.
It was a leaf-footed bug, in case you were interested, because the kids sure weren’t.
Day 5: Working hard from home or hardly working from home?
My wife and I try to get our university teaching done online. The kids seem distracted, so now seems like the perfect time to fire off a mass email to check on my students.
My daughter interrupts: “Dad, do you have any questions about Minecraft?”
“Not now, sweetie. I’m working.”
I hope this email…
My son interrupts: “Dad, do you have any questions about Star Wars?”
“Not now, son. I’m working.”
I hope this email finds you…
My daughter: “Dad, are you sure you don’t have any questions about Minecraft?”
“Not now, sweetie. I’m working.”
I hope this email finds you safe and health…
My son: “Dad, why don’t you have any questions about Star Wars?”
My daughter: “Dad is working! Don’t bother him!”
My son bursts into tears. My daughter bursts into tears. They both run crying into separate rooms. I accidentally send the unfinished email.
Day 8: Ring the bell, homeschool's back in session
Lacking guidance from me, the kids decide to play homeschool themselves. Ten minutes later, I hear my daughter yell “State capitals are fun!” as my son runs sobbing from her room. Fortunately, my wife steps in and gets the kids crafting Pinterest-level art projects and reading Ray Bradbury stories.
I drink an Aldi-brand American Ale in the front porch rocking chair at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Day 10: Game faces
The family breaks out some games, and I entertain myself by mentally writing honest game slogans: Kerplunk (“15 minutes of setup, 30 seconds of fun”), Pie Face (“Russian Roulette for Toddlers”), Sneaky Snacky Squirrel (“A Child’s First Introduction to Thievery and the Cruelty of Fate”), and Hide and Seek (“It’s Only Fun When Your Kids Aren’t Good at It”). My son takes all of the chips off the Sequence board and declares “I win!” My daughter knocks the board off the table and says “No, I win!”
The governor closes schools for the rest of the year. We all lose.
Day 13: “Alexa, quiet!”
The children discover that Alexa will make farting noises. As irritating as it is to hear Alexa’s robot voice produce and then describe farts (“That was a cheek-rattling one”), I momentarily consider buying something Alexa advertises as “An Extreme Fart Pack” in a desperate attempt to keep the kids occupied. I narrowly avoid this temptation, but only because the kids ask Alexa to play “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. Even they cannot make it through the whole song.
Day 16: Keeping it 100
While we walk the dogs, my son asks me to count to 100 over and over again, but to rush through the counting, I deliberately skip numbers. So we’re actively regressing on the homeschool front.
Day 19: Silver linings
A major accomplishment! I found the stuffed caterpillar toy my son lost yesterday.
Wait, never mind. He lost it again.
Day 21: It’s important to keep a consistent schedule
We finally settle into a comfortable, manageable quarantine routine:
7 a.m.: Wake up.
8–10 a.m.: Screen time while I reguarly shout “Only five more minutes of screen time.”
10 a.m.: Pre-homeschool fit by my daughter.
10:30 a.m.: Homeschool
11:45 a.m.: Post-homeschool fit by my daughter. Full-on existential crisis for me.
Noon: Lunchtime! Argue with my son about why he can’t eat chicken nuggets for the fifth day in a row. Listen to his well-reasoned counter arguments. Make him chicken nuggets.
1–2 p.m.: Educational screen time… if you define “educational” as learning about the social structures and behaviors of OddBod culture. (Spoiler alert: I do.)
2 p.m.: Talk about doing something outdoorsy and active. Look at Facebook for an hour.
3 p.m.: Listen to the kids make a bunch of noise in the house, insist they go outside, then listen as they run back inside making even more noise. Repeat.
?: Lose all track of time. Vow to make a better schedule tomorrow.
Repeat again tomorrow.
Day 23: Quarantine hygiene
My son actually licks the cat to give her a bath. Then he starts licking himself. I can’t remember the last time he bathed, so I let him continue. #science
Day 26: Or maybe it's day 28? Time is a flat circle
I remind myself that I’m lucky. None of our close friends or loved ones has Coronavirus symptoms. My wife and I have salaried jobs we can do from home. My kids have been 73-89% well behaved, and my wife is amazing. My latent hypochondria keeps me vigilant against getting sick.
I repeat these affirmations as I hide in the laundry room and drink a Keystone Light I found in the fridge behind curry paste that expired in 2014. The sound of the dryer muffles the children’s argument about who is making the more annoying sound with their nose.
Day 30: The new normal
We made it through the first month. Only an unknown and potentially endless expanse of time left. But if Olympic athletes, NBA fans, and whoever planned on attending Third Eye Blind’s Screamer Part 2 tour can be patient, so can we. We can use this quarantine to have fun and grow closer as a family!
I see a headline about how social distancing could last until 2022, so I head for the fridge in a desperate search for another Keystone Light.