Parenting in the Time of Pandemic

Means yelling at your kids at the breakfast table that they’re going to be late for school. Which is in the parlor.

Means waking up your spouse early for IT support on the laptops to make sure the in-house security doesn’t block the 400 different learning platforms required for each child. Making them late for work. Which is in the basement.

Means the dog is pissed off that his walk is delayed because attendance is during his normal walk time. Hiding shoes so he doesn’t chew them to show his displeasure.

Wondering why the schools bothered to send home the Chromebooks for everyone if they didn’t bother to also send the headphones, sending you scrambling for the gaming headsets and hope they fit smaller noggins.

Being told by every school employee that attendance is mandatory by 8 in the posted zoom link. But the zoom link is never posted.

Listening to one of your children bitch they’re at the small table with an uncomfortable chair, but its the only place/arrangement where you can see their screen after finding out too late in 2020 they spent most of the school year in chat rooms playing clicky games.

Also listening to that same child perform for the camera and finding over-sold laughter a trigger for murderous inclinations.

Living with the fact that your kid refuses to brush their hair for the camera, but letting it go because they’re at least wearing their uniform shirt. Pandemic Hair(tm) on a small is weirdly adorable.

Realizing that your back-to-the-gym schedule has been shelved. Again. Wondering if you got your money’s worth in 2021 since you won’t be in 2022.

Coming to terms that you are now chained to the dinning room table as a distance learning room monitor for the duration of this shut down.

Considering catching Omicron just for a week in quarantine.

Not liking the way you lumber across your child’s live feed like a dumpy hausfrau sasquatch, knowing that parent sightings are a way of life now. The teacher is just glad you’re trying to take an active part in the proceedings.

Hating Pandemic Homeschool Zoom Gym Class with a passion. Trust me. They run around this house enough to qualify as passing a Presidential Fitness Test.

Wondering if your high schoolers are actually having class or if they’re so short on staff, most of it is just study hall for not having anyone to teach.

Realizing it took five days into the new year to totally trash your vague “Do Something With My Life” New Year’s resolution.

Wondering if reheating the same cup of coffee a dozen times makes it bitter. Or if its just you.

Literature

(scene opens in Pandemic Homeschool)

Me: (miserable between two zoom meetings)

Delta: (fascinated by sing song story time)

Gamma: (talking to speech therapist) I have to read something out loud?

Me: (looks around quickly for suitable reading)

Gamma: (to screen) I have a copy of Terry Pratchett’s “The Hogfather” if that’s okay? (hold up book taken from stack of stuff)

Me: (dumbfounded)

Gamma: (begins to read “The Hogfather” outloud to teacher)

Me: (silently)

Future Engineer

(scene opens in pandemic homeschool)

Beta: Mom, check my eyes? The question says “look at the slide on page eleven and describe a negative feed back loop”. But the slide that talks about negative feed backs is on page ten.

Me: And?

Beta: What should I do?

Me: Ignore page number and answer the question. The question is about negative feedback loop. Do you see the slide that talks about feedback?

Beta: Yes.

Me: Then talk about negative feedback.

Beta: (thinks a moment) I’m going to tell the teacher its on the wrong page.

Me: (sigh) Okay. But also answer the question about the negative feedback loop and don’t wait for her to say “Okay, look on page ten for the information”.

Distance Learning: K Edition

(scene opens at cluttered table)

Me: (bent over stale coffee gritting teeth) Again, Delta. Makes the “N” sound? List or Note?

Delta: (wailing) But I don’t know!

Me: Delta. What starts with the letter “N”? List or Note?

Delta: I don’t know!

Me: (surrenders, picks up toddler, tucks under arm, heads for stairs) Well, I guess you’re too tired to do your work. Nap time.

Delta: NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Me: (stops) What letter does “No” start with?

Delta: THE LETTER N!

Me: (drops child) Is it the same sound as List or Note?

Delta: NOTE!

Me: (points to laptop) Go over there and push the right button so we can finish this level and move to the next one.

Life is a dark room

(scene opens in apocalypse homeschool)

Me: (at kid table with Chromebook) Okay, this assignment is “Draw a picture about what you liked about the story and record talking about it.” Like the last four hundred videos we watched.

Delta: I don’t like anything.

Me: I know. But you have to stop submitting blank pages, the teacher doesn’t like it. Could you pretend? For mommy?

Delta: (fills in the page with a single color) It’s all black. I like black. (hits submit button)

Me: (sighs) That’s fine. Let me get some more coffee before the teacher emails me again.

First Impressions

(scene opens in bathroom, Carrot helping Delta wash hands)

Me: So, how was your first day of kindergarten? Did you have a good time?

Delta: (ambivalent) Yeah.

Me: Do you like your teacher?

Delta: Yeah. She’s already making my life hard.

Me: That’s nice. Only thirteen more years to go.

Bro, do you even school?

(scene opens in dinning room)

Me: Guys, I’m getting emails from teachers updating me on your assignments. Who’s teacher is Ms. W? Who has Ms. D? Anyone have Mr. G?

Kids: (collectively) Uh, I don’t recognize those names.

Me: Okay, they’re either Alpha or Beta’s ’cause I know Gamma and Delta’s.

Bigs: I dunno.

Me: (slogs through school web page directories) Okay Beta, you have Ms. W and Ms. D. Alpha – you have Mr. G.

Beta: Oh yeah, Ms. W is the English teacher. I forgot.

Alpha: Who is Mr. G? I don’t know a Mr. G.

Me: IT IS APRIL HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THE NAMES OF YOUR TEACHERS?!?

Follow Up

(scene opens in foyar)

Me: (handing Alpha his scarf) Try to have a good day at school. Remember, if anyone asks you if you have any wishes today, go for something mundane like “can fly” or “turn invisible”.
Alpha: That’s boring.
Me: I know. But it won’t freak your teachers out. Maybe say “I want to be the Silver Surfer and fly through space” or “I want a TARDIS so I can travel time and space.”
Alpha: (deep sigh) I don’t want to have to spend my life saving the world.
Me: It’d be worth having a TARDIS. Anything more esoteric and your teachers aren’t going to understand.
Alpha: No one understands me.
Me: I know honey. Being weird is hard.

Threat Assessment Level

(scene opens in kitchen, ringing phone)

Me: Please don’t be Alpha’s school. Please don’t be Alpha’s School.

(close up on caller ID, Alpha’s school)

Me: (resigned) Hello?
Case Worker: (prim judgemental voice) Hello, it’s Alpha’s case worker. His teacher sent him to me for inappropriateness. I have him on speaker phone. He was supposed write down his three wishes as part of a class project. Go ahead and read them, Alpha.
Alpha: Hi mom.
Me: (worried) Go ahead, Alpha.
Alpha: My three wishes: Control over all sentient life on the planet, Fallout 4, to be able to control Death.
Me: (starts laughing) Well, I understand what you were going for in context, but perhaps you didn’t explain yourself well enough for the teacher. You need to work on your literary expression.
Alpha: I tried to. I tried to explain that there’s so much bad in the world that wouldn’t it be good to be able to summon Death and just have the bad guys poof into ash?
Me: Probably, but until you can use more expressive language in explaining your thoughts and ideas, you’re going to get in trouble for them.
Case Worker: (much different tone) Well, okay Ms. Carrot, I just thought you should know what’s going on in class and I get what Alpha’s trying to say. Just so many crazy things going on in the world right now, I just thought you should be kept informed. I’ll send him back to class.
Me: Thank you.
Alpha: Bye mom!
Me: Behave yourself.