By Chase McFadden//Contributor | Tuesday, April 21, 2020
A week into our kids’ school closures, not a single child had learned to play a stringed instrument. None had created an art piece worthy of display at the Louvre. Embarrassingly, exactly zero had picked up a new language — not even an easy one like Mandarin.
Instead, they sat on the couch, played Minecraft and ate for 14 hours each day.
I was ashamed.
Not because of my children’s actions, but because of mine.
In a panic, I was projecting unfathomably unrealistic expectations of personal growth on my kids… during a global crisis. “When life gives you lemons, engineer a Rube Goldberg machine with no less than 39 intricately-designed moving parts to make lemonade” seemed to be my mentality.
I had myself convinced that nothing short of a day spent creating, exploring and learning at Davinci-esque levels — void of electronics, mind you — would constitute time well spent. In short, it was about appearances. Namely mine.
Making the mistake to scroll through social media — as is most often the case — only served to heighten my feelings of ineptness in playing the role of parent-during-pandemic.
On day one of strongly-encouraged social distancing, a mother shared a photo of her prodigal cherub sculpting a bust of Gandhi — utilizing homemade clay concocted from coconut shavings, chocolate milk, a handful of lentils and Floam — that would make Michaelangelo envious. A dad proudly posted a time-lapse video of his Mensa munchkin building a scale replica of the Golden Gate Bridge with no less than a quadrillion Legos, then disassembling it only to construct a model of the Louvre of all things. My kids weren’t even fluent in Mandarin yet!
What my kids were — and are — is anxious, sad and a little lonely. They’re frustrated, worried and scared. Why wouldn’t they be? The world is unrecognizable.
I’d say there’s a 100% likelihood that every one of us is upset and afraid at some level. I know I am. Angst and uncertainty are more contagious than the virus, it seems, and understandably so.
We’ve got to cut ourselves some slack. Coronapalooza arrived on our doorsteps with no instruction manual. If Pandemics for Dummies were in print, it would be a hands-down, worldwide best-seller, but that book can’t be written because there is no qualified author to pen it.
Yes, my kids have played a fair amount of video games since this all began, and by fair amount I mean the majority of those 14 hours that they are eating each day. It’s comforting for them, and social. They somehow play with their friends remotely via some type of online sorcery that was unavailable to me and my friends when we slogged through Frogger in the 1980s. Our children play video games with one another, too, at times bordering on peacefully. Yelling, arguing, trash talk and laughter waft upstairs in a highly-audible, thrash-metal-concert-sort-of-way. It feels almost normal, and anything in the ballpark of normal right now is welcome.
Our children have also been outside riding bikes, shooting baskets and playing some sort of hybrid volleyball game involving the roof, which has resulted in only one broken garage window. As a family, we’ve gone hiking and fishing. We’ve played a couple of board games and a few hands of cribbage. We’ve read. We’ve watched a WHOLE LOT of TV.
There’s been talk of a talent show but nothing has materialized. That’s okay. In the meantime we’ll watch several more episodes of American Idol for inspiration.
Beating myself up about not being the perfect coronavirus parent is unfair to me and unfair to my kids. They don’t expect me to be perfect under the best of circumstances and remind me quite regularly that I’m not. They sure don’t need me pushing them unnecessarily right now. They’re stressed plenty as is. What they need me to do is pull them in.
Interestingly, it took my wife baking cinnamon rolls to put things in perspective. She hadn’t done so in years, mainly because there just isn’t time.
A typical non-COVID weekday is up in the morning, rush, hustle, bustle, practice, school, practice, rush, hustle, bustle, prep for the next day, bed. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Weekends are often drive to a meet, compete, drive back. When weekends aren’t that, they’re catching up at home from the rush, hustle, bustle of the week(s) prior.
But cinnamon rolls don’t really do rush, hustle, bustle. Dough can’t be pushed to rise faster. It works on its own schedule. Cinnamon rolls simply take time, and time is one thing our new viral lifestyle is affording.
Prepping, waiting and baking took the better part of a day, but it was so worth it. When describing those cinnamon rolls, delectable is an understatement (but a really fun word to say so I threw it in anyway). They were served alongside a bowl of hot chili, the classic school lunch — minus the small carton of milk, carrot sticks and nasty glares from the cafeteria supervisor. It was scrumptious (also fun to say).
Maybe this pandemic is a dire warning sent by the cosmos strongly encouraging humanity to slow down, take a deep breath and smell the cinnamon rolls.