I captured my daughter’s personality wholly within a single GIF.
I captured my daughter’s personality wholly within a single GIF.
What do you do during week five without school? You buy a wireless Xbox controller and illegally sideload a Nintendo 64 emulator onto the Apple TV and blow the minds of two young kids who have only ever used touch screens.
After an hour of NES and SNES Mario games for the first time in his life, I load up Mario 64. A moment later…
"OH MY GOSH! I DIDN’T KNOW MARIO CAN WALK BACKWARDS!!"
With Tennessee finally and thankfully instituting a shelter in place order beginning at midnight tonight, we got up early this morning to clean out the side garage so the kids will have extra space to play on rainy days. We did it today because the new regulations mean essential trips only going forward (not that I expect any of the idiot local yocals around here to follow them), so today will be our last chance to haul away all of the garage junk that’s gathered over the past year.
But none of that is interesting. The point of this post is the conversation I had with A on the ride to and back from the recycling center. He’s six and knows full well that the world is full of bad germs now and he needs to be extra careful and can’t see his friends. He also openly calls it "the coronavirus", too. We’re not trying to sugarcoat the world for him or his sister (to a degree, of course).
He obviously doesn’t get the gravity of the situation at his age, but the longer this continues, the more his mind is starting to pick up on things and ask deeper questions. During our thirty minutes in the car this afternoon…
When can we go on a vaction again? I want to go somewhere that’s not our house.
We can’t go anywhere right now because there are germs. We have to stay at our house.
But we stay in a house at vacation? So there’s no germs there.
That’s not our house. That’s someone else’s house – and they could have germs. And the beach could also have germs cause there are so many people there.
But why do you and mommy still get to go places? Me and H have to stay home all the time?
I won’t transcribe our whole conversation that followed. I’ll just say that I never expected at this age to have to explain to him the definition of an "acceptable risk". I told him that we have to have food to eat, so that means we still have to go to the grocery store – just not as often. It’s an acceptable risk. And I know he would like to go play at the park, but the park isn’t a "have to" – we can still play at home. That means going to the park is a risk we can’t take.
Later, the topic of school and his kindergarten class came up. No one in our city, county, or state is providing any leadership, making decisions, or taking responsibility. And I get that there are a thousand-and-one unknowns right now, but it’s leaving the public – especially parents and business owners – in a perpetual limbo state.
His school has already been closed for a month. It’s now April. And yet, the only communication we get from the school district is that they’re evaluating the situation as it develops on a weekly basis. And the most they’ll commit to is saying schools are still closed for the next two weeks. But at this point we all know what’s coming. California and Vermont (and others?) have officially cancelled the rest of the academic year. It’s time to call it here and everywhere else, too. Kids are not going to come back to school just to attend classes for a few extra weeks before breaking for the Summer. I’m honestly not even that optimistic about the next school year even being able to start in August as scheduled.
And with that uncertainty in the air, we’ve had to string the kids along, too. But this afternoon I finally just told him.
Remember last year when you had your graduation at the Frog School? (His daycare’s mascot was a frog.) And then after Summer you started Kindergarten? Well, Kindergarten is finished now, too. You’ve graduated. And when you do go back to school next year, it will be the same school, and some of your same friends, but you’ll be a first grader. You’re not a kindergartner anymore.
As a father, finally addressing the finality of the situation was sad. He’s got many more years of school ahead of him (I hope). But at least here in American society, your kindergarten year – the first year in the public school system – is such a milestone. We amped it up and talked about it with him the whole calendar year from January up until his first day of class last August.
And now it has evaporated. He didn’t get a fair shot at it.
We’re extraordinarily lucky that, for now, we’re safe. We have our health. My wife and I still have our jobs. And other than being unable to find toilet paper locally, as scary and infuriating as the world is right now, for us, for me and my family specifically, so far we’ve only been inconvenienced. We haven’t grilled burgers in a month. We weren’t able to buy eggs for the kids’ breakfast last week. We haven’t had a date night or even just taken the kids out for crappy fast food.
And, so, while possible – as long as this period of uncertainty lasts and as long as we specifically are ok – our number one goal is keeping them safe and trying our best to provide normalcy. Because, soon, things aren’t going to be normal any longer. When the effects of a collapsing economy start trickling up and having day-to-day implications on those of us still clinging to "good jobs"? If one of us gets sick? If the small business I work for goes under? If the public company my wife works for has layoffs? If a friend, a family member, someone we love…one of us? Dies?
I’m very, very afraid that none of those are ifs. They’re whens.
Life has already kicked my ass many times. On a few occasionans I wasn’t sure if I would recover. When it happens again, I’ll do what’s neccessary.
But as a parent, the thought of what lies ahead and how it will affect my kids is enough to nearly break me in half. The coming storm is not going to be fair for them. It’s not going to be fair for any of the kids out there.
Daddy, daddy! It’s an emergency! It’s super important!
I need you to make an app that knows where frogs are cause I want to start finding frogs.
Ten minutes later:
You can name it whatever you want! I think you should call it FrogSearchApp. Can you do it tonight?
My four year-old just ran up to me, pushed a candy bar up to my face, and said
I’ve had a long day so I need this Hershey bar!
Today, half-way through week two of quarantine, the kids spent an hour drawing pictures and writing letters to their grandparents and great-grandmother. After they finished, we helped them stuff their drawings into envelopes and addressed them for the mail tomorrow.
Tonight, as I’m sitting in my son’s room waiting for him to fall asleep, he’s performing his favorite stalling tactic of peppering me with any and all questions about life, the universe, and everything in-between. After a quiet moment, he sits up and asks…
Daddy? Why does mail need antelopes?
Why do we need antelopes to send mail to G-mo’s house? Why can’t the mailman just take it to her?
At this point I’m so incredibly confused. And then it finally dawns on me…
No, buddy. Not antelopes. You put your letters in envelopes to protect them and keep them safe until they get there.
I guess the US Postal Service just must have been on his mind tonight, because a few minutes later…
Daddy? Why do you always throw away the mail after you take it out of the mailbox?
Because most of it is junk mail. It’s stuff we don’t want.
Why do people send you mail you don’t want?
Junk mail is like mail with commercials on it. People send it to us because they want us to buy stuff from them.
Why don’t they just call it garbage mail instead?
I gotta give it to him. That’s actually a way better name for it.
And then, finally, a few minutes after that…
The mailman comes in the morning, right?
Why don’t we just talk to him and tell him not to bring us garbage mail anymore?
My six year-old to me:
Daddy, why are you eating that whole box of Oreos? Won’t you get sick and throw up like you tell us we will?
Me, in a rare moment of honesty:
Because grownups’ brains don’t work right all the time and eating makes us feel better.
A friend tweeted
The hardest part of the current situation is explaining it to the kiddoes. They’re still attending school, however the school is enacting social distancing, and separation between the various classes (no playing in the playground at the same time, etc).
And my reply
Friday, son asks why he can’t go inside daughter’s daycare for pickup. I say "because of the germs". "But only my school is closed for germs!" And then I emotionally felt like I was about to tell him a loved one died: "Actually, the germs are everywhere…"
And this afternoon we had a discussion with both kids about how they can’t go see their friends, or cousins, or leave the yard, or go to school for the next month or two at least. Son is likely gonna miss the last 1/4 of Kindergarten. This is gonna fuck up so many things.
When a community is destroyed by a hurricane or earthquake, etc., the rest of the world can help them rebuild. As devastating as Katrina and to a lesser extent the 2010 Nashville flood were, a city or even a state being down is manageable.
But when it’s the whole world?