I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure this whole home schooling while working from home situation is lowering my life expectancy. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s not, because it is really taking a toll.
My wife and I have set up a divide and conquer sort of situation. I work with our 13-year-old-doesn’t-want-to-do-anything-waking-up-before-9AM-should-be-a-crime-homework-is-pointless son, Tristan. My wife, Mel, works with our 10- and five-year-old daughters, who are unpredictable “frenemies” and have to work in separate rooms. Sometimes one of the girls works with Tristan and myself, but Mel’s work obligations are pretty minimal right now, so she usually takes both.
The real problem is that there are three children learning in our home, and two working parents. We are outnumbered.
Now keep in mind, we knew that we were outnumbered before the pandemic. Every time we went shopping as a family, for example. But with homeschooling, it seems to be more apparent than ever.
Well… she doesn’t actually enter. She lives in Idaho, and we live in Oregon, and although she was planning to visit last month, she wisely decided against it because of COVID-19. But living far away, and not being able to visit during a pandemic hasn’t stopped my wonderful mother-in-law from helping us online.
Each afternoon, we run into a pinch. Our oldest, Tristan, is still working, and so is our middle daughter, Norah. But the youngest, Aspen — she finishes up just after lunch. Let me get one thing straight: I love my youngest daughter, I really do, but she is a wild animal of a child who plays by her own rules, is super curious, and 100% loves attention. So, as our older two are starting to dip into their already-short supply of homework endurance, our youngest runs out of things to do and starts wandering the house, causing distractions like some sort of a one-human monkey wrench gang.
We give her screen time, and toys, and art projects, but it doesn’t matter — she just wants to cause problems. And it is around this time that Grandma swoops in on the iPad for story time. Let me just say, the few days that she’s been unavailable have been total hell, so I know for a fact that this small hour or so of reading stories with our youngest just might be saving everyone’s lives.
This isn’t a huge commitment. Basically, Grandma calls in the afternoon on FaceTime. Our five-year-old gets all goofy about it because no one ever calls her, and she knows it’s for her. It’s also Grandma, and when you are five, a call from Grandma is a big deal. Aspen takes Grandma on a tour of the house, as usual, showing her every mess we’ve ever tried to hide in a Facebook post. Then she picks a couple stories from her bookshelf. Wait… who am I kidding? She acts like she’s picking out some new stories, but from what I can tell they have read Pete the Cat’s Big Lunch every single day for weeks. Anyway, Aspen sets the iPad up so Grandma can see the stories. Sometimes Grandma brings a story. Sometimes Aspen gets bored quicker than expected, or Grandma gets frustrated because Aspen won’t hold the book close enough to the screen so she can read the words, and it ends early.
But on the whole, it keeps our youngest entertained for close to an hour, which is usually long enough for us to finish off school work for the day, when our two older kids are looking for any excuse possible to call it quits.
Aspen looks forward to it like it was a trip to Disneyland, and I like to think Grandma does, too. Or I hope she does. She might just be doing it to help out, and maybe she secretly hates it, which is totally understandable; our youngest can be a lot, even online. But what I do know for sure is that it’s making this whole situation just a little more manageable, and right now, that’s a huge blessing. Because in the moments when I’m stuck inside with all three kids, trying to teach them while also trying not to get fired from my job, I wonder if the world is in fact coming to an end.
So to the grandparents out there, getting online to help with the madness of homeschooling during a pandemic, I’d like to publicly thank you. As a father of three who is barely hanging on, I think I can speak for all parents and say you are keeping us from going full-blown bonkers. And during a pandemic, that is a huge blessing.
Keep up the good work, and never forget: Your grandchildren will remember this, and your children are grateful.