The last time I posted on this blog, it was the last day of 2019. A simpler, easier time, that we foolishly did not realize was a simpler, easier time, because we could not have imagined we’d be living in a real life Station Eleven in a few short months. And yet, here we are.
When my kids found out there’d be no school for six weeks*, they literally jumped up and down, shrieking with joy. They are homebodies, and for some inexplicable reason, prefer to hang out with Matty and me over anyone else in the world. I mean, we’re cool and all, but honestly not that cool. We don’t even have a band. When I found out there would be no school for six weeks, I had that “no, this can’t be happening” feeling like when you realize you accidentally replied all with a distasteful nude. My friends and I texted various versions of WTF to each other for a long time and then Matty and I had an in person WTF-off. It should be noted, we are homebodies too, but the things we enjoy doing at home are things like watching movies and eating snacks, not homeschooling our children.
This brings me to the first of seven stages of self-isolation with children.
Stage 1: Disbelief
This stage is categorized by a refusal to believe that anyone actually thinks two yahoos who work in advertising are qualified to teach second and fifth grade, let alone do our full time jobs at the same time. Sure, I can help you interpret this poem about Thurgood Marshall, George, right after I help Hazel understand the difference between dividing by half and dividing in half while making sure to use only 2020 common core math terms and not 1987 math terms when all I remember is how to type BOOBLESS on a calculator. Let me just finish this conference call on how we’re going to produce a :30 video without any cast or crew being within 6 feet of each other first and then I’m all yours. We got this!
Stage 2: Industriousness
I’m nothing if not optimistic, so early on, I decided to embrace this thing. I’ve written about how grateful I am for our village before, and that is very much still the case. After exchanging WTFs for a while, some friends and I decided to band together and create JP Virtual Homeschool. Each family would take a week leading the school and designing the curriculum. We settled on a rough schedule and brainstormed ideas for subject matter – WW II, engineering, architecture, countries we hoped to visit someday.
Our friend Sarah, who basically designs schools for a living, killed it in week 1. She introduced our kids to biomimicry, and taught them about stop motion animation and Rube Goldberg machines.
In the ensuing weeks, Matty and I taught Renaissance Week, our friends Jeff and Marie did World Cup Week, our friend Ian led Games Week, and our new buddy Brian taught Engineering Week. I’m really proud of our kids (and frankly, Matty and myself) for all we’ve managed to do in addition to the regular school work. They did art inspired by famous works, drew self-portraits and used an app to give them a Renaissance look, made fortune cookies, made a Fenway Park diorama complete with US Weekly fans, participated in the Dizzy Bat, Paper Airplane & Broad Jump Olympic events, starting creating a Monopoly spinoff called “Once Upon a Toilet” that they then pitched to the Designer in charge of Monopoly at Hasbro, built bridges, built catapults, and fired off bottle rockets in our yard.
Also, I’m growing my own lettuce, scallions, and Napa cabbage. Before this, the only thing I’d ever grown was a rapidly expanding collection of pots of previously living plants.
Stage 3: Stockholm Syndrome
Except instead of falling in love with our captors, we delude ourselves into thinking we’re in love with social isolation. Look at all this family time! We’re taking hikes in the woods together every morning, rain or shine! We’re baking cookies, baking bread, making nachos, eating all the things. We’re eating *all* our meals together! What a gift to be able to see each other every single hour of every single day except that one hour when one of us has to take the dog on a long midday walk. Strange how Matty and I are both so insistent that each of us is the martyr most willing to sacrifice themselves and miss this precious family time.
Stage 4: Inebriation
I’d like to thank our sponsors, Bota Box Dry Rosé and Black Box Red Blend box wines. Sometimes, for special occasions, we let our kids have “kid wine,” which is what we call sparkling cider. Since they’ve been seeing us drink so much wine, they’ve come to the conclusion that quarantine = wine time, and honestly, they’re not wrong. So, we’ve been letting them have the occasional glass of kid wine the last few weeks. Today, Hazel was drinking it at 11 am. “Are you drinking already?” was not something I thought I’d be asking my 10-year old, but here we are.
Stage 5: Ron Burgundy
Lots of unhinged-sounding singing (“I said don’t touch my computer!”) and random loud yelling (“MOM NEEDS ALONE TIME!!!”). Maybe I’ll even take up the jazz flute.
Stage 6: Begrudged Acceptance
“This is our life now.” I find myself thinking/saying that a lot now. When I’m mumbling, “asshole” to the maskless people I find myself dodging on a run. When I’m doing a plank on dried shredded cheddar cheese on my living room floor, with my bootcamp friends in a Zoom grid on my laptop. When I’m trying to negotiate the daily argument between Matty (or myself) and George regarding his rogue cursor activity. “Stop moving the cursor while we try to make your to-do list!” “I’m not!” (He is.) When I’m trying to figure out how early is too early to start drinking. Every time I hear or say the phrase “the new normal,” I recoil a bit. I don’t want this to be the new normal. We’re getting used to it and that scares me. It’s like any of those sci-fi movies where the hero has been brainwashed, but deep down, they’re still their good old self. We can’t let the brainwashing take full effect! WE DIDN’T ALWAYS BAKE OUR OWN BREAD, GUYS.
Stage 7: Alternating Anger & Guilt
I’m angry a lot these days. Angry that this country’s leadership bungled this thing so “bigly.” Angry that we live in the wealthiest country in the world but can’t afford to give our medical staff the protective equipment they need to do their job without endangering their lives. Angry that some jabronis are out “protesting” and risking everyone’s health in the process. Angry that I can’t leave my house without a makeshift mask that keeps falling down and makes it hard to breathe when I run. Angry that my kids are feeling frustrated and burnt out. Angry that I’m not a better teacher, someone who knows how to make sourdough starter, someone who looks cute with unwashed hair. Angry that either Zoom adds a second chin or I’ve gained what the Brits would call “a stone.” And then I feel guilty. Because who am I to be angry when I have my family, my health (knock on wood), a home, a job (keep knocking)? I recognize that we have it so much better than so many people, and I don’t have the right to complain. Even worse, I recognize this but I’m gonna complain anyway. Haters gonna hate, right, T. Swift?
I hope you are all surviving. I hope if you are quarantining alone that you are keeping in touch with friends and family so you’re not too lonely, and that if you’re quarantining with family, that you are finding some satisfaction in the act of flipping them off behind their backs. I know I do. I hope you dance… Sorry, I just wanted to get that song in your head because I’m spiteful. Please forgive me.
*Now it’s 7 weeks and counting.
*Since I started writing this, it’s now been extended the whole school year. We are now reentering Stage 1. I only hope we can pull ourselves back up by our slipper bootstraps and get back to the grind on Monday, as we’ve been on “school vacation” this week, which has mainly consisted of letting the kids watch all the Marvel movies in chronological order.