We Were Failing
Our suburban lifestyle revolved around kids’ schedules of school and travel sports. March 2020, life abruptly halted. The quarantine quickly shed light on where we were failing. Our children were accomplished athletes and diligent students, but their life skills were lagging. We quickly went to work. Lunch time, we learned the basics in the kitchen—tablespoon vs. teaspoon, lighting the stove and loading the dishwasher. Laundry basics—fabric softener isn’t detergent, folding is tedious. Cleaning—scrubbing toilets, mopping floors, ugh. We had been so busy managing our kids’ lives, we had forgotten how to teach them to live.—Katie Ojala
WFH Moms vs. Dads
My husband works blissfully unaware while I field questions about misplaced highlighters, World Lit, and pleas for pancakes during zoom meetings. Explicit instructions to not be disturbed are ignored by my HS senior that needs to know how to use the rice cooker. Like NOW. Work from home (WFH) is astoundingly different for mothers and fathers. Moms are never off limits. Ever. No matter how old your children are or how dire your need for privacy. This isn’t breaking news, but the pandemic has revealed a whole new dimension of that truth. Moms are currently at level 999,999 of Tetris—no endgame in sight.—Jennifer Bold
Resilience Through Adversity
When I underwent breast cancer treatments during the pandemic, my children received first hand lessons on what it means when we say, “We are called to serve one another.” They viewed my diagnosis, treatments, and side effects without school, friends, and extracurriculars to distract them. With their front row view they learned independence, compassion, and how to help one another. They supported each other with distance learning, distracted younger siblings with neighborhood walks through the “Narnia” bushes, and how to love someone during an illness. They’ve shown their resilience through adversity during a pandemic. They are stronger than they know.—Heather Jauquet
New Old Familiar Ways
When grocery carts towered with toilet paper and whole staffs came home to Zoom, our adult daughter moved back in with my husband, our 16-year-old daughter, and me. The four of us drifted around the house, landing together in new old familiar ways. The girls slipped into my office to e-learn or work beside me, we snuggled together on the couch, played tattered board games left over from childhood. I learned I cannot control much, there is nowhere I really need to go, and children, no matter how grown up they may seem, need you more than they let on.—Stacy Clark
I sat at the curb of our busy street wearing a pepperoni pizza costume and a raccoon mask. I read aloud to my kids, also costumed, until a minivan pulled up.
I lit leftover 4th of July sparklers. We sang “Happy Birthday,” to a 6-year-old. The other mom passed me a bag of party favors, and that was that.
Would this birthday parade have happened outside a pandemic? Probably not.
Everyday holds delightful novelties. I’ve noticed unfamiliar insects. I’ve met longtime neighbors for the first time. I sit at home and wonder what else I missed when I was busy.—Lydia Bergen
I don’t care anymore. Sometimes this is good. My own personal “rules” used to state that I must at least wear jeans, I must not leave the house without makeup, my kids must be enrolled in one activity per semester. Not now. We do less. We have less. My oldest two children became best friends, and we go on frequent family walks. We throw bread into the pond in our neighborhood to feed the fish. They snatch it from the surface; we see the hint of their forms beneath the water. The older kids squeal. We’re doing fine.—Rebecca Schier-Akamelu
Toilet Paper Moments
I used to give my toddler a roll of toilet paper to unravel when I needed a few undisturbed moments in the bathroom. A few years later, during lockdown, this strategy became a way of life; my now four-year-old cuts paper into a thousand pieces or his little brother spills yogurt on the floor and swirls it around like finger paint. I let them because it buys me time to do something, or nothing. The list of acceptable “toilet paper moments” and the mess they create grows daily, but mess for moments to myself is a happy compromise these days.—Kathryn McMahon
I Hear You
“How about slamming the dinner?” my husband of 32 years shouts from the kitchen.
“Pardon?” I say.
He repeats the message: “How about salmon for dinner.”
Apparently, a hearing test is in order, possibly two. Since working from home replaced long commutes this year, cocooning together has revealed an auditory issue. Repeatedly. So we listen more carefully and not from different rooms. We take less offense at our mental first drafts of what was just spoken. As the pandemic continues, we are learning not only to hear each other correctly but more abundantly as well. And it’s marvelous.—Susan Moore
Hiding Behind The Noise Of Regular Life
I had created a whirlwind of activity to distract me from my life.
From the fact that my relationship was failing, my parenting was garbage, and that I lacked joy.
I had created so much noise that I couldn’t hear the warning bells, and then everything was quiet, and all I had was me and my life filled with holes.
I tried to recreate the noise with baking, exercise and drinking box wine but the silence stretched on for too long.
I was afraid, but my curiosity of what was beyond the fear was bigger.
Maybe something better there.—Gwen Johnson
My eight-year-old son Rafa
scooters beside me. White helmet,
covers his head, blue mask,
covers half his face.
his sun-streaked-brown hair,
last year, sticks out.
a relaxed grip on his
handle bars. Cruising casually
over the Astoria sidewalks.
I walk, beside him,
Relieved that in the last
days of summer vacation,
I’ve gotten him off
screens, out of our three-room
apartment, into the Queens
outdoors, to meet a friend in our
in finally reopened playground.
Now we pass by
our local park and tennis courts.
The thump of balls, hitting rackets.
I see a boy, about five, and his father
approaching. The boy is scootering too, and when
he catches sight of Rafa, his face lights up.
“Noah!” he proclaims.
It is the voice of hope and recognition.
This is my long-lost friend! I hear
in heart breaking clarity.
Rafa and I both pause.
I look at him and realize, of course,
it might be hard to recognize a friend
now, masked and helmeted, with only a sliver
of eyes and a scooter stride.
Rafa looks back at me quizzically.
“Oh!” I say, placing my hand
on my heart. “He thinks you’re his
I hear the boy say to his father,
insistently, “That’s my friend Noah!”
Noah, the name I had written
on a piece of paper, from a hospital
bed, when deciding
what to name my first son, who
eventually took on another name.
Noah, a friend who took Rafa
on bike rides throughout Portland
Oregon, just a summer ago,
before masks, before lock downs,
travel bans, quarantines, and zoom.
Before knowing the fabric of infectious diseases,
before exploring the countless ways a virus spreads,
before watching friends lose yoga studios, preschools,
restaurant jobs, theater jobs, and teaching jobs…
Rafa tell me quietly, “I’m not Noah.”
“No, but he thinks you are. Maybe
he misses his friend,”
I tell him, thinking
of those who have abandoned the
city for elsewhere.
Rafa looks one more time at the boy,
thoughtfully. He doesn’t say,
I am not Noah.
Instead he turns, and scooters,
and I follow beneath the deep hum
of the Triborough Bridge.
—By Catherine Kapphahn