Letters to the Editor • Opinion
The coronavirus might not be the worst of it
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This isn’t the parenting Olympics, and when you realize that, you win

Placeholder while article actions load

Excuse my humblebrag, but I am a formerly home-schooled former home-schooler, who worked at home for 12 years with four young children. This coronavirus quarantine should be my Olympic Games with me as the captain of the Mom Decathlon. This is my time to shine!

Did you know Rosetta Stone is free for three months? And those 6-pack abs and 20 pounds of baby-now-teen weight are just a Peloton and daily Zoom workout class away! Here, dear child, let me patiently explain quadratic equations to you!

But in reality, I am hiding in my closet with the door locked, re-watching “Tiger King” on my phone, eating a bag of almost-stale Cheetos, and yelling to my children that I’m on a very important conference call as they bang on the door like they’re the French revolutionaries about to overthrow the monarchy.

So let me be the 17th person to say it, but, perhaps, the first one you’ll actually listen to: You’re not alone.

Maybe you’re worried about your kids, and rightfully so. They’ve had their worlds pulled out from underneath them. Their entire spring has been canceled, and replaced with school days that resemble the Brady Bunch intro, with similarly bad hairstyles now that we’re six weeks into this quarantine, and drive-by birthdays where we have to worry about them blowing out the candles on their cake.

Let’s not even talk about summer.

The kids will be all right. They have friends to yell at video games with over FaceTime. They’ve got funny videos of people drinking coffee that took 1,000 stirs to make. Thanks a lot, TikTok. They’ve got books and toys and maybe siblings and possibly animals. And even if they don’t have all that, the most important thing: They’ve got you.

But they don’t have you if you’re trying to win some imaginary quarantine award that doesn’t exist. I checked everywhere, and just like regular parenting, you don’t get a prize for winning at this.

Actually, we do get a major reward: These weeks and months where many of us get to be with our immediate families pretty much uninterrupted. And while this does present its own fair share of issues (at this very moment, my daughter is practicing the recorder right here), for the most part, it’s pretty darn amazing.

And if I may go out on a limb, this will probably never happen again.

You will probably never have your kids sequestered in your home for this length of time, which is a huge relief, I know, but also a reminder that we could be looking at this whole quarantine like it’s a gift. Or, at least, a stocking stuffer.

If you’re like me, the bulk of the pre-pandemic quality time you’ve spent with your kids is trying to force food in their hand as they race out the door at 6 a.m., then sitting awkwardly next to them in the car, driving them to their activities, as they giggle at YouTube videos and take weird Snapchat photos of the ground.

But now, every day at lunch, after my 13-year-old son has lost his final epic Overwatch battle of the morning, he meets me outside for a game of wacky tennis on our cul-de-sac, which, in case you’re wondering, involves two tennis rackets, a large bouncy not-tennis ball, and rules that only he knows.

My post-work afternoons are spent playing a never-ending round of a horse-themed Monopoly game with my 10-year-old, which I suppose isn’t such a surprise since I don’t think anyone has ever actually finished a Monopoly game. On the bright side, I now know the difference between a Clydesdale and a Calabrese, which apparently makes me the coolest mom ever.

And my 11-year-old daughter has taken to organizing themed family dinners, which I haven’t had as many of in my kids’ entire existence. Last week we “went to the movies,” which included a stapler to make the “hole-punch” sound in our movie tickets, that corresponded to the couch cushions in our family room. I hadn’t seen her face lit up by a smile that big in a very long time — almost as long as it had been since my 15-year-old daughter voluntarily left her room for a family activity.

You might have smacked me a few months ago if I had told you that “These are the days!” because those are the words that no parent who’s going through the daily throes of parenting wants to hear.

But in a time of crisis, when we’re all sheltering at home for this indefinite amount of time to help save lives and restore humanity back to some sort of normal state, maybe we need to flip that dialogue.

I’ve seen the future through the eyes of my friends with grown children. And in it, I’m begging my now-adult kids to call me, and come home for holiday dinners. I am longing for wacky tennis and wishing we could start and never finish that darn horse Monopoly game. And I’m wistful for the time we were all sitting at the table, together, even if we spent the entire time fighting over who got the most ice cream, even though there’s MORE IN THE FREEZER, CHILDREN!

So, for now, I won’t be learning another language. At the rate I’m eating Cheetos, I will not have 6-pack abs. And my kids will not be returning to school with an understanding of the quadratic equation.

Instead, I’m soaking in this peculiar gift that I’ve been given. Because it’s all I can do to keep the swirling emotions of fear, stress and the great unknown that many of us are experiencing from making themselves at home in my psyche, and having one heck of a quarantine anxiety party up in there.

I’m holding fast to all those silver linings, and doing my best to turn what could feel like lost months into treasured moments, all with gratitude for my health, for the amazing people keeping us all afloat, and a small blip in what I hope is my very long life, where I get to make memories with my kids that I don’t imagine any of us will ever forget.

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, a mom of four and co-founder of Cool Mom Picks.

Sign up for the On Parenting newsletter here.

More reading:

The ultimate parents’ guide to activities and education resources

Life in lockdown is testing parents’ bandwidth. Here’s how to protect your mental energy.

My first-grader has been thrust into a virtual social life. Is he ready?