The manic and marvel of home life with a 3-year-old during the coronavirus lockdown

A beaming 3-year-old jumps up and down on the couch. His blond hair bobs as he shrieks “craaaaaackers” at the top of his lungs, imitating a parrot, again and again. It’s an ear-piercing scream that sends him into a fit of laughter.

Now, we’re building a rocket-ship tent. Next, I’m putting an air conditioning vent that he’s ripped out of the floor back into the now-exposed duct it opened up. And now, I’m playing helicopter with him so my wife can make an appointment. 

All this time, I was supposed to be working. In fact, I have about an hour to write this piece, because my wife has to give a presentation over Zoom this afternoon and she hasn’t had the chance to prepare properly yet. Meantime, I’m holding online office hours for my students, who are gearing up for their final projects of the semester and are also in the midst of registration. 

It’s the last day of our sixth week spent entirely at home – save for a few hikes early on, before the trails all closed. And somehow, in the midst of this coronavirus lockdown, we’re busier and spread thinner than ever. 

Before we go any further, let’s establish that we’re impossibly fortunate. Right about now, being busy is a luxury. My wife and I have three jobs and a consultancy between us and, somehow, only the latter has been affected … thus far.  

Our problems, if they are problems at all, are trifling. We’re quite conscious of that. Our main challenge is getting everything done. 

Being at home with your toddler during the coronavirus lockdown is as hectic as you'd think. It's also rewarding. (Getty)
Being at home with your toddler during the coronavirus lockdown is as hectic as you'd think. It's also rewarding. (Getty)

Yet there’s a baseline anxiety of having things, and people, to lose, of course. Then there’s the insulation, the apprehension from being entirely self-contained, from the house becoming office and school and college and dining facility and playground and dormitory, all rolled into one, a continuum of sameness interrupted only by the blessed arrival of groceries or packages. Again, we’re lucky – we have plenty of room and a yard and the ability to have stuff brought to our house.

And there have been real upsides, too. We’ve all grown closer, more patient with each other. We’ve gotten more time with our son that we would otherwise have missed. We’ve played more, done more things together. We eat all our meals together, at the table – that’s certainly a first.

But somehow, the days are also a mad dash. 

We get up and our son has a half-hour Zoom session with his preschool class, put on by his wonderful and imaginative teachers. Then, he goes to my wife’s “Mama School” where they work on reading and writing and drawing and learn more about his favorite animals and vehicles.

All the while, I write columns and prepare the classes that have all moved online and grade and try to stay afloat in the flood of emails. We aim to switch off after a while, but I confess the bulk of the child-watching falls on my hero wife. She’s a clinical social worker in a public high school who, when she finally tags out, records wellness videos for her students between calls. 

Somehow, everything fits into the day. All the important stuff gets done, but never quite as well as we’d like. Inessential emails that go unanswered and laundry left to pile up are the collateral damage. At the end of the day we feel drained, leaving little energy for us to talk amongst ourselves. That’s when the angst sets in again: of survival and uncertainty; of doing your work only just well enough as to be passable; of feeling like you can’t escape your little bubble even if you wanted to; of not knowing where the next roll of paper towels will come from when this last one runs out; of what this is all doing to our son.

We try to maintain as much normalcy as possible, to adhere to a rough structure to our days. But our son knows. He can tell, and we’ve told him. Our sunny, happy-go-lucky, outgoing boy is anxious sometimes. He asks questions. He doesn’t mind being at home, with his parents and his toys and his dog, but he also misses all his favorite places. Sometimes he takes us aback. “I don’t want to go on a walk because of the coronavirus,” he said the other day. A different time, he asked if he was going to die and we had to explain mortality to him much earlier than we would have expected. 

People ask how you’re doing and you tell them that you can’t complain, that it could be worse, that we’re cooped up but also lucky. But at the same time, we’re ragged. Getting everything done is the perpetual tension in our lives now.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaall aboard!” a high-pitched voice hollers from the other room. I have to go. It’s my turn to play with our son; it’s my wife’s turn to work. That’s not such a bad deal.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus
https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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