My youngest had his sixth birthday a month into shelter-in-place. Before the big day, he said to me: “Dada, I had a dream that there was no more coronavirus and all my friends came to my party.” I’m not a fan of kids’ birthday parties. They’re stressful to organize and since LeBron left the Cavs I don’t have much to small-talk about with other parents. But I felt for the youngin’. Cupcakes and four new Beyblades made everything better. At least temporarily. Since that time, like many other people, we’ve been in a COVID-19 family routine.
I get up each morning around 6 a.m. Work doesn’t even start till 8, but since COVID the boys have craved more skin-to-skin contact. They’ve gotten back into the habit of invading our bed around 2 a.m. and putting Amber in a headlock. They twist and kick and claim space. I’m like, “Might as well get up and see what the internet’s talkin’ about…”
I was already working from home prior to the pandemic. The only change has been the cancellation of work travel to quirky Midwestern cities. But with all five of us home, and the kids as loud as your favorite rapper’s hypeman, I rarely leave the basement during working hours. Don’t get me wrong, the setup is nice, and I only have to share the space with centipedes, but during video meetings I give off “banished to the dungeon” vibes.
The kids wake up around 8 a.m. and latch on to devices. YouTube, videos of other people watching YouTube, Roblox, NBA 2K20 on Nintendo Switch, Disney +, Netflix. After an hour and a half they pause for air and cereal. Then Amber gets up (thick women need their sleep) and gets the boys started with schoolwork.
Amber’s a teacher so she takes the schoolwork extra seriously. The kids are at three different levels—kindergarten, first grade, and third grade—but in a way, they’re now in the same class. I figure if they can demonstrate knowledge of the material by answering “yes” when I say, “Hey, you know how to do that, right?” there’s no need to finish every page of their thick homework packets.
In between breaks, repeating “bruh” hundreds of times, making YouTube and Snapchat videos, and fighting, they’re not done with school until 5 p.m.
My main role is to come up from the basement and regulate when I hear things getting out of control, mostly the aforementioned fighting. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even break ’em up. I just give tips on holding their own: “If he has you on the ground and he’s crouched over, start kicking!” Mind you, these are the same kids who win Student of the Month at their real school. Must not be much competition!
After hours of off-and-on little people conflict, Amber breaks down crying on occasion. She feels their behavior at home is reflective of her teaching and parenting. Plus she’s mad at herself for yelling. I figure it’s all normal and not too bad considering the apocalypse is here. But to make things a little better, I’ll force the boys outside and lock the door. “Go out and play basketball! Find some bugs or something! See how wet you can get in the rain!”
Once everything settles down we start dinner. Since there’s nothing much to buy, we splurge on food. The finest scallops Aldi has to offer, organic whole chicken seasoned with ground lemon pepper that wasn’t on sale but we still bought it, smoked turkey necks so damn good you eat them in a manner that would make Karrine Steffans blush…Man!
The day winds down and I go running-while-black. Our neighborhood is diverse: black Americans, Jamaicans, Somalis, white folks, Salvadorans, a giant crackhead, Ethiopians, fellow members of Team Swirl, and so on. But I’m conscious of sprinting at dusk, lest I be seen as “suspicious.” I make sure to look like a runner; I wear sweatpants and headphones. Gotta be careful. Neither racism nor violence has sheltered in place.
I return home and the bedtime process for the boys starts. Pee, brush your teeth, take allergy medicine, wrestle, read a short book, lay down while Dad puts you in a meditative state by counting to 100, and then bounce back up to request back massages from Mom. One long hour later: asleep.
Amber and I retire to the basement for Netflix and other activities. One being drinking. We had a wine stash that was supposed to be saved for a mandatory shutdown. We finished it in about a week. We’ve restocked and made our way through more bottles. Since being sheltered-in-place, wine no longer gives me a buzz. If only the sell of marijuana edibles was essential business in Ohio.
But overall, we’re holding up well. The kids are getting a bit bored, which has led to odd tantrums. Like (as seen below), my oldest crying because we wouldn’t let him tape a real knife to his plastic bat, which he wanted to use to fight bad guys. Apparently, cutting himself would not be a problem because his superpowers include “healing.”
This tantrum lasted about an hour, until “Jump Around” came on Google radio and distracted him. (Shout-out to House of Pain.) Or so we thought. He ended up sneaking out the house to “walk to the city and fight bad guys.” We found him two blocks away.
We’re trying to mix things up for the kids. I’m not a mental health expert, but I did take Psychology 101 twice in college. In order for children to blossom into emotionally mature adults who can hold small-talk at children’s birthday parties, it’s important that they socialize and learn through outdoor play.
Amber organized a field day where they competed in different sports, and I’ve been taking them to our nearby creek, where they splash each other and search for tadpoles, as I stand on the bank and yell, “Watch out for the goose boo-boo!” We also play basketball and go for runs. But it’s just us. They’ve only played with other kids through device screens and storm doors.
Despite the monotony, we have no real complaints. We’re healthy, financially stable, and privileged as what. Think about it: We’re “quarantined” with nonstop entertainment just the touch of a button away. Interested in an obscure Spanish drama with frontal nudity? I bet you can find it on Netflix. Hungry for a late-night snack? There’s 12 bags of popcorn in the pantry that I didn’t even have to go into the store to buy. I just drove to Target, parked, and an under-compensated retail worker who has to deal with dickhead customers having fits about wearing masks, dropped it in my trunk.
I know there are millions of people having legit hard times and grieving the loss of loved ones. We’ve also lost extended family to COVID. But for us and many Americans (I suspect this includes the armed “open up” protesters), this ain’t oppression. At all. We’ll stay with our COVID-19 family routine until the scientific consensus says otherwise, or at least until we learn results from the experimental groups who are out Memorial Day weekend.
Stay safe, and see y’all when America gets over its illnesses.