With our soon-to-be 5-year-old daughter tucked into bed, my husband read one of her favorite books to all three of our kids at bedtime last week, “If I Built a Car” by Chris Van Tusen.
In the book, a boy tells his dad about the car he has planned, which can fly and go under water. The car also includes a swimming pool, a robot driver and an automatic snack bar.
“We’ll fly over land! We’ll fly over seas! To Alaska, Nebraska, Bermuda, Belize, Or take a vacation when things start to freeze and fly us all down to the Florida Keys,” I could hear my husband read from the next room.
“Daddy, do they have the ‘birus’ in the Florida Keys?” our daughter questioned, referring to the coronavirus. She has difficulty saying “v” sounds, so the word “virus” came out in her own cute little way.
“Yes, I believe they do,” my husband replied.
I can imagine it’s hard to understand a global pandemic when you aren’t yet in kindergarten.
Our kids, like most kids in the U.S. and millions around the world, have had their daily schedules disrupted by COVID-19.
Soccer and softball seasons are postponed, so too is a play that our fifth-grader had been practicing for since January. Scout get-togethers and dance classes are now done through Zoom meetings, and our kids have learned to adjust.
Instead of their classroom desks at school, our dining room table has become the place where our kids sit down for learning, often while still in their pajamas.
Instead of the cafeteria at lunch, they are back at the dining room table again. Instead of eating with their peers, they are eating with their parents.
When we canceled a spring break trip to visit my in-laws in Georgia last month, our preschooler questioned, “Do they have the ‘birus’ at the beach?”
I replied that yes, they have it at the beach.
“Do they have the ‘birus’ in Georgia?” she then asked.
I could tell where this question was going. We had already assured our kids that the virus didn’t make most children very sick, that older people were most at-risk. But their grandparents live in Georgia.
“Yes,” I told her. “But Mimi and Duce are staying home, just like we are.”
That seemed to be a suitable answer for our youngest child. She has been full of questions about where the virus is or is not, or whether or not she needs to wear a face mask in the house (for the record, she thinks any accessory is a plus, even in the house while wearing pajamas.)
But our other two children, ages 8 and almost 11, have largely been quiet about it all.
Our oldest daughter, who played with neighborhood friends the first few days at home, wasn’t happy when we banned any more play dates at the neighborhood park.
Our son is our most easy going kid, and as long as he has an iPad, he’s happy.
Even then, I worry that the kids are spending too much time behind screens, too much time indoors, that stacks of non-perishable snack foods I’ve stored up is going to be detrimental to all of us. I stress eat AND stress grocery shop.
But I try to look for the positives.
We take more family bike rides around the neighborhood, the way we did when our kids were much younger. We eat far less fast-food, because we aren’t rushing around from one event or practice to the next, and I have time to actually cook.
I’ve been less strict about bedtimes and morning routines, because we don’t necessarily have anywhere to go. And while my husband and I both are working from home, I cherish those lunches around the dining room table with the kids and laying down with my youngest as she falls asleep for her afternoon nap.
Last week, our preschooler was wandering around the house.
“Where’s Mommy?” she asked my husband, who was in our bedroom working on his laptop.
“The moon,” he replied.
“She’s not on the moon!” she laughed.
“You’re right, go check the living room,” my husband told her.
Five minutes later, our daughter came back to the bedroom and my husband asked her if she found “Mommy on the moon.”
“She’s in the ‘libing’ room!” she told him exasperated. “She can’t go to the moon because of the ‘coronabirus!’”
Life during the pandemic has changed for everyone, even the youngest among us. But in every moment of darkness, it’s important to look for the light.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.