“To get work, parenting, budgeting and even a little bit of fun into the same life takes great care.”

We’ve been watching the sky a lot. It hasn’t been in a search for spiritualized beauty, or out of boredom. It’s just been one of the things we’ve been doing. My wife, Emily, and I and our three children have made the sunset an event more often during Covid-19. It’s been more than three months of quarantine, of school being taken and taught from home, of furlough, and of the constant questions of what to do next. So, we’ve been watching the sky. 

We bought a trampoline that is great fun for bouncing, chasing, basketball and lying down as the sun descends toward High Street to disappear behind the Giant Eagle at the end of our street. It’s now warm enough to bring out the sprinklers and the kiddie pool. The dogs are wary of us now, just in case we’ve decided to give them yet another bath. I get that. I’ve been showering every day just for the routine of it.

There is the flux of it all. To get work, parenting, budgeting and even a little bit of fun into the same life takes great care. You need a routine. You need your children and their schooling to have a routine. If you have a toddler in your household like we do, the naps and meals (and and and) all need to be balanced and planned if possible. Five different lives moving forward is an orchestral event. The pandemic has taken the sheet music out of our hands and burned it, just in case an irresponsible person has decided to handle it without gloves or at least a mask on. That’s what this entire crisis has been to us parents. 

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We are the ones who know how this needs to work, and right now all we know are theories of protection. It’s scary. I don’t know what the rest of this day will be like, and I don’t know how to be ready for tomorrow. The best I can do is to be as creative as possible at any given moment. “Let’s project a movie on the back of the house!” “Let’s turn the basement into a series of tent forts!” “Let’s roll up all the rugs and start potty-training the toddler today!” I have turned chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese into six different kinds of meals.

There is a history of parenting: the parenting that was given to us or tossed at us when we were kids, and the history of parenting we have with our own children. All of that history mingles, feeds into and out of each stage and generation as we attempt the best we can for each child in each situation. That confluence of love and energy and frustration is a touchstone for most parents I know, and it has surely been one for me as a father. 

Unfortunately, there is no ebb and flow of shared knowledge for what to do with three little ones during all this. Hopefully, we’ll keep talking and sharing and showing up for each other as a community of parents. If we do this patiently and with love in our hearts, we will keep doing this better than we ever thought we could. I, for one, think I just came up with a seventh way to combine chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. This time I’m going to add a dusting of cinnamon to the bottom of the bowl. That should be nice.

This story is from the Summer 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.