Parenting During the Coronavirus: Building Independence

Chuck Nelson
Mike (left) and Ben Nelson still took their traditional last-day-of-school photo at Tremont Elementary School in Upper Arlington.

Our family has been fortunate. Sure, we’ve been inconvenienced by the pandemic, but that’s about the extent of it. 

Still, I’m encouraged to see how our 10-year-old twin boys have responded to the changes in their lives over the last few months.

They were disappointed when we decided to postpone our planned spring break trip—and then elated when they found out spring break would last at least three weeks because the schools had just been closed. You’d have thought it was Christmas morning.

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Neither of those reactions surprised me. But I underestimated them as the weeks rolled on.

Through the lockdown, Ben and Mike adapted with more maturity than I expected. They’ve remained pretty calm, which I’m thankful for, though I wish they’d open up more about any angst that they’re feeling. They know something is seriously off, but I don’t think they really understand to what extent. 

Their ability to work independently has been impressive. We had a pretty smooth time with remote learning—largely because their teachers were well-organized and made it fairly easy. They were fine finishing out the school year at home and, in some ways, preferred it. 

They met online with their class each morning and worked through their lessons until lunchtime. Afternoons were largely spent reading (lots of graphic novels), watching the occasional show or movie, and playing on the iPad. In all honesty, if they could play Minecraft until the pandemic was over, they probably would.

They also didn’t balk at the added responsibility of extra chores around the house. Oddly, they’ve always like to dust. Using the vacuum and cleaning their bathroom didn’t ruffle any feathers, but we did get a little pushback from suggesting they increase the frequency of showers.

Despite the closure of favorite spots like COSI and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, we’ve found ways to get out of the house and spend time being active. The boys have spent more time on their bikes this spring than any other time since they learned to ride. They generally traverse paths at a nearby park while my wife, Janet, and I follow behind on foot.

Those trips have also helped build their independence. When it was clear they could safely cross at the light without us, they gained the freedom to speed ahead. On the way home, they let themselves into the house with a garage door code while we followed at a distance.

Their only real complaint through all of this has been the length of their hair. They were due for a haircut before the barbershops closed and looked like part of a British Invasion band by the time they could get a trim. I got some puzzled looks when I offered to get a bowl and pair of scissors to solve the problem.

I hesitate to say we’re learning to roll with the punches because I know other families are taking much bigger hits. But, so far, so good. We’ll get through this.

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