My plans for March break were like any other year since having children: relax, watch movies, go sledding, maybe shoot down to Whitehorse for a couple of nights to enjoy the Canada Games Center. Instead, I was glued to my phone while the kids took full advantage of Northwestel’s temporary overage relief. I watched on social media as the novel coronavirus spread across borders, across oceans, as flights were grounded and cities came to a halt; I watched it approach home. I was bracing myself for March Break to extend indefinitely, and of course, it did. Along with it, the library and the arena closed. We could not visit friends, have playdates, or even congregate outside. If we were playing at the snow hill and another family showed up, we would move along.
In those first few weeks, I struggled. Having my kids home all day isn’t a new thing, as I was a stay-at-home parent for the last six years of my life. But being home all day with my kids while simultaneously watching the world fall apart around us is a new thing, however. There was a chance that their father could lose his business and our livelihood. There was a chance that my grandmother, in a long term care facility in Ontario, could become sick. We were living through something that all the dystopian movies and novels in the world couldn’t have prepared us for. And the kids are hungry and they want more rice crackers and he hit me and she’s chewing too loud and we’re all so bored why can’t we just go see our friends. To regulate my own emotions while tending to their needs was difficult, to say the least.
Full disclosure: my children’s father and I are separated and continue to share custody of them. We each have them for half of the week, creating a tight family circle between two houses. So while there is struggle and exhaustion, I do get a few days to recharge, or at the very least, cocoon in my bed and quietly panic for hours without any demands on my time or attention.
In the early days of distancing, my worries were out of control. I worried because I wasn’t baking bread, or starting seedlings for a victory garden, sewing cloth masks or mending our clothes. And I certainly was not doing anything like homeschool. I was in survival mode. I promised myself that if I could get them to brush their teeth twice a day and not kill each other, I was doing great. But the unforgiving scroll of social media had me feeling like a failure, like my kids and I were not surviving this pandemic at all.
As an endless March rolled into April, and it became clear that they would not be going back to school or daycare at least until the fall, I found myself beginning to relax. We discovered a new rhythm to our days. As the snow melted, it was easier to get outside. By the end of April, the kids were riding their bikes down the muddy streets. The school board made the move to distance learning, and packets of worksheets were delivered to our P.O. box. I dutifully brought these home and placed them before my school-aged kids, trying to make the prospect of doing schoolwork sound exciting. Look at all these neat things your teacher sent you! Won’t this be fun?