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Two Parents, Three Teens, One Dog and an Order to Stay Home
By Jayne Jacova Feld

It sounds like a TV show pitch. Two working parents, 3 teenage boys and 1 lovable dog are stuck together 24/7 for days (?) weeks (?) months (?) in an alternative reality. There would be misunderstandings, hijinks and both cringeworthy and tender moments as the family does its part to flatten the curve.

But it’s not TV — it’s my family’s reality. Sometimes I want to click my heels and say “There’s no place like school. There’s no place like my office” and magically revert back to our old lives. We’re constantly on top of each other. Because Craig, my husband, spends much of his day “in meetings,” he won the work lottery and gets to use the home office while the rest of us are scattered around the house. Three bathrooms sounds like a lot, except when they’re all in use.

My daily challenge is to minimize distractions, like when one (or all three) kids need help. I’ve read many an essay before it’s been submitted to Google Classroom and have sharpened my help-desk skills troubleshooting Zoom. I play referee when they fight while I’m trying to write (like right now.) They fight a lot — over whose turn it is to use the better computer, who gets to eat the last muffin and who left the milk out (apparently nobody did that). I realize that this is tough on them too, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Thankfully, noise-cancelling headphones really do work.

It’s truly amazing how much food three boys (ages 16,14 and 12) consume. We go through at least 2 loaves of bread, 2 gallons of milk and 3 dozen eggs each week. As much as I’d like to limit food shopping, I’m running out every few days.

But, surprisingly, there are upsides. For the first time in more than a decade, we’re slowing down. I’m not always running from work to activities to meetings all while searching for spare moments to cook and throw laundry into the dryer. The house is cleaner, probably because I’m on top of everyone 24/7 to help out more.

Every night is family time. We’re playing games, taking walks and watching movies together. It’s a joy to watch the boys strap on roller blades to play hockey after dinner every night. Up until a few weeks ago, we agreed with memes about how kids these days don’t play outside anymore like we did when we were young, but that’s exactly what they’re doing now. I asked Ravi, the oldest, why it took family quarantine for this to happen. He answered like it was obvious. “I’m always too tired to do anything.”

So even though we miss our family and friends, we’re worried that people we love will get sick and we’re wondering whether and when our lives will get back to normal, we’re holding it together as a family. If this were a reality TV show, it’d be pretty boring. But as far as real life goes, it’s all that I could ask for.

April 1, 2020
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