Parenting in a pandemic notes

Let’s start with some depressing statistics.

Researchers generated a graph that represented when the on-duty parent was working without interruption, when the parent had to stop working to respond to a child and when the second child interrupted the first child’s interruption. (“Interruptions,” we should clarify, included requests for help with homework, questions about chores and snacks, check-in hugs, and tech support — but not distractions such as cello practice or shrieks of laughter, which also take their toll.) Looked at one way, the situation appeared manageable: Over the course of three hours, the parent on duty was interrupted for a little over half an hour in total, meaning they got almost 2 1 / 2 hours of work time.

But that time didn’t come in two clean chunks: The parent was interrupted 45 times, an average of 15 times per hour. The average length of an uninterrupted stretch of work time was three minutes, 24 seconds. The longest uninterrupted period was 19 minutes, 35 seconds. The shortest was mere seconds

I enjoyed this article by Jordana Horn

When I was a young nerd, back in 1980s New Jersey suburbia, I’d turn to my battered copies of the Choose Your Own Adventure series.

After a few pages of reading a story where you were a spy, an astronaut or some other adventurer, you would be faced with a choice: Do you go left into the jungle to find the albino tiger or try to swim across the maybe-piranha-infested river?
Each choice sent you to a new page and a new decision. Sometimes, your choices would make you the hero. Other times, your choices killed you and your friends.
A few decades later, I’m a 47-year-old mother of six children, and I seem to be trapped in a Choose Your Own Adventure story about the coronavirus pandemic with no discernible way out.
The plots in reality are somehow simultaneously more boring, and yet higher-stakes.

Your son’s friend is having a small birthday party, “socially distanced.” You get there, and all 12 kids are together on top of each other, unmasked; some are wrestling. The parents are nowhere to be seen. Do you drop your son off or take him back home with you?
It’s your daughter’s birthday, and more than anything, she wants to hug her grandma — your 73-year-old mother. Do you risk it?

For parents these days, every single choice feels fraught with potential peril — the real-life equivalent of: “Your kid has lost her shoes. Do you send her to run through the field of glass shards or have her stay put in the pit of poisonous snakes?”

A high-achieving parent friend recently offered inadvertent reassurance that our newly lowered bar is pretty standard. “We are 10 percent constructive parenting, 20 percent threats, 30 percent bribery and 50 percent TV,” he said in a text, half-jokingly. This friend, far from researching a new book or reading Shakespeare of an evening, was watching Netflix’s latest bit of supertrash, Love Is Blind, when he texted.

As a family with a very energetic seven-year-old and five-year-old, we have lots of small tips for getting through this pandemic. None of them have been that helpful. The most valuable thing I could share that has helped our family is to lower the bar

My wife and I have basically thrown in the towel on getting any work done during the day without sticking a screen in front of the faces of either our five-year-old or three-year-old — or both. The screen is our best friend and our worst enemy. It is the alpha and omega. I’ve read the research and skimmed the essays about other parents worried about turning their kids into iPad zombies. But there are parents who are dealing with far more pressing problems, so I try to keep that in mind as my kid presses play on the next video from YouTube’s Ryan’s World. (I freaking hate that kid.)