As parents, we spend so much time striving. Trying to improve. We’re tough on ourselves. We have apps, classes, support groups. But the biggest life lessons are the ones we don’t plan for and can’t control.
This situation has been challenging in all the typical (and fortunately non-traumatic) ways for me. I possess nothing but time, yet feel like I have absolutely no time. My wardrobe consists of shapeless pajama pants and a ratty “The Golden Girls” T-shirt. I’m working on a vitamin D deficiency. Our playroom looks like it was ransacked by drunken burglars vomiting wet Cheerios. I feel like I’m ignoring my kids. I feel like I’m ignoring my work. I feel like I’m ignoring my shower. The latter is certainly true.
But I’m learning valuable, hands-on lessons, too, life skills that I’d never bother to absorb were I not stashed inside my home for weeks on end. Such as:
Tech support. I’ve had to reset my internet connection dozens of times, master about 10 new online school logins and platforms, educate myself on the intricacies of Google classroom and commit several arcane passwords to memory. (Why doesn’t my third-grader have one login for everything? Why is his password something like the year he graduates high school, plus an arbitrary classroom code, plus the first three numbers of the Fibonacci sequence, plus a few exclamation points for good measure?). The universal password should be: despair.
Home economics. My Amazon Fresh game is on-point. I maintain a spreadsheet of our grocery inventory, what we need and when we need it. My cart is always primed and ready to go, and when an Amazon window opens, I am ready to click feverishly and pounce. I now know how to make a gallon of milk last for an extra week and am versed in the finer points of cereal storage.
Immunology. I have also become an expert on the trajectory of pandemics, peaks, waves and herd immunity. In fact, I’ve learned more about science in the past month than I ever learned in high school, which is admittedly not much. If Dr. Fauci is fired, I could surely take his place.
Sanitation practices. Did you know you can create your own disinfectant by combining bleach with water in just the right proportions? As someone whose most intimate encounters with cleaning products used to be browsing the alluring scents of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day at the hardware store, this was a revelation. I almost made myself faint once, but my mixology skills have improved since then.
Baking. Duncan Hines brownies. Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Meat loaf. I once almost burnt our house down broiling nachos. Now, my oven is my true companion. I casually toss about terms like “radiant heat” and “sourdough starter.” (True confession: I thought a starter was an appliance you bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond until two weeks ago. Turns out it’s a pet-like blob that actually needs to be…fed? I’m still sort of confused.)
Astrology. I can predict with uncanny accuracy when schools, camps, pools and restaurants will reopen. Just ask me! (Yes, the date changes daily, but it’s accurate at the time of pronouncement.)
Personal grooming. I bought a home-barber kit for my kids and approached my older one with clippers this weekend because his sideburns were taking on a feral shape. From certain angles, his head now looks like a malformed mushroom, but in general it’s not bad.
Yes, overall, this pandemic has boosted my self-reliance. I’ve attempted things that I never would have tried before. What have you learned? I’d love to know!