The (Unexpected) Pleasures of Parenting During the Pandemic

It’s the kind of bonding usually reserved for soldiers in wartime

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Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Not to put too fine a point on it, but parenting during the pandemic has been something of a shit show. On the other hand, I was thinking today of some unexpected benefits. My son is fifteen, and in ordinary times, I would probably be seeing him for a few bleary moments at breakfast and a few rushed moments at dinner, and otherwise he would either be at school or be in the warm, sticky embrace of his friends.

I realize that this is entirely age appropriate. Being fifteen means wanting only the most fleeting of contact with your parents; I get it. I liked my parents quite a lot, but I don’t have any actual memories of spending time with them from the time I was fourteen until I left for college. Or after college, come to think of it. Instead, thanks to the pandemic, my husband and son and I are bunkered together. We are enjoying the kind of bonding that usually happens in the trenches during wartime. Today my son showed me a garlicky vinaigrette he had made to go with his lunch salad, and I found it exquisitely poignant to realize that without Covid I would never have had that encounter with him; his lunch life has been separate from us since he entered first grade.

I don’t mean to misrepresent the situation: He is plenty sick of us. A few times this summer he roared, “I am TIRED OF HANGING OUT WITH Y’ALL,” but most of the time he was pretty agreeable, considering that 1)all his summer plans had been trashed and 2)we are old, old people, and also are his parents, and no one who is fifteen should find people in those categories good company, even though we fancy ourselves the coolest, most fun, youngest-at-heart non-square highly entertaining parents on the planet.

This summer, we were also holed up with my stepson and his wife, who live in Manhattan and had fled to our house as soon as their offices in New York City closed. Spending two months living with an adult kid and his spouse is something that just wouldn’t happen in normal circumstances, it just wouldn’t. I used to think how little my parents really knew me once I left for college and points beyond; I visited them a lot, but it was always very much , as opposed to living together like actual people. My parents had no idea what my daily routine was like, or how I got my work done, or any of the ordinary stuff that made up my real life. So now we’ve had that glimpse into the lives of my stepson and his wife, and they into ours, which would never have come about if life hadn’t turned upside down.

File this under: Making the best of a bad thing, or pleasant surprises.

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Writer, writer, writer. Oh, I also write. Staff writer, The New Yorker. Author of The Library Book, The Orchid Thief, and more…

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