3 minute read

The kids have been home this week for Thanksgiving break, and the whole experience makes me wonder how we survived 2020.

A couple people in our household have preexisting conditions that would not fare well with COVID, so when the country went into lockdown we really went into lockdown. We had almost everything delivered, and when I left the house I wore double masks and doused myself with hand sanitizer before I came back into the house. We kept all our kids home for the school year last year (this year all our vulnerable folks are vaccinated) and let me tell you: it was rough.

These days, I get up, see the kids out the door to school, and then have a huge chunk of time where I can be 100% committed to work. For the year and a half of lockdown, that was not the case. Every kid had a slightly different school schedule and different expectations from their teachers. My wife and I had to keep on top of who needed to be where (virtually, that is) and constantly remind our kids to arrive on time to their zoom meetings. Infections at the school meant sometimes teachers had to stay home and their students needed to join different meetings. The constantly shifting schedule was incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately, we’ve got more kids than adults in our household, so my wife couldn’t handle all the kids while I worked. There were numerous times when I had to change diapers while talking to people in a meeting, review math homework while waiting for code to compile, or have to settle fights between kids so they’d be quiet during an important meeting with a customer. And while I was doing that my wife would be in the other room with another kid handling some other crisis.

Most people can handle a crisis here and there - somebody cuts you off in traffic and you have to swerve to avoid it; your kid gets the flu and you are a little distracted while taking care of them; you have a tight deadline to hit and need to focus all your efforts on one thing. Stuff like that happens, but then it ends and you can recuperate from the extra effort. But what happens when every day is a crisis? Instead of resting, you roll from crisis to crisis, putting out one fire just as another pops up. If you keep that going long enough, you start to break down. And believe me, we broke down. But there’s a silver lining: we all broke down together.

The thing is, spending a crisis with someone is a lot like firing clay. You put a sculpture in the oven and there are only two possible results: either that malleable clay hardens into something sturdy and long-lasting, or it explodes because of problems that sat below the surface. Nearly 2 years of crises has hardened my relationship with my wife and kids to the point that I think our family unit is pretty unbreakable. My wife and I always got along really well, but now it’s like we’re on the same wavelength. Our kids spent a year away from social pressures and have learned to really let go here at the house, where nobody is going to be judgmental or mean. They’re glad to be back around kids their age and my wife and I love being able to actually go to lunch without fear of a deadly disease, but home is a special safe haven that it wasn’t before.

Having the kids home for a week reminded me of the 18-month lockdown crisis we endured, but seeing how smooth it went and knowing we could relax afterwards made it honestly not so bad. My wife and I slipped right back into the routine of sharing the load of kids while still getting our usual stuff done, and our kids enjoyed the safety and comfort of hanging around the house. Sure, it was uncomfortable being in a high-heat oven for so long, but we all appreciate the hardened clay that we’ve become. 💪


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