I thought coronavirus would be more fun

I had this idea that coronavirus would be heaven for me because I’ve been working from home with my kids circling all day long for ten years. This should be my time to shine. I was looking forward to when schools closed down. I wanted all the parents to ask each other: How are you coping????

Finally, I will get to be the parent who is on top of things. I will be the coronavirus version of the mom who packs snacks for soccer and never forgets extra water. And people will say: She’s incredible!!!

But my son’s SAT got canceled for this weekend. So I thought okay, fine, my son will have to take the SAT at the same time he takes AP tests which only bad-planning families do, but fine, we can handle it. I call the College Board to reschedule before the rest of the world does. I tell them they are delusional to be offering kids the April 3 test date. I suggest at-home tests that come with a camera to catch cheating.

The College Board person is pissed and snips at me.

Fortunately, I gave a fake name, so I still have hope of being the coronavirus mom of the year.

I was excited that I already have great tutors lined up. I was excited to casually explain to other parents that good tutors are hard to find and we found self-paced online learning to be totally inefficient. But I forgot to take into account that all our tutors work in hospitals and they are about to start working 10-million-hour shifts.

The only reason I get any work done while we homeschool is that I don’t homeschool. So we can’t get rid of all the tutors.  The tutor for SAT writing is a consultant who can’t travel. But I have no faith that there will be another SAT before college applications are due this fall. So we do what I have found works best: stick with a tutor you love and have your kid and the tutor find a topic they want to study together. The topic doesn’t matter nearly as much as the synergy between the two people.

My younger son practices cello all day, with scattered breaks for piano, music theory and texting to other kids who play music all day. So self-isolation should be really easy for him — musicians practically choose this as a way of life.  But my son has a concussion from a car crash that happened six weeks ago which I did not write about because the lawyer said not to. Anyway, my son’s going crazy from boredom.

He tells me he’s bored like it’s my fault.

I tell him boring people are bored, which is what I used to tell my kids when they were tiny homeschoolers learning to identify their own interests.

He’s had enough of my homeschool pontificating. He says, “Mom, do you think it’s true that boring kids are a result of boring parents?”

We play Monopoly. I hate Monopoly because all those houses and hotels just beg the person losing to flick the board in a way that launches all those little pieces into flight. I add my own rules to make the game go faster, like no pot of money in the middle. I make hazelnut high-rises worth twice as much as hotels. The kids are offended that I would use our coronavirus food supply for a game. So I drink Pinot Noir each time I pass go because the alcohol supply is my own.

Dinner is four cheeseless takeout pizzas because I can’t decide if takeout is risky and the boys can’t decide if one pizza each is enough.

One pizza each is not enough. But still, each kid gives me their best slice, which is touching. I nibble on crust wishing for teenage metabolism. The boys are quiet when they eat. And the streets of Boston are quiet now that the students have all flown home to deliver coronavirus from the petri-dish dorms to little houses full of old people all over the country. This is a moment in history where we will talk about how during their formative years, generation Z went from one crisis to the next.

The boys want to go to Barnes and Noble.

I tell them to forget it.

They growl.

“We have 400 books. Amazon has 4 million books. You don’t need to go get a virus from people waiting in line at Barnes and Noble.”

“Fine. We’re taking a walk.”

“Fine. But be careful. It’s a pandemic. Pandemic. Okay?”

“Ok boomer.”

I have come to terms with being called a boomer when I am not. But I am still getting used to searching for the generational inference the kid is making when they say ok boomer. In this case it’s because kids are downplaying coronavirus because it’s most dangerous to baby boomers. Younger kids refer to coronavirus as boomer remover and older kids call it the accelerator candidate — as in a candidate who makes things much worse much faster will finally get baby boomers out of power. (Before people complain, the majority of tweets on the topic of boomer remover are making fun of baby boomers being upset about being made fun of.)

I let the kids leave the apartment because I’m so excited to be alone. I know we are not supposed to be touching books that hundreds of other people touch. I imagine Barnes and Noble using Purell on the hardbacks to reassure us that shopping is safe.

I do not use my alone time to work. I clean up the dining room table because the research about neighborhoods with broken windows also applies to apartments with teenage leftovers. I read news about coronavirus. I decided to order more wine. I have underestimated how bad this is going to be.

The kids come home with The Communist Manifesto.

Barnes and Noble added a fancy cover to jack up the price to a point that would have made Marx cry.

My kids made a plan to listen to the audio version because the concussion means no reading. My older son falls asleep because, honestly, this book is no page-turner. My younger son says, “Mom, this book is so boring. You should drink every time they say bourgeoisie.”

I cancel the case of wine. It’s going to take everything in me to keep us sane through Pandemic 2020.

10 replies
    • Candice
      Candice says:

      Stellar writing, indeed!

      But it is her mind propelling the writing I find so striking… Always something to learn when visiting this
      blog. Not only from Penelope, but the many astute and articulate commenters as well.

      Thanks to everyone!

  1. Carla King
    Carla King says:

    Penelope, I always eagerly open your emails expecting to be surprised, shocked, delighted, horrified, tickled and enlightened. Thank you once again for not disappointing.

  2. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    I also thought Coronavirus would be more fun. Mostly because, for some reason, I imagined they would shut the schools but not the ski resorts. You’re outside, far apart, wearing masks and gloves… but no. The covid portcullis has come down on my season pass. Also on the pool I swam in yesterday morning, and the restaurant and bar our posse closed down last night to mourn the closing of the mountains. I feel like I’ve been chased home by a series of slamming doors.

    I’m glad my kid did research at the BPL when he could, because that’s inevitably going to close, along with every other place that doesn’t suck. We all stock up for the zombie apocalypse in our own way. We plan to be a social house. My wife is a great bartender, and I foresee a lot of boardgames with third graders, because my girl doesn’t like to be alone.

    BTW, Monopoly sucks. Get a real boardgame.

  3. Kimmie Morrell
    Kimmie Morrell says:

    I agree – you’re too funny! I’m with you on the wine – both ways, partaking and thinking maybe we shouldn’t. It’s funny to hear your ups and downs with teens at home, sounds a lot like the rest of us, I think.

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This sentence – “I know we are not supposed to be touching books that hundreds of other people touch.” – made me think of another public service announcement I heard recently. The screens of touch screen devices retain the virus so be mindful of this fact when using public touch screens and be sure to practice good hygiene. Thank you for this post and this pandemic experience has certainly been an education whether or not you’re attending school.

  5. Windscale
    Windscale says:

    Coronageddon looks like it may be a long hard slog. The latest modelling from Imperial College:

    Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand,

    suggests we could have long periods of widescale quarantine with only short breaks. Otherwise, health services are going to be overwhelmed. Apparently, this isn’t great, because you don’t really build up any “herd immunity” from people who’ve recovered from the disease. The current expectation is that every time you ease quarantine conditions you’ll get another “flare-up”. Rinse and repeat until some sort of vaccine, or similar, becomes available and can be rolled out. It might not turn out that way, but we’ll have more data once China starts to reverse it’s current quarantine measures.

    The UK Govt. has started implementing this, changing from the initial plan A. They hoped originally that they could limit and disperse the peak so that immunity started building in the general population. BBC news suggests the latest modelling was showing about ~250 thousand deaths with plan A. Plan B, widespread quarantine, would hopefully only be a few thousand, to small 10s of thousands. Schools are currently still open, but I wonder for how much longer? Apparently, one of the issues with shutting schools is that a lot of NHS staff have school-age children. If their children are no longer going to school, then that may impact NHS staffing levels, just when you don’t want that. I wonder what might be done to mitigate that?

    People are now being told to put their social lives on hold. Might not be a bad time to be Aspie, if you generally reduce social contact anyway :-). The worst thing is that economic fallout may be just as bad, if not worse, as the health emergency :-(.

  6. Carol
    Carol says:

    Barnes & Noble is closed in my city south of San Francisco. Are you sure your boys went to Barnes & Noble?
    I have friends and acquaintances who have what I call Asperger’s Lite. Like maybe not full on Asperger’s, but something is a little starker and brittle about them, and they are all very intelligent, and all can super-concentrate on some things. They’re actually good at being friends. Or two of them are. They all have a tinge of nasal insistence in the way they talk.

  7. Helena Bouchez
    Helena Bouchez says:

    Thank you Penelope for inviting Whitney to do this annotation. Very illuminating. Thank you, Whitney for doing this. We need the help.

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