Opinion | The Great Pandemic Parenting Experiment

There we go. Good. There we go. Yay. Yay. [MUSIC PLAYING] We’re the Pauls. We’re the Orangos. We are at the Carter-McLaughlin-Milstein family. Or Mill Carterstein McDonlaughlinsons. We spent the first three weeks just butting heads. I don’t keep track anymore. Everything’s blurred together. Being a naturally rather bossy person, like, I was looking to control what I can control, and so there is, like, it sets up an inherent conflict. At this point, things are getting annoying. I’m a single dad. I’m a chief revenue officer in a technology company. Yeah, that sounds — that sounds good. I’m sort of applying what I would in terms of management at work into my home structure with my kids, who have never seen me in that mode before. He thinks we are his team, but we’re not. You are my home team. Yeah, and we’re not used to it. You’re my home team. But this is not how — OK. This is not we work. No, no. I know. I know. So so — We can’t work like this. He thinks we’re not during our work and we’re just reading when we’re really reading for school. I’ll see her sort of lounging back on the couch. What are you doing? Reading. Reading a book. She’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing, but to me visually it sort of looks like she’s just lounging. He doesn’t know what we’re doing at all. I look at your agenda every morning. No, you don’t. Most of the times. No. OK, fine. Before quarantine, our dad would do this thing where he would live his life with these three principles — honesty, integrity and purpose. Honesty, integrity, purpose. Meaning, like, he wants to do meditation. Now we get dragged into it. This is, like, a goal that I want for them. But we don’t have any interest in this. No, we don’t. No shared interest here. I’ll tell you what, I do have a swear jar, and there’s way, way more money in that swear jar than — Oh, you’ve kept up with that? Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of cash in there now, because I don’t know what you guys are hearing anymore. Most of the fighting that went on in this house was the boss and my son. My son was away in college, and I think he didn’t understand the severity of the situation. Kind of a hard adjustment. Like, I had a lot of freedom and independence. I could what I want, when I wanted, whenever I wanted, and then, when I came home, it was kind of like going back to listening to Mom and Dad. I want to go out. You can’t go out. Why not? We’re in a global pandemic. I was like, maybe it was better when he was back in his dorm. She’s the boss, so I’ll follow the rules, too, you know? I’ve been following the rules for 20 years now. The first rule is, we all have to have dinner together. We’re your typical New York family. You know, everybody is sitting at the table with a little frown on their face. Since we’re all together in the house all day, like, there isn’t really much to talk about. She’s like, watching, like, TikToks, because she’s obsessed with the app. I don’t watch TikTok at dinner. Very [INAUDIBLE]. My second rule is — more pertains to Skye. She does remote learning in her bedroom and I do teaching out in our living room space, and so I ask her if she needs any help to come into my space. And it’s so funny. Sometimes I will walk by her room and she’s like, Bro, you just walked past my door. Why can’t you just come to me? But she doesn’t realize that it’s, like, either I quickly took a bathroom break, I quickly went to get something from my bedroom, but I need to get back to where I was at. So I’ll make her come out, and she’s literally like — Why can’t you just come over to me, and why do you have to make this rule? My mom has a rule that nobody can come into her space, but she comes into my space all the time, unwanted and unasked for. What are you doing? Stop. So I’ll come in the room, and then I’ll sit. And he’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa. What just happened? Why are you sitting down? What you, like, what, wait, what, what? What’s happening? She’s always like, smiling, wanting to, like, kiss me and hug me all the time. I’m like, yo, Ma, like, get out. What are you doing? Let me look at that face. All right, but like, get out. This is absolutely just a parenting nightmare. I’m Christine, and I live with my daughters Amalia, Fiona and Macy. Macy’s my stepdaughter. You can cut my hair after, if I can cut yours. Stepson Tanner, my husband, Mark. This is actually not Mark, this is Mike. Mike is my first husband. And I live within a mile down the road with my wife, Tanya, and my stepdaughter Sophie. So because there’s four parents and five kids, it has really complicated how we shelter in place. So we’re always dealing with new things that the kids are always bringing up on, how about if I can do this? How about if I can do that? First, a kid will come forward with a proposal. We actually call them proposals. It did remind me of when I was in middle school and I had to, like, ask my parents’ permission before I could go anywhere. You know, it really could have been the four parents against the five kids. I have this idea that my family doesn’t understand when they do understand, and so I just kind of take it out on them. It was like, you don’t get me. I think it was a lot harder at first to really be empathetic and to listen to the kids’ concerns and to sort of see that the ways in which they are suffering are really different than the ways that we are struggling. The first time that I had my best friend over, we had set up this entire protocol. I was all the way over here, and she was all the way back here. So we were pretty far apart. And my brother Tanner, who is 17, he sits directly next to her. They had made, like, a big case that they didn’t need to be watched or policed, but then, there I was watching them, and I saw it happen and came out. She’s super mad and is saying, you’re not six feet away, and everything, and got so mad. It was quite a scene. I really had the time to come around and realize that my actions will affect people in our joint family who, you know, I never really see on a daily basis. You know, I’m taking care of them, and I’m still working, so I’ve kind of had to lay off of myself and not put external pressures to be some type of, I don’t know, Betty Crocker quarantine mom, because I’m not, at all. Mm-mmm. Even though it’s been, I think, more work up front to come together, it’s resulted for us as a family in a lot less conflict. And the truth is, I’ve also really put to the test, like, how patient I am, how patient they are with me. How was that noodle lunch? What’s another word for disgusting? Disgusting? And I think we — again, nine weeks into this quarantine, I think — It feels like — I don’t even know. It feels like a lifetime ago when I could actually have a sleepover with my friends. Like that’s — Yes. So it just boils down to sleepover. I don’t think they heard a word I just said. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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