- Márcia Fervienza
Coronavirus, Quarantine, and Parenting Teens
It all started for me about two weeks ago. Even though I heard about Coronavirus here and there, it was just a distant conversation happening on the background for me. Until one day, I got home from work, and my husband said we had to start stocking up for the crisis. "Crisis? Which crisis?", I asked. "The outbreak! It is serious. My company is preparing us to work from home for at least four weeks". "Get out of here," I thought. He is known for being anxious and controlling, so I scratched it down to just one of his usual over-the-top reactions to mild risks.
Then my teenager came back from school one day and announced that she was on board with her dad. "The school is going to close, we will run out of food, and we have to prepare." I scoffed. She is also extremely anxious, just like her father. If they were catching anything, it was America's tendency to overreact to most things. I kept on with my life. I had a conference scheduled for mid-March. "You are very funny if you think you are going," my 16-year-old said. "I am going! I won a full scholarship to attend it! Unless they cancel, I will be there!"
And, in quick succession, everything seemed to happen at once. The schools shut down was announced, there was no food or paper toilet in any supermarket, classes were moved online, restaurants, gyms, and casinos were ordered to close until further notice, and now we have a curfew of 8 pm. The situation keeps changing by the hour, and it only gets worse. So, they were right! The situation is serious!
Well, at least my husband didn't take my laid-back approach and did stock up on food and essentials. While I was mocking him, he was making all the right choices. Good for us! But now five people who barely see each other during any given week is stuck together 24/7 within a 4-bedroom home. How can we make that work out overnight?
It's been a struggle! Mentally, it is hard to feel caged and lose any personal contact with the outside world. Your routine is completely disrupted: you don't go to work anymore, you don't see others, you don't go for those regular self-care activities (gym, hair salon, mall, dine-out, etc.) and you still have to stay productive. After all, this is not a vacation. You have to work remotely.
But the kids are out of school, so for them, it is a vacation. Right? Wrong! They have assignments to do, and they know they have to stay up to date with schoolwork, but they want to go out and see their friends, as they are used to do. They were hoping for school closure every day, remarking the risks of being exposed to the virus, but as teenagers that they are, they never anticipated what school closure would bring along in its wake. They never thought their social life would be impacted. And, before more strict measures were taken by the government, such as the closure of restaurants and the curfew, parents were endorsing get-togethers in their houses as well.
This weekend, I had to go through an argument with my 16-year-old daughter, who wanted to attend a Saint Patrick party at one of her friend's house where 13 teenagers would meet. Wait; what? "You are not going!". And hell broke loose. She would be the only kid in her group not to attend this event because her parents were overreacting to the virus when all other parents were being reasonable. So, she was very concerned with virus transmission only within the school environment. Getting infected by her friends would never happen because they were outside of school? This made no sense because, in truth, they wanted to have more time to sleep and more room to manage their schedule. She was not asking for or expecting that she would have to "give up on her life altogether" – her words – because of a virus.
And I, as a parent, have to deal with that. I have to deal with the drama, tears, stress, and so on, because there are clear directions to be followed that she can't understand, especially when everybody else is not following them.
But that is not all. There is also the 5-year-old who needs his daily level of activity to be able to have a good night of sleep. But how do you do that when everything is closed? We go out every day with his scooter and bike for some activity outside. It is healthy and necessary. But, after a certain point, he also starts complaining that he wants to see his friends.
Lastly, there is the 24-year-old who has to deal with her job requesting her to come over to sort through the mail because they claim that it is crucial to their business. [They deliver snacks at home, which are ordered through an app. How is sorting through mail crucial to this line of business is beyond me.] She also has a long-term boyfriend whom she obviously won't refrain from seeing during the quarantine, so we have to negotiate that as well, because every time she steps out of the house (or any of us do), everybody else is exposed.
If that is not enough, there is me. I can't find the motivation to do the most basic stuff – reading, writing, working… I feel caged in the middle of a war I haven't started and still have to deal with. But what am I complaining about? That is the nature of all wars.
In sum, the first few days were difficult, but now things seem to be quieting down. I reached out to other teen's parents in the neighborhood to ask them to please keep their kids at home and not allow for gatherings or parties. If other kids are not doing it, mine will feel less frustrated about having to stay at home. My 24-year-old is working from home and trying to bring her boss to her senses that she shouldn't have to come in to sort through the mail. My husband is working from home. Everybody is kind of settled, but me. I am still struggling. Other than going out for running and meditating, I am trying to stay up to date with work and school assignments. But it hasn't been easy.
How have you been doing? Share your thoughts and ideas on how to navigate this with me here!
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels