Living with teens during a pandemic

So much and so little happens constantly these days, so here are some meaningful and mundane observations from my own Quarantine Headquarters, shared with two teenage sons.

First of all, let me say that homeschooling is easy and anyone who says otherwise is not doing it right. Both my teens are focused on high school math, a subject in which I have neither ability nor interest, so they are basically on their own. Trigonometry is why I jumped out of the first floor window of Mr. Miller’s Grade 10 Math class while he was writing formulas on the chalkboard, just to escape the frustration.

This is not the lesson I can teach to my 15- and 17-year-old offspring, so I try to help them by defining the important trigonometric vernacular. For example:

Cos: an abbreviation of Cosmopolitan, either the magazine or the drink, both are superior at distracting and relaxing—unless, of course, I succumb to the cover of the February issue and stress out about The Biggest Sex Scam in History and Why I One-Hundred Percent Fell for it! Damn, I hate playing the fool!

Tan: a darkening of the skin pigments due to exposure to the sun—and something we don’t have to worry about despite it being mid-May because, here in the north, it has been grey and continues to bloody snow! Yes, we have a Southern Vortex heating us up at the moment, but this could be temporary. Can we get just a little more evidence of global warming? Maybe get through May without another snow squall?

Sin: A giant Dairy Milk chocolate bar fell off the shelf at the grocery store while I was reaching for the quinoa. This was obviously a sin that I should buy it and hide it for a future, single-sitting midnight snack. The non-mathematical follow-up question is: Why did my kids find it tucked away in the back of my sock drawer, wrapped inside one of my Chapters Indigo, extra-fluffy reading socks?

Cosine: I’m sorry I don’t make enough money to cosine on a loan for you, kids. And if you’re smart, you won’t become a writer for just that reason.

I have since pawned my kids onto a math teacher friend who is helping them with their online numbers and angles. Homeschooling—check.

Let’s look at grocery shopping next. My boys, they eat a lot. I had purchased a bag (wheelbarrow) of flour from Costco last fall, thinking it would likely last until my progeny left for college. As I continue to avoid work and bake new creations, like my Procrastination Chip Cookies and the house-favorite, Dilly-Dally Cupcakes, my flour supply is waning. You know where you can buy flour these days? Nowhere! The shelves are dusty while we all resort to inhaling comfort foods as a way to make being at home more tolerable and delicious. We may have to start eating fruits and vegetables again if this keeps up.

Mother’s Day…was just the way I’ve always wanted it to be. No guilty, commercial products purchased from the drugstore. I don’t buy into Mother’s Day. I want my kids to treat me extra special every day. This Mother’s Day forced my family to get creative: Messy, handmade cards, runny Eggs Benedict for breakfast, time for creative yoga, a two-hour walk, a one-hour nap, a hot bath, steak for dinner, and a John Mulaney Netflix special to close out the day. Why shouldn’t every day be like this? Is that really asking too much?

Funny you should ask: Has all this quarantining lowered my standards of what’s considered amusing, or are my kids getting funnier? Maybe they’re just regurgitating lines from the various sitcoms they watch (although they don’t know that I know what being “master of my own domain” means). Maybe they’ve always been this humorous and I never paid any attention to them. Regardless, spending all this time with them has given me a new appreciation for their comedic abilities, and I encourage them by providing a reliable laugh track. That we are also comfortable enough now to watch shows with adult situations, violence, and coarse language together is not as unsettling as the fact that my youngest now calls me by my first name. Familiarity breeds consent.

How about we talk about the elephant in the room these days, or, the Conspiracy Theories swirling around the coronavirus. They’re hard to avoid if you’re on any kind of social media and my kids have questions. For those of you not living under a rock, here’s my nutshell summary of current tinfoil hat theorizing: The virus was man-made inside a laboratory in China by the Illuminati led by Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates, who stands to make billions from the worldwide mandatory vaccine, which will incorporate a microchip that will allow us to be monitored controlled and brainwashed into thinking that this Big Brother machine knows what’s best for us while it increases its power, “saves the world” by decreasing the population, and blocks certain brain receptors so that we only think happy unicorn doughnut thoughts while conditioning us to stay six feet apart because it’s easier for military satellites to distinguish individuals outside of a group and anyone who questions these premises will be hunted down by CSIS for unspecified charges and disappear forever. I think that about covers the current findings.

Now I’m getting paranoid and keep looking over my shoulder to see if there really is an elephant in my room, and I just can’t see it yet. It’s disconcerting and giving me a nervous tic.

I’m not judging anyone who believes in any of these theories—hey, you do you. But here’s one thing I do believe to be true regarding this pandemic: as we over-sanitize and under-socialize, our immune system will weaken from a) loneliness and b) underexposure to the everyday microscopic organisms such as bacteria, fungi and, yes, viruses. Science says that dirt and relationships are good for us and make us stronger. (Dirty relationships are at your own discretion.) I use this science to help keep my children safe—by avoiding frequent cleaning, aside from wiping down all countertops daily with raw meat. I love them that much.

Now, it’s time to get back to our ongoing euchre war, at which I have lost the last 13 hands. This puts me into a Hulk-like fury, and I ponder the question: If I threw this deck of cards at 25 miles per hour, 55° north of east, the wind blowing due south at 19 miles per hour, what is the third side of this triangle? Surely there is a mathematical discipline ideally suited to solving this, right? Anyone? Anyone?


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