Mom Inc.

Parenting Points

The situation is fluid

By Renee Whitmore

I used to give out parenting advice. It was very popular, and free.

No video games.

No fast food.

No sugar.

Early to bed, early to rise.

Of course, this was before I had children.

Our family of six — my husband, my 16- and 11-year-old boys, my two fur-bearing children and me — have been inside since March. MARCH. Confined by COVID. School is starting back this month. Hopefully. But before that reprieve, let me give you a peak into what our life was like.

To put it nicely, it was a transition.

At 3:17 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I hear yelling coming from the living room. “Duuuuuuddde NO!” This is the universal call of the video game addict. Then I hear the buzzer in the kitchen. The oven door opens. The oven door slams.

It’s David, the 16-year-old. He’s playing Fortnite online with his friends. At 3 o’clock in the morning. He’s cooking frozen french fries, destined to be smothered with ranch dressing. At 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s OK. He’s going to sleep until noon. When he finally gets up he’ll start his online schoolwork, finish around 4 p.m., and pop more frozen french fries in the oven. I don’t even care. At least he’s safe. And he still likes me, most days.

I pull a pillow over my head and go back to sleep.

At 7 a.m. I sit in the kitchen drinking my coffee with my Rottweiler, Baily, sprawled out by my feet. If I wanted to go anywhere my first move would have to be a standing broad jump. My cat, Libby, is sitting on the table watching me sip my dark roast with that judgmental feline stare. You know the one. Kevin, the 11-year-old, shuffles in, still drowsy.

He walks to the cabinet, grabs two packages of Jolly Rancher Green Apple Pop Tarts and asks me if I can make him hot chocolate with marshmallows. I break the news. We’re out of marshmallows. So, he doesn’t want hot chocolate anymore. According to him, hot chocolate is undrinkable without marshmallows. Might as well be a cup of hemlock. Instead he grabs a Sunkist from the fridge and consumes each Pop Tart in two bites. Chomp. Chomp. Sip. Gone.

When Kevin was 3, I got a call from his preschool teacher. He’d repurposed Jasmine’s and Miguel’s cupcakes from the snack table, sneaking off to the bathroom and stuffing them in his mouth. The teacher’s report went something like this: “I was banging on the bathroom door and when he answered his cheeks were full of cupcake and I could smell frosting on his breath.” Perry Mason couldn’t get him off.

“I don’t think I’m going to do any schoolwork today,” Kevin informs me, Baily and Libby as he goes to the back-up package of Pop Tarts. “I’m just not feeling it.”

Huh. Me neither.

“Can I take a break?”

“You’ve had a break. You’ve been home for two months,” I say. “What will you do on your break?”

“I don’t know. Will you make me a grilled cheese?”

“I’ll make grilled cheese for lunch.”

He looks at me as though lunch is in December. I don’t even care. At least he’s safe. And he still likes me, most days.

Since the real kids — not the virtual ones — came along, I don’t give advice much. If anyone asks I say, “Whatever works.” And welcome back to school. I hope.  PS

When Renee isn’t teaching English or being a professional taxi driver for her two boys, she’s working on her first book.

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