This is a re-post from a couple of years ago, but living with my four adult and almost-adult children for the last two months in lockdown, I had a couple of thoughts to add.
Before Covid-19, I always thought the goal of raising kids was to help them learn to live on their own. I realized it is just as important that at the end of the child-rearing journey that I can live with my grown children. And, sometimes, that means just letting shit go.
Growing up, our family had a written schedule for whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher. For whatever reason that is the one chore I (still) loathe and as soon as anyone could reach a cabinet, they were added to the rotation. Not surprisingly, all my kids hate that chore now, too. And here the six of us are eating every meal together, seven days a week, and on my second chance, I’m unloading dishwasher twice a day, every day without comment, because I want to set a different example than the one they had growing up. I’m doing what needs to be done, without worrying about if it is my “job” and it gets done the way that I like it to be done.
I’m assuming quarantine is going to end eventually, so my plan is for this temporary crisis and would not be sustainable forever, but it gives us peace right now. My point isn’t that one person should do all the chores, but sometimes I would get so caught up in the weeds of raising kids who were responsible, hard-working, disciplined, thoughtful, etc that I overlooked the fact that they were good people. Yes, I wish they would not collect water glasses, coffee cups, and wine glasses wherever they sit their butts down and I wish I wasn’t the only resident who knew how to run the dishwasher, but they have taken the quarantine order with good grace and humor. They are doing work, school work, and socializing virtually and bravely charting this unknown world.
None of us knows what our post-pandemic future will hold, but each night at dinner, I can see that we have somehow raised a family that can live, study, and work together 24/7 and still look forward to gathering at the dinner table every night. And sometimes they will unload the dishwasher without being asked.
And here are the more practical things I’ve learned—mostly the hard way–on this journey.
When you are making the baby’s crib, layer it with a waterproof mattress pad, a crib sheet, another waterproof mattress pad and a crib sheet. If the diaper leaks (and it will and it will be in the middle of the night), all you need to do is rip off the top crib sheet and waterproof mattress cover and, voila! A fresh sheet for baby and you didn’t even need to turn on the lights.
Until they are school-age, keep a set of clothes along with a diaper or underwear in the car. Not only for potty accidents, but for tumbles into creeks, mud puddles, and those “splash” areas that keep popping up and soaking kids in every new town center. And don’t forget a towel. Of course a towel can be used for drying off wet kids, but if someone pukes in the car, a towel can help clean it up or be used as a dry layer between the vomit-soaked seat and the vomiter.
Always keep an extra poster board or two in the house. It’s amazingly difficult to find poster board at 10pm for the project due tomorrow. I kept our extra taped to the back of a bookcase to keep the paper from curling.
Daughters wearing similar sizes? Never buy them the same character underwear! To avoid spending forever checking the size tags, make sure one gets Disney princess and the other gets Hello Kitty.
Keep a pack of pre-sharpened #2 pencils hidden. That way when someone needs one on their way to an 8 am AP exam, no one has to desperately search for a school supply aisle at the gas station convenience store at 7:45 am.
Sending someone to camp or college? Make sure they take a photo of the insurance cards with their phone—we know they will always have their phones handy!
Before your kids go off to college, make them a medicine cabinet in a box. Include bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl (oral and topical), pain reliever, anti-diarrheal, Pepto-Bismol, cold and flu remedies, and a digital thermometer.
Back to what wine pairs well with motherhood? Whatever the hell you want to open, because one of your kids just told you she promised her French teacher she could bring in crème brulee for 30 tomorrow morning (True story.)