My friend, Cat, lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and two toddlers.We talked in her front yard while one of her children napped and her husband was out at the grocery store.She describes the challenge of building a daily routine with very young children and helping them adapt to our new world of caution.
This is part of a series of interviews with Ann Arbor residents, talking about personal experiences adjusting to (and adapting during) the COVID-19 crisis. Interviewed April 3, 2020
I’m talking to my friend Cat today. Hi, Cat!
So, I’m asking everyone pretty much the same question, which is: how has your lifestyle changed since we are dealing with the pandemic?
Well, it’s changed pretty greatly for us. I’m a student and all my classes shifted online. I also have two toddlers so all of their daycare has been eliminated. So it’s us and the kids and a lot of skyping and ZOOMing with my classroom and trying to figure out the homework in those hours. We started staying home as soon as possible so we’ve been doing this for 23 days, I think, now? It’s been an interesting adjustment… lots of crafts, lots of safe walking, lots of short bike rides around the neighborhood for me and the toddlers so, pretty good, but, you know (smiles)
So we’re talking outside— what kind of precautions are you taking with your kids when you guys are outside? I imagine it’s harder because they’re littler and it’s harder to explain things to them.
Yes, so we… well, first we started with teaching good handwashing. We do a little song when they wash their hands and they know, like, the butterfly and scratch the puppy, needing a backrub, things like that. We’ve been sewing masks for the toddlers and we’ve just been trying to make them as cool as possible so they’re into wearing them.
We try to make it more fun, like when they get home we have the alcohol spray out and they can spray their shoes. We just try to make it as fun and attractive as possible. You know, like, we bejeweled the hand sanitizer, made it a little bit more magical, things like that. It’s been working pretty good.
Is there anything that’s caught you by surprise, that’s much harder than you expected or any challenges that are just… a lot?
So I think… being around… being home constantly with the two kids, you know, not having the normal break in the day where I would go to school or, you know, anything like that… that was a little bit more intense than I thought it would initially be, but now that we’re getting adjusted to it, it’s becoming really fun. Initially we didn’t have a lot of structure in the day because it was just eliminated unexpectedly so it’s been interesting to add that back in. Sometimes by force, but usually it goes pretty naturally.
I think you’re the first person I’ve talked to who has real little little kids so I’m curious: what does your day look like? What kind of strategies do you have?
Well, so… we get up, we eat breakfast. I’ve been working with my older son, Fox (who’s three) on baking. So we usually make a Dutch boy pancake because it’s easy to make. He thinks it’s very cool, he likes to watch it puff up in the oven. And then we will go on a walk and come back, do art, and then it’s naptime, and then we do kind of free afternoon activity, they can have a little screentime (I can have a little break). My husband’s working on remodeling our house while we’re doing this, so, you know, kind of watch dad (as long as its safe) and just take it easy the rest of the day.
We’ve been working on cooking skills with them. They’re a little too early to cut anything, but they can stir things. We’ve been making a lot of bread, pastries, things like that.
So, what I have heard from some folks is that this is really really challenging and some people are feeling particularly isolated and they’re really kind of fighting against the restrictions we are supposed to be following. Do you have any advice for people who are really particularly struggling?
Sure, I would say that you should take the opportunity to FaceTime as much as possible if you have little kids. We have a playroom that we have up for the kids and we have them FaceTime with grandparents once a day. That’s helping the local grandparents not feel so isolated as well because we have four of them directly in this city. They live in different areas and some of them feel they need to be more quarantined right now, but once a day they have a little meeting with grandparents and they spend about half an hour doing that. For myself, I have, like, wine dates with my friends or there’s Netflix with friends where you can watch a movie together and kind of comment like Mystery Science Theater.
You know, just take advantage of the technology that’s there. It’s a little awkward at first but then you get into the rhythm of it and it’s very nice.
So there’s one more thing I forgot to ask which is — right now, while we’re talking, your husband is out to Costco, you said—so I’m curious: how have your habits changed as far as all the things that we need to go out in public and typically get, like groceries and shopping for things? What kind of different habits do you have now?
One is we picked one person to go. We don’t go as a group anymore. Usually one of us would go with the kids or I would go or he would go and now it is just him going. When we go, we also network with friends, so we’re trying to eliminate as many trips as possible. For instance, Chris, my husband, was going to Costco and then one of our friends is going to, I think, Argus later this week for bread and stuff like that. Just trying to make as minimal trips as we can.
When we get home we have a spot that’s designated for the groceries. We set them down, we clean everything really well with alcohol, all the fruits and vegetables get a nice deep wash. We’re just trying to make sure to use gloves, to use masks, to use hand sanitizer, to make sure that we’re keeping distance, and just be as safe as possible.
So I hear your kids rattling around inside, do you have anything to add?
I don’t think so… I mean, just, you know, remember that everyone’s in this together and you’re not alone. If you’re a parent and you’re struggling, that’s very normal. I think that’s just how it is and that’s okay.
Well, I thank you for talking to me, Cat!