What do you even write about when the whole world’s burning down?
Multibillion-dollar sports empires ending their seasons early. Entire continents closed off to travel. I didn’t talk about the COVID-19 coronavirus much because everyone was all over it, but it’s everywhere and affecting everything—we can only not talk about it for so long.
I’ll admit it, though—I didn’t even really think about the coronavirus until they closed schools across Ontario for an extra two weeks and firmly thrust every parent into a period of worry and frustration I like to call “March Br3ak.”
Hi, everyone, I’m Casey Palmer, a married Dad to two energetic boys, and you’re reading Casey’s Corona Chronicles — How to Outlast Your Kids in the Midst of a Global Pandemic.
The Three-Week March Break That Nobody Asked For, But Now We All Need to Navigate
So we’re all dealing with this crisis differently and different tolerances for risk. But a global pandemic shows you what people are made of and how they act when the rules go out the window.
We haven’t seen the pandemic as a joke, ourselves, but we haven’t been preparing for end times, either, so the prospect of three weeks at home with limited options isn’t one that exactly has me brimming with hope.
Hell, right now we don’t even know what our childcare options look like. We’ve closed the schools. Our daycare’s closed. But as of right now, we still don’t know whether they’re letting us work from home for the next few weeks or if we’ll have to burn up vacation and sick days in the process. We literally don’t know what we’re going to do, left to the mercies of our workplace until it figures things out and shows us what our very near future might look like.
But let’s assume for a moment the best-case scenario—that we’re working from home in our thousand-foot space with two boys who don’t know when to stop. Coronavirus is still out there, and a cure’s not on the table yet. It’s like a rainy day on steroids, but crafts only last for so long. There’s only so much screen time I’m comfortable with giving them. We’ve shut down all the fun stuff in all the public places, too.
So—in short—what the hell is a Dad supposed to do?
The answer to that, my friends, is some good ol’ creative thinking.
Day One | Saturday, March 14th, 2020
It’s Day One and things are still a little surreal. We still went forward with our plans, shopping for furniture and taking a leisurely lunch while our kids’ godmother looked after them at home. We’ve shut down just about anywhere where 250 people or more could gather, but it was clear there’s still several of us not quite ready to shut ourselves off from the world.
This is only short-term, though. The restaurants and small businesses operate in constant fear of a national lockdown, barring doors and keeping everyone at home, so we’d better enjoy it while we can, right? But I’ve been taking every spare moment I can find to jot some thoughts down, sure they’re a lot better here than jumbled up inside my head.
I think I’m trying to hold on to a sense of normalcy as long as I can, fully aware that it could all get a lot worse before it gets any better. But the most important thing we can do right now is prepare, and that includes what we’ll do while the kids have nowhere to go.
If You Fail to Prepare, You Prepare to FAIL. (And Nobody Wants That, Right?)
In the comic book circles, there’s this theory called “Prep Time Batman”—that Batman with sufficient time to prepare is capable of overcoming anything. And that’s what it feels like with this coronavirus March Br3ak—that preparation is everything, and the only way we’ll make it through is with the right tools. And while people obsessively hoard toilet paper like it’s getting discontinued, I had other things in mind:
- Muskoka Brewery‘s Middle of Noir from its Moonlight Kettle series, because those cans are limited edition and I’ll need to get my sour beer fix till I bring some Blood Brothers back into my life
- Plenty of writing supplies to record the journey until we’re back to something that looks like normal
- And, of course, actual food, since toilet paper’s not going to do a damn thing if you don’t introduce any food into the digestive equation.
But no matter what your essentials might look like in the times ahead, they’ll only do so much for you if your kids drive you up the wall with all that pent-up energy from being trapped inside for so long.
But it’s in situations like these where we step up and do what we do best—share the resources and knowledge we need to survive all this time inside, even when these kids make that really, really difficult.
I’ve seen plenty of lists flying all over the internet in the past day, so if you’re not spending more time on your Facebook than you probably should like some people I know (see: myself), let me show you a whole bunch of things you can do over March Bre3ak!
Things to do at Home Where the Coronavirus Can’t Get You
1) Play a Rousing Round of Hero Kids.
So as the Dad in a gaming family, when Steve suggested Hero Kids for me and the kids to try, it was probably the easiest $20 I’ve ever spent. It’s a role-playing game you print off from PDFs, and like Dungeons & Dragons, you develop your characters, fight monsters, and adventure around in search of fame and glory! The boys were really excited by the prospect (I mean, they’ve been playing Monopoly for crying out loud…), so I’ll let you know more once we get a game going!
2) You Can Take the Kids Out of School, But You Don’t Have to Keep School Out of the Kids!
“It’s important to remind our kids that while school is closed, it is by no means a vacation,” said every well-intentioned parent ever.
Yes, the time away from school makes for a very different routine than the one they’re used to, but it doesn’t mean you have to throw everything out the window!
And to that effect, several educational companies are offering their resources for free for all these kids displaced from school while we wait for COVID-10 to blow over.
Here’s one possible approach you can take to make the most of it:
- Follow Jessica McHale’s COVID-10 Daily Schedule to build some structure into their lives so they’re not too messed up when they finally go back.
- If you’re short on ideas, check out the Princess Awesome & Boy Wonder Giant List of Ideas for Being Home with the Kids, with nearly a hundred different things you can do to make the best use of your time.
- And once you’re ready for them to learn a thing or two, places like Scholastic and a bevvy of other educational companies are offering up resources from kids from kindergarten through to Grade 12 so they’re not missing out too much on everything that school has to offer. Also check out the list from Kids Activities!
And trust me, you want to keep your kids as busy as possible, lest you find yourself repeatedly pestered by them because they have nothing better to do.
Day Two | Sunday, March 15th, 2020
Day Two had me feeling a bit more like an outdoor cat trapped indoors, clawing away at the screen door for the world he thinks he’s supposed to be in.
The weekend’s over and tomorrow will be the first real taste of just how much the world has changed for many Ontarians. For those of us not working at home, or employed by one of the numerous services already shut down in the province, it won’t be a regular Monday, and will start to set the tone for the next few weeks ahead. But rather than dwell on the negatives and let them burrow deep inside us, we should look at all this as a challenge to our norms, giving us new ways to do the things we’d always taken for granted.
Into a Brave New World.
So many of us will be working from home, and our kids are learning from home—but can our church families worship from home?
With the reputation I’ve built as my church’s “tech guy”, after Bishop Andrew Asbil announced that we’d cease all congregational worship to keep everyone safe, we wanted to find a way to still connect with everyone in these troubling times.
If you ask me, that’s something we should all be doing while practising social distancing—building skills that we can use once all of this is finally done. We have no idea what tomorrow brings, so we may as well give ourselves as many options as we can to find our way!
So even though the live stream wasn’t the best, it taught us some new things—I’m sure they’ll come in handy soon!
Some Day Two Updates
But before we wrap the second full day of a new world in Ontario to a close, let me share a few of the things I’ve discovered during another day closed off from the world:
- You might not be able to go anywhere, but it doesn’t mean you can’t visit fun places like the San Diego Zoo and Mars with these links from Mrs. Fahrney
- And while toilet paper’s at an all-time low, it isn’t impossible to find online for Canadians! If you look at Grand & Toy of all places, you can find a twelve-pack of Royale two-ply TP for $15.51!
The World I (Used To) Know
With the weekend done, our social engagements end right with it, officially holing up while this pandemic ratchets up at an alarming rate. I haven’t consumed this much news before in my life. The prospect of being stuck in one place for so long without any plans feels unnatural to me, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. But they’re things I need to learn to get used to—it’s abundantly clear that COVID-19 is affecting us at an exponential rate….
I hope everyone’s buckling down to make it through all this as intact as they can—I’ll check in with you all tomorrow!
Day Three | Monday, March 16th, 2020
And so begins the first day of a strange and new normal.
Working from home isn’t entirely new to me—I’m fortunate enough to work for an organisation that values flexibility alongside productivity—but I’ve rarely done it with my kids underfoot, constantly seeking entertainment and asking for something new every five minutes. I don’t quite know what I expected—perhaps that with how well I knew my job, I’d be able to do it all without a problem.
But if this first day was a taste of what things could look like in the weeks ahead… we might be in for a problem.
I mean, it brings up an interesting question, if you ask me—what’s a realistic expectation fo what we can accomplish in the midst of a pandemic? How much of our regular lives will we plan to hold on to as everything changes around us? That’s what I think we’ll find out soon whether we like it or not.
I’m going to try to keep us prepared as long as I possibly can, though. And so, armed with some toilet paper from the corner store, here’s to figuring out whatever life decides to throw at us.
Good luck out there, everyone!
Day Four | Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
If St. Patrick’s Day happens when everyone’s forgotten it’s St. Patrick’s Day, did it even really happen?
The funny thing about me forgetting about St. Patrick’s Day, in particular, is that I’d bought a green shirt from UNTUCKit on my recent trip to DC with the express purpose of having something thematic to wear when the day came along.
But COVID-19 changed everything and I forgot all about it.
It probably has something to do with the childminding not ending up being as equitable… or as easy as either of us originally imagined.
Being a Working Parent in a Social Distancing World
I won’t lie—I can’t get everything done in a 9-5 stretch of time when kids need feeding and there’s so much to do.
I hear it from a number of friends:
- Some work 7-11 in the morning and keep working from eight in the evening till midnight once the kids are in bed.
- I know others who rely on a partner who isn’t working so they can get their work done before going back to parenting.
- But I haven’t heard of two working parents who’ve managed to be great employees and parents at the same time without anyone else to help.
Let’s get it straight, though, I don’t mind watching the kids at all—I mean, as much as any parent wouldn’t mind in this situation—but it’s not something that you can half-ass. We still haven’t gotten into our groove, but we’ll get there… one way or another.
Be well out there, everyone!
Day Five | Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
I remember once trying to write a piece on why my fellow thirty-somethings who had yet to have children should experience the joys of parenthood just like I had.
And I also remember being stumped two sentences in.
Kids are a liability in an apocalyptic situation, but we didn’t have them because it’d be CONVENIENT.
I thought parenting was hard enough already, but when you put it in the context of a perennial bottle episode like the quarantine has with us, it really challenges what you’re made of.
Before the quarantine happened, I worried about other kids on the schoolyard. About the older children taking advantage of my six-year-old and the thing they’d both learn from all these people who weren’t us. But it’s all so different now, and I wonder how we’re all going to make it in the six rooms we call our home.
Freakouts are a daily thing at the night’s end, with kids aghast that we’d call bedtime on our terms instead of theirs. And raising them was already different enough from what we knew growing up, but we’re all in such alien territory that none of us know what’s right from what’s wrong, and I think we probably won’t for a long time yet.
Day Six | Thursday, March 19th, 2020
So we’re almost a week into the Coronapocalypse, and we’re getting used to the idea of doing everything in a tight area around our home.
And it can be a lot. Screen time’s a temporary solution, but six- and four-year-old are just brimming with energy, and no matter how nice it might be to get some extra rest with that pesky commute out of the way, it’s not nearly enough to handle all the whining and fighting. They’re young, but they need to understand that all we’ve got is each other in these troubling times, so we need to learn to make the most of it.
But though COVID-19 is changing the way we do things with every passing day, it’s also giving me the opportunity to do things I never stopped to do before. Like reflect on my brand. Or dust off old projects. It’s gotten me to slow down and really examine what’s worth giving my time to rather than always trying to do everything under the sun. And some of that is spending the time with Sarah to instil skills in the kids that we might’ve taught them a lot later, otherwise.
Today she had them making their dinner since we end every week with a pizza and it was easy enough to do. We have them make their beds. Cleaning up their toys. The quarantine has us bolstering their independence so much faster than we imagined because if we’re going to be trapped here for whoever knows how long, we’re damn sure not doing everything for them by ourselves.
Everyone’s gotta pull their weight if we’re gonna make it through. They’re just lucky they’re a hundred pounds lighter than we are.
Day Ten | Monday, March 23rd, 2020
With what would’ve been March Break behind us, the honeymoon is over. We—much like many parents across the globe—need to figure out how to keep our children educated in the weeks ahead while working the jobs we already had.
We didn’t expect it to be easy—after all, there’s a reason why we paid through the hose for trained professionals to look after our children all day—but parents say they’d literally do anything for their kids.
It’s just now, we’re being put to the test.
One of the things we immediately tried was to put a schedule in play, but either I’m not a strict enough parent, or maybe my kids are too young, but the routine went down the crapper before we even started.
Sarah’s work really ramped up in response to COVID-19. Bad weather would botch up outdoor time, and that’s if I could even tear them away from their screens long enough to get them out there in the first place. We are blessed to be in an era where working remotely is possible, but I’m quickly discovering that it still won’t let me be two or three people at once, and it’ll probably take a while before we figure out a strategy to give everyone what they need in such a unique situation.
But I try not to put too much pressure on myself. As I said in an article I interview for with NOW Toronto, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do, and despite how into homeschooling so many of our parent friends seem online, we’ve got too much going on for that to be us all the time.
We need to stop being so hard on ourselves.
I think Dr. Emily. W. King put it well in a post she put up on Facebook today:
Public Service Announcement
Parents: What we are being asked to do is not humanly possible. There is a reason we are either a working parent, a stay-at-home parent, or a part-time working parent.
Working, parenting, and teaching are three different jobs that cannot be done at the same time.
It’s not hard because you are doing it wrong. It’s hard because it’s too much. Do the best you can.
When you have to pick, because at some point you will, choose connection. Pick playing a game over arguing about an academic assignment. Pick teaching your child to do laundry rather that feeling frustrated that they aren’t helping. Pick laughing, and snuggling, and reminding them that they are safe.
If you are stressed, lower your expectations where you can and virtually reach out for social connection. We are in this together to stay well. That means mentally well, too.
And honestly? We have to do what’s sustainable. Today we found out that school’s closed indefinitely. Playgrounds aren’t great ideas, either. It’s going to be a long haul in our homes for who knows how long, and if you set too high a standard, that’s the father you’ll fall as the weeks drag on.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear we’ll be closing all non-essential businesses across the province tomorrow, and since I don’t know whether the liquor store will make the cut, there’s some beer I’d better buy before it’s too late!
Day Fourteen | Friday, March 27th, 2020
Now that we’re stuck at home with a lot less to distract us, I find myself going back to things I stopped making time for as things grew too busy. To celebrate us making it through another week of the Coronapocalypse, I’d like to dedicate a Friday Five to five things I’m getting back into now that the world’s ground to a screeching halt.
The Friday Five, Friday, March 27th, 2020 | Five Things I’m Getting Back Into Now That the World’s Ground to a Screeching Halt
1) Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch
I originally bought this because I thought it’d be a fun game to play with the kids, but when I realised it only supported local multiplayer if you had a Switch per person, it quickly took a seat on the bench while I focused on other games like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Heck, after a while, the only person playing it was my four-year-old, which really messed my win-loss ratio up and must’ve cheesed off a good number of players, but… my bad?
Anyway, with all this time at home, I wound up picking it up again, and I’m really enjoying it! I usually only play a few rounds at a time because I’m easily distracted by other things I want to do, but as long as people keep playing it, I’ll be there!
2) The Candy Crush Saga
I mean, I was never really off of the Candy Crush Saga—a quick look at my progress through the 5000 levels would tell you that—but now that we’re home full-time, when I’m not managing my clan in Clash of Clans (clan code #2RVLR8UG, in case you needed to know) or checking in on Clash Royale, I’m blazing through the Candy Crush Saga in pursuit of the two friends who are somehow even farther than I am.
I’d like to say I’ll finally put it down for good once I’ve caught up, but I’ve sung that tune before and King keeps putting levels out, sooooo….
3) Decluttering EVERYTHING.
I’ve tried cleaning house in the past, but there’s only so much you can do before you need to run out to the next thing.
But not so when you’re getting your #QuarantineClean on, stuck inside the same four walls every day with nothing but time on your hands. That’s when you eventually grow sick of looking at a space full of clutter, thinking up ways to be rid of it so you never have to see it again.
And that’s part of what has me writing so much. For anyone who’s new here, I actually write all my stuff out by hand first, because that’s when I’m at my most creative. But it also makes for a lot of clutter, piles of half-written posts sitting around, waiting for me to get my act together so I could get them ready to share online. And normally it’d take me ages to get to my ideas, but with all this extra time and sleep I’m getting, I’ve just been attacking it all like nobody’s business.
If I don’t exit the Coronapocalypse with at least a novel written, I went horribly wrong somewhere.
4) Checking in on old friends since so many of us are stuck at home.
As someone who really got to know what “family first” meant as my kids grew older, between family, work and my various side efforts, keeping up with people was rarely one of my strong points.
But just because people don’t hear from me doesn’t mean I forgot them, it just means that my mind is so cluttered with other things that I forget to reach out.
That said, weeks of isolation really helps you think back on simpler times, and with that, people come to mind that you haven’t seen in a while.
And so, when either the kids give me a minute to breathe or my brain slows down long enough to take a break, I’ll drop someone a line to check how they’re faring now that the world’s come to a stop.
I still have a bunch of people to bother, but I’m not worried. We’re not going anywhere.
5) And last but not least, getting my ACT together!
Much of my life’s spent on autopilot, rarely stopping to think about what I’m doing or why I’m doing it, because there’s always another deadline ’round the corner.
But what happens when you take all that pressure away and tell someone to just figure it out? What might they do differently if they figured out how they could use their time best?
And that’s not limited to my physical footprint, either—I’m seeing all the open tabs on my browser and the blog post drafts, realising I’m going to have to fashion it all into new stuff if I want to make use of any of it. A new media kit for the interviews I’ve done. Figuring out what ideas are worth keeping and which ones are better suited for someone else.
It’s time to take everything I’ve built so far and make it even better—without events to distract me or any responsibilities outside the home, now’s a better time than ever to sort it out!
Gotta Do What We’ve Gotta Do To Keep Going.
And not a moment too soon, that’s my Friday Five! I’ll be honest, I thought it’d be five tangible things at first, but the longer I worked at it, the more I realised my mind wanted to go another way.
But with that, we wrap up another week of the Coronapocalypse, moving seamlessly into the weekend like the very concept means a whole lot anymore.
I hope you’re all managing to keep your heads above water out there, and I’ll check in when I have some further insights on this social distancing life and how it’s going with kids.
Day Fifteen | Saturday, March 28th, 2020
One of the things we did soon after Sarah had our first son was to hire a cleaner. We thought we needed some extra help while we figured parenting out, and that we’d keep her on until things were a bit more stable.
Six years later, she still comes every week to help keep this place manageable while we handle everything else.
But with COVID-19 continuing to kick our butts (over 660,000 cases across the world at last check), we’re still paying her, but playing it safe by not having her come over until the Coronapocalypse is sorted.
Which meant that we needed to get our #QuarantineClean on because who wants to live in a hovel while the world’s going to hell?
But social distancing doesn’t mean to need that you forget to be social!
But one nice addition to the day was an evening chat with about a dozen other people from the Toronto Bloggers Collective, a group of fellow creators I’ve gotten to know this past year who’ve been a pleasure to talk to about everything that has to do with building my brand.
Last night, the @tobloggers collective hosted a little happy hour!🥂
We had no agenda other than to share stories, catch up, care, and laugh.🙌
We had so many amazing people coming in and out.👍
It was an important reminder that it’s never been more important to CONNECT. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/8nosLHooHz
— christopher mitchell 🌎✈️ (@travelingmitch) March 29, 2020
Like many people around the world right now, virtual social distancing is the only way we can chat with others face-to-face, and Zoom’s one of the better options out there—even if it only limits you to forty minutes at a time for groups of three people or more. We ran out of time (twice) and even shut our lights off for Earth Hour, but I think it was something sorely needed when so many people are feeling so isolated and alone.
Now if you’ll excuse me, while we don’t put much stock into Santa or the Easter Bunny, I need to go continue my ongoing campaign to lie to my child about the Tooth Fairy, because I forgot to last night and it’s important that we keep our lives going.
I hope you all had a stellar Saturday, and here’s to some safer days ahead.
Day Twenty-One | Friday, April 3rd, 2020
And then some days, you’re just… over it.
After three weeks of social distancing and keeping largely to our home while we wait COVID-19 out and try to keep sane, I think I’m almost over talking about the global pandemic. I’m no saint in it all—I’ve done my share of finger-pointing and eyebrow-raising as the numbers surge higher with no immediate end in sight, but investing so much mental energy in all the debates, updates and wildly contrasting information on the topic is frankly exhausting. I’m going to concede defeat to the world for now, because I’m no scientist, politician, nor essential worker on the front lines having to deal with the brunt of the pandemic pandemonium—I know just about as much as most of us, and I’ll defer to brighter minds than my own to guide us through all this.
What I’ll do instead is focus on what I can control and turn back to the pile of half-finished ideas that cover my dining room table. The books I’ve yet to read. Mending the holes in the sweaters and jackets that’ve been left unworn for longer than I’d like to admit. I’m going to take a break from the madness before I go mad myself.
But no matter what your views are on all this, I hope you keep safe out there. Keep smart. Don’t put yourselves in any unnecessary danger and keep others out of danger as well. If you need me, I’ll be around, just focusing on things that don’t cause me so much anxiety.
Be well, friends! Day by day.
Day Twenty-Five | Tuesday, April 7th, 2020
“I don’t even know what day it is.”
Here in week four of The Great Quarantine, I think we’re finally getting the hang of physical distancing. Sure, it’s hard to tell how many days we’ve been at this (I legitimately wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for coming back to this journal now and then), but with distance learning, regular projects and tantrums becoming a little less frequent, it’s starting to feel like we’re making the best of the jacked-up situation that we’re in!
Building New Lives in the New Normal
It’s only been a couple of days, but my six-year-old’s reading seven books a day and doing math a year or two above his grade level. He barely needs to be asked. It almost makes me wonder whether he thrives more in the classroom or at home when the distractions get taken away. And while his younger brother’s a bit less regulated—he’s not due to start kindergarten till September—even he seems to be finally getting it, spending less time getting into mischief and more getting into phonics programs. In a way, it reminds me of my first days of fatherhood, my life before slowly melting away as a new way takes over. But you know, we’re figuring it out.
That said, it has me wondering—what’s everyone else getting up to during the quarantine? I know I have lofty goals—clear out old ideas. Learn new skills. Get back into drawing, record some music… I’m trying to do everything I’ve wanted to, but I know most people aren’t pushing themselves so hard. Are you binge-watching the shows you always wanted to see? Or learning a language like you always said you would?
Whatever you choose to do right now, I hope you’re making the most of the time you have—an opportunity like this might not present itself again. Hell, I think most of us hope that it doesn’t.
Be well out there, everyone, let’s get through this!
This is Just the Beginning — There’s More to Come!
But that’s it for now! Watch this space as I plan out my March Br3ak with my kids, and hopefully, I can help inspire you as you struggle with life stuck parenting into a tiny overpriced box. Good luck, everyone, and I’ll be back soon!
Until the next update,