Parenting pre-teens in the time of Covid is like living in a pinball machine. My wife and I have twelve-year-old twin boys who are spending the seventh grade homeschooled. What’s saving them (and the household in general) is their rubber-made humor that’s allowing them to bounce off the walls without going completely bonkers. An occasional tinfoil hat's worth a shot from time to time as well. At this point, it's as good an idea as any. After-school activities, field trips, ball games, orchestra and band practice, theatre productions, Saturday movie matinees, museums, outdoor concerts, skate parks, and ball diamonds are all shuttered leaving imaginations to turn inward like an Ouroboros serpent eating its own tail. Even the mighty video games are getting overbaked.
“Yes, Atticus.” “I wish we were back in the classrooms at school.”
(A stunned pause)
Wow. Things truly are cuckoo pants!
“Ya know,” said Mel, my wife, “if there was any grade level to be spent at home, I’m thinking seventh grade would be the one. It’s a pretty socially awkward time anyway. There were plenty of times in my pre-teen years that I wished I could’ve just stayed home. I think at times social distancing isn’t such a bad thing after all. I think we’re all learning from it.”
It's true that all this is happening right when adolescence and hormones are starting to flow through Atticus and Colby like tree sap as they approach age 13. Just the other day I came into our apartment through the back door and was a bit startled to hear a man’s voice in the kitchen talking to Mel. Was there a repairman here? Did the landlord finally send a handyman to fix the stuck front windows? NOPE! It was Colby! Did his voice drop down a full octave overnight? Next, he’ll be borrowing my razor I suspect.
And now with Covid spreading like stage 4 cancer, the year is an endless flicker of zoom screens with teachers and fellow students squawking out from video squares the size of postage stamps. Keeping them focused is a challenge when the sofa and big-screen are sitting right there. Looks like Mel got that substitute teacher job after all.
But the kids are alright. The family is alright. We are strong plants that adjust to changing conditions as we welcome the triumphant return of board games, cards, puzzles, storytelling around the dinner table, and movie night. It seems we're all getting a good dose of remembering what’s truly special. Life is precious and friends and family are dear. True, raising pre-teens during a quarantine is a hectic pinball machine, but at the end of the day, we cherish the good fortunes of having each other when so many are without.
Ever since the boys were born in 2008, I’ve written a letter each year at Christmas time to be sent out to friends and family in a card. It has always included quotes and funny quips that the boys said or did over the year. You never know when that pearl is going to drop and I keep an open file on my phone at all times. I intend to do this throughout their childhood until they are eighteen - might be a book in itself!
Here are this year’s quotes:
Colby - “A taco is a Mexican Hamburger.”
Atticus - “Please pass the hot sauce.
Mom - “Which one?”
Atticus - “Is that a trick question?”
Boys response after Mom scolded them for lousy aim at the toilet.
Atticus - “In the future, I will urinate with precision and elegance.”
Colby - “I’m gonna pee like a sniper!”
Colby - “How many colors of the alphabet does it take to taste math? Left or right?” (Don’t ask me where this one comes from!)
Atticus - as people make less and less wages, pretty soon they will start making cents.”
Colby - “That’s about as much fun as a bag of maggots in the trash!”
Atticus - “The difference between men and women is when a woman asks you to smell something, it probably smells nice.”
Colby - “I wanna slo-mo my ollie cuz the last vid was cringy.” (see glossary for translation)
Mom - “Colby - are you going to start using deodorant because of your puberty body odor?” Colby - “Nope! I’m gonna just LET ‘ER RIP!”
Atticus - “How did cavemen do Rochambeau? All they had was rock!”
The boy’s thoughts on Justin Bieber’s music:
Atticus - “I’d rather listen to nuts and bolts in a blender!”
Colby - “I’d rather listen to Dad give me the talk about nuts and bolts!”
Atticus - “You don’t own money, it’s just your turn to use it.”
Colby on politics - “Makes me want to bring a mattress to a pillow fight!”
Atticus - “Geez, Dad! You ruined my joke with a depressing fact!”
Colby shouting out while playing a video game - “Right-click or die!”
Dad after watching Atticus’ anguish in finally picking out a donut - “Atticus, what are you going to do if that donut you chose is terrible?” - Atticus - “I dunno. Rethink my life choices?”
Colby - “Waffles are polite pancakes holding the syrup in little boxes.”
Atticus - “When an atheist says ‘Oh my god!’ he should be saying ‘Oh my science!’”
Atticus - “That was way back in the olden days before the CoronaVirus.”
And the winner of the year -
Colby - “I like my marshmallows like I like my women - ON FIRE!”
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you all and thank you for subscribing to this letter! The next season is sure to bring oceans of stories and good times.