Discovering silver linings and pleasant surprises while sheltering in place

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In the age of coronavirus, we’ve all had to adapt. Overnight, the office has become home, home has become school, and school has become the computer. Our routines have been obliterated, our creature comforts have vanished. It’s frustrating, overwhelming, and exhausting. But amidst all of the awfulness, I’ve been hearing the phrase “silver lining” quite a bit. It often follows a raging string of swear words, but it’s out there. My husband and I have certainly stumbled into some pleasant surprises as we shelter in place in New York City with our 10-year-old daughter. Here are some of them:

Cleaning: Before the virus, we had a housekeeper come to the apartment once a week. My husband and I work fulltime and this is an indulgence we decided was worth it. That said, we should have instituted some form of chores-for-allowance policy for our daughter long ago, but we didn’t. There’s no penalty if she doesn’t make her bed and no color-coded grid taped to the fridge breaking down who’s on toilet duty when. I dropped the ball on this. Sue me. But, all credit to Covid-19, we now have family cleaning day. My child has been mopping (which has always and still does just seem like pushing wet dirt around, but okay), vacuuming (she loves this, no idea why), and doing windows (her idea, but I’m all for it).

Movies: You know those kids who watched all 87 Star Wars with their parents when they were like two? Yeah, that’s not my kid. I can count on two hands the number of movies she’s seen in a theater. It could be the biggest, splashiest, Pixar-iest blockbuster of the summer, she just wasn’t into it. Within five minutes of the opening credits, she had ants in her pants and was starving even though she’d just scarfed down a bucket of popcorn the size of Wakanda. We’d get so stressed having to tell her that she couldn’t sing or dance or stand on her seat that we gave up movie-going altogether.

Recently, we decided to try again. But instead of attempting to dazzle her with CGI, we thought we’d kick it old school and show her some of “our-era” movies with 80’s pacing and music and stars. And it’s working. “The Karate Kid” — all three of them — were huge hits. Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi won her right over. Same with Matthew Broderick in “Ferris Bueller” and “War Games”. There’s so much I’m excited to watch with her. And I’m not talking about films. Get over yourself, Fellini.

At the top of my list is “Major League”, my favorite baseball movie of all-time. We almost watched it the other night, but my husband looked it up on Common Sense Media, a website that helps you figure out what’s appropriate for what age, and read that “nearly every other word is an obscenity”. I happen to know that’s an exaggeration, but there are a lot of f-bombs and at least one, “How’s your wife and my kids?” (HA!) I think we’re gonna go for it.

Walking: Here’s the thing: My daughter will play basketball for hours on end. She’ll throw a baseball around, a football, a frisbee. If you let her, she’d swim for a week and a half. But ask her to go for a walk? Forget it.

US: Time to go for a walk.

HER: I don’t want to.

US: Not up for discussion. We’re going.

HER: I’m tired.

US: How can you be tired? The only time you stood up today was to steal my phone after the laptop and the iPad died.

HER: I really need to take a nap.

US: So do I. I’ve needed to take a nap for a decade, but you don’t hear me complaining.

This goes on for a while. Sometimes we win, but not really because we spend the entire walk begging her to walk and it sucks all the fun out of it.

But since school gym class and all extra-curricular athletic activities have been suspended (sorry, virtual P.E., you’re just not the same), we’ve been taking a mile-and-a-half walk in Central Park every day. That may not sound like a big deal to parents who can get their kids to scale Mount Everest with nary an argument, but for us it’s huge.

The walk is my favorite time of day. It’s our transition from yet another Corona-day into yet another Corona-night. We get some fresh air (as much as you can in a homemade bandana mask) and move a little, and no one’s looking at a screen. We chat and look at the tulips and listen to the birds. It’s really quite pleasant except when I have to bark “Six feet!” to some jerk who isn’t obeying the rules.

Cooking: My husband and I like to cook, but we don’t. We eat takeout every night. It’s actually worse than that. We cook for our daughter every night and then we eat takeout. Relax, okay? We’re not running a gulag. We sit with her while she eats and talk about her day and all that. We just don’t eat at the same time. And that’s on me. If it were up to my husband, we’d have dinner as a family every night. But after I’ve worked all day, picked up our daughter from school, cooked for her, played with her, asked her to brush her teeth for the zillionth time, and kissed her goodnight, I need a little adults-only time. One hour to sit on the couch, watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, and eat food I didn’t cook.

But now most of the places we order from are closed, so we’re cooking nearly every night. Nothing fancy, just baked ziti, quesadillas, stir fry, burgers — and my daughter wants in on all of it. She and I have always baked together, but her role was mostly measuring out cups of flour and teaspoons of vanilla. She’s taken it to the next level.

The other night she made spaghetti sauce by herself (mostly). I can’t handle anyone needing stitches right now, so I helped with the prep but that was it. She’s whipping up guacamole and scrambling eggs like nobody’s business. The other day, she fixed her own lunch — a bowl of homemade mac and cheese. Next time she won’t use three cups of milk and an entire stick of butter, but we’re getting there. And for all of you whose offspring emerged from the womb preparing coq au vin — félicitations.

Will any of this last once our long national nightmare is over? All I can tell you is the instant my beloved neighborhood Indian restaurant re-opens, I’ll be on the horn ordering chicken tikka masala, and our cleaning lady will be welcomed back. As for the rest of it, the answer is the same as it is for pretty much everything right now: we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’d highly recommend checking out “Major League”.

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