Mid-morning, we’re both plugging away on our laptops, a stillness that is equal parts soothing and unnerving permeating the house. The living room floor is strewn with K’nex, snap beads, and Legos, but our two little troublemakers are nowhere to be seen. Is it possible that the kids are playing nicely together in another room or is it more likely that the calm and quiet belie the fact that they are up to no good? And does it matter if we can sneak in some uninterrupted work during our hours of peak productivity as a result?
Posts tagged ‘siblings’
Much has been written about how unsustainable the new status quo is for working parents, even those who like us are fortunate enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely, for the time being. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to provide quality childcare while maintaining pre-pandemic levels of office productivity. Somewhere along the way corners wind up getting cut, especially since the policies of reopening seem to emphasize economic activity over children’s education and development.
“What do you want to be called when I have babies?” Munchkin, age 6, inquired recently. It was not an entirely unreasonable question. Munchkin refers to D’s parents by the Russian babushka and dedushka. S’s dad was quick to establish himself as zaide. S’s mom, meanwhile, considered and discarded several potential monikers before settling on nana. Clearly, Munchkin reasoned, there is quite a lot of flexibility and variety of options on this point. The question, nevertheless, was a bit of shock, coming as it did out of the blue and especially once it was followed by his repeated pronouncement, “I can’t wait to have babies!”
Sweet and sensitive, but also fierce and strongly opinionated, at times overly melodramatic despite being emotionally mature for her age, and always bubbly and precocious, Junebug, whose third birthday passed this week, is at a developmental crossroads. She has held on to her baby tendencies far longer than Munchkin had, but she also routinely surprises us with the depth of her emotional understanding and reasoning, which is far beyond what Munchkin could muster at this age.
This is the first year that we could tell that Munchkin was really looking forward to summer vacation. He had always liked school and was enjoying his year in kindergarten until the pandemic hit. What was evident before – and became crystal clear during the coronavirus lockdown – is that he enjoyed the social aspect of school considerably more than academics. After in-person classes were suspended, sustaining his interest in school became a daily struggle, even though he maintained his motivation to learn how to read.
“Papa, what are you doing? Is this your ‘puter? Why you always working?” Junebug asks. Apparently unsatisfied with the response, she returns a few minutes later and demands, “Put your foot in!” When she insists and gets Munchkin to join in, there is little recourse but to take a ten-minute break to indulge in one of her favorite games, a holdover from our Manila quarantine days.
Since Manila’s abrupt lockdown two months ago, the pandemic has remained consistently at the forefront of our minds – not only because it has dominated world headlines and rendered trivial most other current events, but also because it has shaped directly our work and upended our lives. Six weeks and 7,500 miles removed from our life in Manila, we continue to keep a close eye on developments there while fretting about the rapid snapback to pre-pandemic lifestyles in the state we have made our home temporarily. The only way to keep the worrisome global news from overwhelming us is to balance it with positive news of a more personal nature.
We wondered what Sedona would look like with the stay-at-home order lifted and braced for the worst. The pandemic has imbued the concept of stranger danger with a totally new meaning. We may not fear abduction as parents did in the sixties, when the phrase caught fire, but every time one of the kids gets too close to somebody when we’re out in the park or splashing around in the creek near our house we can’t help but twinge with fear. It’s hard to enforce complete isolation – especially for a gregarious six-year-old who does not have a strong record of following the rules.
Junebug hasn’t had any manner of luck as far as birthdays go. We were on the road for her first birthday following our departure from Rwanda, and were fortunate that our friends in Utah helped us mark the occasion with a small party. Her second birthday fell a few weeks after S had taken the kids to Manila, with D remaining in the States. With our belongings already packed out for the move from DC, we threw together a makeshift early birthday party for her in the park that was partially rained out. Munchkin was fortunate to mark his sixth birthday this year with a party with his classmates just before the pandemic hit, but Junebug’s birthday next month is likely to be a solitary affair.
For a few months after we had been reunited in Manila, S accused D of playing favorites. Our three-months separation and move halfway around the world had been hard on both kids, but they reacted to the stress in starkly different ways. Sweet-natured and cuddly Junebug grew ever more attached, spending hours on end snuggling with us and telling us how much she missed and loved us. Munchkin, on the other hand, grew aloof and began to act out his frustrations in increasingly problematic ways. We didn’t love him any less, but it was challenging to shower him with attention when he was so bristly and difficult.