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HEATHER HUYBREGTS: When mom becomes the teacher: parenting through the pandemic

Heather Huybregt’s sons doodle along with Mo Willems in his “Lunch Doodles” from self-isolation.
Heather Huybregt’s sons doodle along with Mo Willems in his “Lunch Doodles” from self-isolation. - Contributed

“If you had half of the domestic responsibilities that I have...” - me, to my husband, after literally one day of self-isolation with the children.

I knew it would be difficult. I’m not the “stay-at-home parent” type (although I wish I was - those guys are rock stars!). I’m much too restless, my patience is lack-luster, and solo-parenting leaves me emotionally depleted after about 17 minutes. When our second son was born, I returned to work after six weeks and allowed the husband to (expertly) take the reins on parental leave.

I haven’t always been this way. I used to go with the flow like the easy, breezy, mindful hippie-type I was. As a mother, I couldn’t go with the flow if you threw me into raging rapids (I would try, then my shirt would get caught on a branch or a rock and I would frantically swim against the flow until I drowned).

Anyway, I knew I couldn’t enter blindly. Nothing kick-starts the ol’ hypertension quite like two restless kids who are “bored”. So, I made a schedule.

As the boys ate breakfast, I busted out a permanent marker (going forward, I will stick with a good, old-fashioned Crayola; I’m confident we were all just a smidge high by the end of breakfast). At the top of a clean, hopeful sheet of paper, I wrote the date, “en Francais” for the benefit of my French immersion kiddo (note: “en Francais” is about the extent of my French language vocabulary). Now, in addition to being a healer and a cook and a housekeeper, I am also a French immersion teacher, I suppose.

Here was the list:

  1. Mommy coffee, boys cartoons/play
  2. Exercise - choose between Just Dance and yoga
  3. Adventure (?)
  4. Lunch - boys make
  5. Clean - boys help
  6. Creative time
  7. Education
  8. FREE TIME - daddy home, mommy writes, alcohol permitted here

I didn’t get to finish my coffee because the boys were too excited to get started with our list (ignoring the one part of the list that cuts mommy some frickin’ slack). In my laser-focused determination (desperation) to get this day right for the kids, I forgot to eat breakfast and spent most of the morning inexplicably woozy.

We nailed the exercise portion. Well, the seven-year-old did, crushing two children’s yoga workouts. I did my own little 15-minute yoga video on the hardwood floor, lending my yoga mat to the three-year-old who decided, 30 seconds in, that he “don’t WIKE yoga.” He opted to leave the mat unattended so he could give me the unwavering stink-eye from the couch. I did my best to ignore him as I grunted, wheezed and farted my way through 15 minutes of hardwood zen.

Adventure?

Our adventure wasn’t so much “an adventure” as it was “just us existing outdoors in our backyard for about 25 minutes” (I set a timer). We attempted push-ups against the trampoline frame. We each attempted one turn “sliding” down the now-frozen mound of snow the husband had piled, weeks ago, for the kids. I'm fairly certain I fractured my tailbone.

To make up for our pitiful adventure, I did manage to pull off a 10 clue “treasure” hunt indoors, leading our able explorers to two packs of fruit gummies in the oven. It was hands-down my biggest mom win of the day.

Kitchen time

I neatly pre-arranged all the ingredients and pulled two chairs up to the counter for lunch. I tried to take a video of the boys making their little pizzas, but the three-year-old dumping a half-litre of sauce onto his crust caused me to expel a reflexive, guttural wail and, as such, the video must never see the light of day.

Despite my deep breathing, my blood pressure continued to climb as we moved into cookie-making. Have you ever stood and watched, helplessly, as a seven-year-old cracks eggs into the wrong bowl? Or as a three-year-old attempts to pour flour? I have. And I will be seeking psychological counselling to recount the horror as soon as I’m out of incarceration… I mean isolation.

Cleaning. Didn’t really happen. Unless you count the dishwashing and sweeping and vacuuming that goes along with children attempting to prepare lunch.

Creative time

I gave myself creativity points for the cookies, but still went out of my way to infuse art into our day (I sat the children in front of the TV to doodle along with the amazingly talented Mo Willems in his “Lunch Doodles” from self-isolation. They are 20-plus minutes each and highly recommended for all your hands-off parenting needs. Thanks, Mo!). The seven-year-old drew a pigeon. My three-year old drew a green “snowbank” then dumped about five litres of crayons onto the floor and stomped them into the carpet.

Education

I read two books to the three-year-old and gave my seven-year-old the iPad to “have at ‘er!” with read-along, narrated, online French books, on account of my ineptitude “en Francais”.

At about 2:50 p.m., I figured we had done enough. “FREE TIME!” I declared. The boys were pumped. Now we’re each wrapped in a fleece blanket, horizontal, and embracing the silence (if you ignore the squeals from the insufferable YouTube Kids videos my three-year-old is watching on repeat on my phone right now.).

It wasn’t so bad. Hindsight might even declare it “kinda fun”. Plus the second my husband walks through the door, it’s happy hour!

I realized, during my blatant intervention of their lunch prep, that I was not unlike a crazy, pageant mom. I apologized for not just letting them make a mess and figure it out. I was always that kid in school who, in a group assignment, is like, “ya know what guys? Why don’t I just do all the parts!” I have a hard time relinquishing control. I have a feeling I will have ample time to work on that in the days ahead.

When day two arrived, the schedule was much less literal and identifies an overwhelming demand for independent play and lounging in sweatpants.

Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger, YouTuber and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook, N.L. Her column appears biweekly.

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