My husband is a teacher. He’s back at work five days a week.
My oldest son is a junior in college. They sent him home back in March, and already informed us they’ll be remote for the entire 2020-2021 academic year.
My younger son is a junior in high school. He has opted for all remote instruction.
My daughter is in 8th grade. She is doing hybrid learning. Mondays and Tuesdays at school, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at home.
I am a writer. I work from home.
Oh, and did I mention that my middle child is in a pre-professional dance program? Seventeen hours a week of ballet, Flamenco, and modern. All remote.
Also, my daughter competes in rhythmic gymnastics. Nine hours a week. Sometimes in a socially distanced gym (yes, they’re running their routines in masks – it builds stamina!). Sometimes remote.
We live in a New York City apartment. No basement. No backyard. No garage. No family room. (And drilling outside of our window pretty much 24/7. What are they drilling? Nobody knows!)
Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I shared a bedroom, our middle child had a bedroom, and our daughter had a tiny sliver of space off the kitchen. It’s big enough for a loft bed with a desk jammed underneath, and nothing else. (She continued keeping her clothes and other personal belongings in her brother’s room.)
But then the oldest returned from college. So he got the tiny room off the kitchen because he’s the one with morning, afternoon, and evening classes.
My daughter moved back in with her brother. They set up their desks and computers back to back during remote learning, so that they were facing each other, but their machines weren’t. It proved difficult, both of them going to school at the same time. (My son also has a part-time remote job on top of school, with daily phone meetings.) They were constantly hearing each other’s classes, and they were being overheard by teachers and classmates not their own.
So my daughter moved into my room. Where I sleep. And where I also work. (And where they drill.)
I moved out into the living room.
Except, guess where the kids dance and do gymnastics? They split up that space, as well, using ear-phones so as not to overlap each other’s music. (By the way, our downstairs neighbors are saints.)
You know that riddle about needing to get a fox, a chicken, and a bag of grain across a river? The boat can only hold one item at a time, but the fox can’t be left with the chicken, and the chicken can’t be left with the grain? (Details, here.)
That’s kind of where we are, every hour of the day.
Last Tuesday, I was hosting a ZOOM discussion of my new novel, “The Nesting Dolls,” for a book club in Pennsylvania (in my bedroom). My oldest son had an online test to take (tiny room), my daughter was working on a group project (her room), and the middle child was in Flamenco class (living room). Flamenco. That most quiet of the dancing arts. He ended up just miming his castanets while I worked. My husband was relegated to the kitchen table to grade his papers.
And then there’s the background action.
The room my college-aged son is in is also where the extra toilet paper is kept. (It’s a New York City apartment and space is at a premium). So he might be in the middle of an economics seminar when, in the background, a family member scurries by… toilet paper flapping in the wind.
I’ve crawled into my son’s dance class on hands and knees so as not to be in camera range if I need to grab a book from the living room.
His sister’s rhythmic apparatus – ball, hoop, clubs – have sailed into frame, followed by her dashing in to retrieve them while he peers straight ahead as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Even as they roll beneath his foot mid-tendu.
And, of course, everyone has wandered into everyone else’s Zoom calls (including my husband’s while he was teaching remotely in the spring) while not wearing pants.
But the true piece de resistance came last week.
My daughter had evicted me from my bedroom so she could take class. But it’s my bedroom. It’s where my stuff is. It’s where my clothes are.
And, even though we rarely go anywhere these days, I do sometimes need to change clothes.
I thought I was being so clever. I came in sideways, parallel to her computer, and sat on my bed, which is directly behind her computer (again, New York apartment; with a double bed and a table at the foot of it, there is no room for anything else), in order to get dressed.
There was no way anyone in her class would be able to see me if I was behind her computer, right?
Until, as I was standing there topless, my mortified daughter pointed at the mirror mounted on the closet door. Which was reflecting me… while facing her computer….
Got an equally embarrassing moment of your own? Please share it in the comments for the amusement of the rest of us.
Let’s try to laugh at the ridiculousness together. It beats crying alone.
Parents helping parents!
This piece first ran here at New York School Talk.