The challenges of parenting during a pandemic can’t be overstated. Remote workers with kids are seeing their workdays fractured — by home schooling, or lunch-making, or cleaning up messes — and the weight of child-care duties often falls heavily on women. Those with essential jobs that require leaving the house live with the fear of bringing home covid-19. Other parents grapple with unemployment and uncertainty about what lay ahead. For kids, isolation can breed boredom, tantrums, bouts of restlessness.

Still, there are pockets of joy.

Ahead of Mother’s Day, we asked parents to share unexpected moments of mirth, whimsy or bonding with their kids. Here are 10 of their stories.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tanya Salyers, Ohio

Parent of an 11-year-old

“My son, Calder, asked what I was cooking for dinner. I said, ‘your favorite, spicy Korean noodles.’ He replied with a jump in the air and threw his arms up and said, ‘you’re the best!’ I love that despite the monotonous days and no end in sight, he can find excitement and joy in something as simple as a meal he eats often.”

Emily Friend, Illinois

Parent of a 4-, 8- and 11-year-old

“Life feels simpler, slower and ironically more connected within our family. One new routine that stands out, though, is the weekly restaurant that my three kids now run out of our kitchen and dining room so my husband and I can have date nights. Our 8-year-old is a budding chef and he acts as a Gordon Ramsay-type dictator in the kitchen while our 4-year-old and 11-year-old run around following his directions. When the time arrives for dinner, my husband and I appear at the front door in real clothes (the first we’ve put on all week) and are seated in the dining room by our 11-year-old daughter. Our 4-year-old quickly rushes over to fill our water glasses. She avoids eye contact and maintains total professionalism. We’re seated to a handwritten prix-fixe menu and wine is poured. We proceed to eat (by candlelight) pretty darn good food like homemade spaghetti and meatballs and chicken stir-fry. Sounds of the kitchen staff eating and laughing at the kitchen table carry into the dining room. For just a brief time, my husband and I are alone, feeling like we’re on a real date. And then the check arrives and guess who has to clean the kitchen? Back to quarantine life. At least the restaurant is now open Saturday mornings for brunch, too.”

Emily Friend’s children run a weekly restaurant out of the kitchen and dining room so she and her husband can have date nights. (Courtesy of Emily Friend)
Emily Friend’s children run a weekly restaurant out of the kitchen and dining room so she and her husband can have date nights. (Courtesy of Emily Friend)

Ann Thariani, Nebraska

Parent of a 21-year-old

“Maya, my daughter, came home early from a semester abroad in Nairobi. A few nights ago, she and I cuddled up with homemade popcorn and hot tea to watch ‘The Sound of Music’ together. It was bliss.”

Julia Edgar, Hong Kong

Parent of a 6-month-old and 2-year-old

“The day the coronavirus lockdown escalated here in Hong Kong just happened to coincide with the day I decided to extend my maternity leave and stay at home for a few more months with my then-3-month-old and 2-year-old. As I weighed this decision to be a stay-at-home mom pre-covid, it felt decadent, excessive, even slightly shameful. I had never envisioned this for myself or my career. But with schools shut down, it’s coincidentally been the perfect time to do it. Every day I get to spend real time playing pretend with my daughter, exploring new concepts like space, why things sink, morning versus nighttime. I get to lie on the floor with my infant son and watch him struggle and then triumph through early crawling. In the rushed and hectic first months of his infancy, I assumed any delays in developmental milestones were grave issues to be corrected by a pediatrician or parental coaching. Now that I get the time to sit with him, watch him, cheer him on, I realize he’s just living life at his own pace, taking it all in, and coming to each ‘milestone’ when he’s good and ready.”

Ashlee Wilson, Pennsylvania

Parent of a 2-year-old

“I am really enjoying home schooling my 2-year-old. I learned she is really funny and smart. She is learning so much and her stuffed animals are, too.”

Ashlee Wilson has been home schooling her 2-year-old daughter. (Courtesy of Ashlee Wilson)
Ashlee Wilson has been home schooling her 2-year-old daughter. (Courtesy of Ashlee Wilson)

Sabra Katz-Wise, Rhode Island

Parent of a 2-year-old

“In a rare moment of creativity, I decided we should have a balloon party. So I blew up a bunch of colorful balloons and my child and I played with them. He was absolutely delighted! He ran around for an hour, laughing, squealing, and repeating over and over: ‘I pay bayoon in zizoom!’ (Translation: I play with balloons in the living room.) His excitement was infectious — in a good way!”

Holly Kearl, Virginia

Parent of a 2-year-old

“My child and I go on a long walk each morning (when few people are out), usually in the woods. We both delight in looking for deer prints in the mud, yellow and purple budding flowers, and fast-flying birds. Usually the walks include a pause at a creek bed or pond so he can collect and throw rocks at puddles, echoing me when I say plop or splash as each one hits the water. With fewer people out, we are seeing more wildlife and we’ve recently seen bald eagles, a fox, herons, baby geese and deer. My child’s vocabulary is expanding daily, and it thrills me that he can name a dozen birds and all the animals we’ve seen. He suggests to me which ‘path’ we can walk down and occasionally gently tells me, ‘careful, Momma,’ as I carry him over an uneven patch or calls out, ‘hand please,’ if he wants me to hold his hand and walk together. I cherish having the time for these walks with him so much.”

Holly Kearl and her child go for long walks each morning, often in the woods. (Courtesy of Holly Kearl)
Holly Kearl and her child go for long walks each morning, often in the woods. (Courtesy of Holly Kearl)

Courtney Gibson, North Carolina

Parent of a 7- and 4-year-old

“When we went for a walk recently, we saw a worm on the asphalt. Our 7-year-old decided we needed to get it back to the dirt to save it so he got a stick and carefully moved it while our 4-year-old sang songs to the worm to help it feel better. We ended up saving two worms and a beetle on that walk, thanks to the kids!”

Amaris Castillo, Florida

Parent of a 15-month-old

“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since last fall after moving back to Florida with my husband and son to be closer to family. Before the pandemic, I was so happy (and relieved) to be able to rely on my parents and mother-in-law for help with my son, Camilo. He’s a handful, and sometimes I just need a break. Now that we are in quarantine, it’s been well over a month since my son has spent time with anyone other than me and my husband. It’s been challenging in new ways, but I was delighted when, just a few days ago, my son finally took his first unassisted steps. My husband was lucky enough to be home from work to be able to see it. Seeing our son walk for the first time was something he thought he would miss. It was a proud moment for the three of us. I’m looking forward to the next milestone.”

During the pandemic, Amaris Castillo and her husband were able to see their son take his first step. (Courtesy of Amaris Castillo)
During the pandemic, Amaris Castillo and her husband were able to see their son take his first step. (Courtesy of Amaris Castillo)

Samantha Keller, Connecticut

Parent of a 16- and 14-year-old

“There’s a part of me that doesn’t want this isolation to end. I love having teenage children. I love the companionship, the friendship, the irreverence, the humor, even the challenges suit me better than the exhausting physical and emotional labor of infancy. What I don’t love about having teenagers is their growing independence. I miss them even when they are in the same house. I often say to them, ‘I’d love just one more day with 3-year-old you, or 9-year-old you.’ Those busy little bodies. Being able to carry them in my arms, their high voices, and intense interest in making slime, riding a skateboard, jumping on a trampoline, perfecting a handstand, or swinging under the enormous maple in our yard. Now, we eat meals together, watch movies, have long conversations about the nature of life and time and space.”

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