Coronavirus in Pa.: What this mom has learned after a month at home with 5 kids

Wash those hands. Get exercise. Share the love. And maybe hold off on getting the pet rooster the little one wants.

I’m raising five children, and I have absolutely no business homeschooling any of them. 

All parents have different strengths, and I’ve been certain mine are not rooted in teaching the nuances of classic literature or the newfound steps in long division. 

And the number of plants I’ve killed through the years (we’re talking dozens) proves I also have no business teaching even basic photosynthesis.  

So in addition to the whole staying healthy thing, I was concerned when the pandemic closed Pennsylvania schools and sent my kids home with folders labeled “summer work.” 

Both the progression of the coronavirus and that folder signaled that they weren’t going back. 

There was guidance for parents to help them learn at home, but I had really been OK with the professionals handling that. 

Let me be clear: Teachers are heroes, and this public health crisis proves it empirically. I think they are working harder now than when they were in the classroom. I’m getting five emails a day per teacher for each of my kids.

I’m getting invites to Zoom parties, forts are being built, and I think there’s a spirit week every day. I’m not sure. But I do know my 6-year-old daughter, Zoe, dresses like Jasmine for math class, and my preschooler, Noelle, writes her letters and numbers in a Cinderella tiara. 

Monday kicks off online learning in their Cumberland Valley School District, and I have the week off and can focus on getting them acclimated to this new reality. 

I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have the support of the teachers. I have read to my kids every day since they first came into my life. I’ve helped them with homework. But there’s a reason I’m not a full-time teacher. 

My strengths are better suited for teaching things that aren’t found in school plans (like how to get the highest Skee-Ball score).

This pandemic is giving me a chance to teach my children one of the most important lessons of all — how to turn challenges into opportunities. 

It starts with honesty. I don’t lie to my kids. They are 16, 13, 11, 6 and 5, and I have found age-appropriate ways to always be honest with them. When I tell them I’m going to do something, I follow through. When something difficult is happening, I let them know. Honesty yields trust, and trust yields stability. If your kids can’t trust you, they won’t respect you. If you want their respect, give them the respect of your honesty. 

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

I was honest about the coronavirus. I had been reporting on it and studying it every day. I started our conversation by asking them if they had any questions about the disease or why it’s more technically known as COVID-19. They wanted to know if they would get sick. They wanted to know when they would go back to school. They wanted to know when they could play hockey. They wanted to know when they could play outside with their friends. They wanted to know if Nana would be OK. They wanted to know when things would get back to normal. And one of my daughters asked if we could get a pet rooster. 

I told them I wanted to know all the same things, and I told them I didn’t have most of those answers. But I did know that 90 percent of the people who get sick are absolutely fine. They have mild symptoms or no symptoms. They do not need to go to a hospital. And kids rarely get sick. Sometimes, Nanas get sick, and sometimes Nanas need to go to the hospital, but a lot of Nanas go home healthy. We can help our Nana and all Nanas if we wash our hands while singing “Happy Birthday to You” twice and practice social distancing. We also need to convince Nana that she does not need “one more thing” from the store. And, somehow, this doesn’t seem like the right time for a rooster. 

Normal would be whatever we wanted it to be, but I did set some ground rules: 

  • Proper nutrition. Your body needs the right fuel for your immune system.
  • Proper sleep. Your body needs proper rest for a healthy immune system. 
  • Move your body. Whether you’re inside or outside, get some exercise each day. Movement boosts your immune system. 
  • Don’t worry. Stress and worrying won’t change the outcome. It will only weaken your immune system. 
  • Stay connected. Loneliness lowers immunity. Stay connected to your classmates, school work and teachers. Stay connected to your family and friends.
  • Be kind. We will manage our stress in healthy ways. We’re not going to be irritable with each other or take our frustrations out on each other. 
  • Share love. Moments like this test our faith and reveal our character. Be the person who helps, not the person who hurts. Be the person who makes someone’s day better, not worse. Just as the country is writing its history, so are we. Let’s be known as people who added light during a difficult time, not darkness. 

A month later, I think we are following most of the rules, at least the sharing love part. And that’s the rule that matters most.

This is a difficult time, but there is an end to this. We don’t know when, but the pandemic will eventually end. 

In the meantime, we all have been given an incredible opportunity to be better to ourselves and to each other. How we use that opportunity will stay with us long after the virus is gone. 

Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA Today Network, a mother of five, and a doula who is trained to help families during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace if you want to ask her how she ended up with five kids. 

This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription.

Read or Share this story: https://www.ydr.com/story/opinion/2020/04/06/coronavirus-pa-what-mother-knows-after-month-home-5-children/5110932002/