A Young Family Adapts

June20ChelseewebOn December 4, 2019, our second daughter "Lottie" was born, and with her came a sort of self-imposed quarantine. I stayed home that month, resting and taking the baby out only for pediatrician appointments and a Christmas Eve lunch with friends. My husband took a few weeks off work, a few family members came to meet the baby, and 2019 ended peacefully and without much fanfare.

I felt stronger by mid-January. I helped more in the kitchen. I took on some of the school pick-up and drop-off duties for our oldest daughter, Olivia, who’s a first grader this year. I was cruelly reminded of the fact that many newborns, Lottie included, utterly dislike the car. Lottie would wail as we drove along San Vicente Boulevard, her disdain piercing the air and my ear-drums. I fretted over my eventual return to work as a teacher. Going back would mean more driving with the baby, plus the added stress of transitioning her to a day care.

Little did we know, the world had other plans. The coronavirus had arrived in a cloak of invisibility and its arms out wide. On March 13, schools across Los Angeles announced closures. Olivia started learning from home the following Monday. Teaching would look different for me, too. I had two more weeks of parental leave. Then I would deliver instruction remotely — no easy feat when the majority of our lower-elementary program revolves around social-emotional learning and play.

We kept things light and positive in our conversations at home those first weeks of quarantine. We told Olivia (and ourselves) to see the good in the situation. Olivia took school closure as happy news. She could sleep in, spend more time with her parents and baby sister, and arrange her home-school day how she wanted. My husband and I aimed to enjoy the slower pace, too. We cooked more, we gathered a pile of books we had long wanted to read, and we ordered new board games to play as a family. But there was an ever-present sense of disbelief. Surely we’d all be out and about by the end of April, we thought. Surely we’d have things under control enough for the kids to end their school year on campus, we thought.

It was the coronavirus numbers out of New York that made me realize we were wrong. With so many ill in the eastern state, especially in it’s dense urban areas, I saw Los Angeles as a close mirror. We needed to practice caution in abundance. We needed to stay home. It was the first time in awhile that I felt grateful for having been in a car so much, rather than wading through massive crowds to access public transit. We curse the slow slog that is L.A. traffic, but it seems to me that our vehicles acted as a shield of sorts in the months leading up to quarantine.

Eventually we heard that the rest of the school year would happen at home. We had no choice but to accept what came with that news. Olivia started attending Zoom classes from her bedroom. I started leading Zoom meetings with my students, handing the baby off to my husband when live classes were in session. Right away I felt pulled in many directions though I was standing in one place. One minute I am teaching, the next I’m nursing the baby. One hour I’m in a planning meeting with colleagues on Zoom, and after that I’m tossing laundry into the washing machine. By 5 pm every day, a new kind of exhaustion has set in.

We continue to make conscious choices to lighten our load. When cooking another meal at home sounds unbearable, for example, we call Mizlala on Adams Boulevard and order their killer chicken schwarma plate. We splurge on fresh sourdough bread from Republique weekly, so that delicious toast and fried eggs can be our morning regimen. We go for walks and scooter rides. As local libraries remain closed, we order new and used books via mail for Olivia — she’s taken a deep dive into the world of kids’ graphic novels (a newfound passion that makes her mother proud). If anyone needs to borrow the entire Dog Man series, we’ve got it.

But our we-can-do-this attitude has diminished a bit more with each passing week. As of this story, Olivia has done lessons from her desk, her bed, or our dining room for 10 weeks. She has yet to physically see a friend from school, other than from the road at a “birthday parade” or on FaceTime. My heart aches for her to have actual playdates and not virtual ones. Lottie won’t remember any of this, but Olivia might. And in general I worry about the social and emotional health of young people, who learn and grow so much from interacting with peers.

I remind myself often that we won’t be here forever. Masked beach days have arrived, and we’ll take them. L.A. County trails are back open, and we need them. Summer is almost here, and we’ll take it. We hope our neighbors are doing okay, one day at a time.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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