Cats, Fish, Nachos, and Racism: Pandemic Parenting and Raising Socially Conscious Kids

Photo Source: Anna Leary.

Anna Leary – Early March 2020 started our family’s journey of total and complete pandemic lockdown. 

As a stay-at-home parent turned teacher-by-proxy while my kids are in virtual kindergarten — that means I’ve been home 24/7 with my now six year old and five year old. 

I have learned so much about myself, my kids, my family, and the world around me. 

Things Pandemic Parenting has taught me:

  • My kids are super resilient. Also, kids understand A LOT — you just have to trust them to process in their own time and ask the questions that are important to them. 
  • I’m really glad we have always been a “pro-screen” family. My kids are used to having access to their tablets, my 6-year-old uses my old cell phone from time to time, and TV has never been taboo. Know what they’ve been awesome with this past year and some months? Screens. They each have their own laptop because, well, virtual kindergarten, of course. They know how to moderate themselves. Know when their eyes are tired or strained, and have plenty of imagination to play with toys/each other/outside/on bikes.
  • After 6 years with two kids *very* close in age, I think I’m finally feeling pretty confident in my parenting skills. Better late than never, right?! While some days are definitely harder than others (hello days when the younger one gets up for the day at 3 AM and thinks *every* challenge during the day is a five-alarm emergency), we seem to be on a good road of listening to one another intently, understanding, and not keeping grudges or bad energy very long. 
  • Nachos are my favorite food. I subject my family to nachos/tacos at least once a week. I’ve gotten really good at making my own refried beans in the Instant Pot. Pandemic skill: making my own taco sauce. Tortilla chips are probably our most purchased item for curbside pickup/grocery delivery. Also, reheating take-out is the most amazing discovery ever. We won’t ever not reheat take-out again! 
  • After preparing the most meals I’ve ever prepared over the past year — well, it’s true: I’m much better at *reading* cookbooks and recipes than I am actually preparing the food. Oh well. We’ve all got our strong points, right? Mine: having all of the kid-TV channel numbers memorized. Sidenote: kid TV shows are actually pretty awesome these days. I don’t mind watching Netflix with my kids. Ever.
  • My kids are really starting to understand the complexities of institutional and systemic racism. See, my son is Black (the rest of us are not) and we want him to be proud of that fact. Last summer’s killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have really affected our family. My son mentions George’s name daily, and let’s us all know that that police officer was wrong. He then asks where George Floyd is now, if we can visit him, and maybe our pandemic-passing cat is George’s cat now. Joss was a such a sweet girl and that’s her in that pic right up there. It’s totally possible.
  • My kids now understand that their hands should always be visible when interacting with police. Our white daughter knows that she has a better chance of being treated fairly by police and she vows to always be there for her brother. 
  • Virus safety protocol makes sense to these kids — they wear masks, stay away from mask-denying neighbors, and gladly point out “dick noses” when we’re out in the car. Proud parent moment!
  • Buying and setting up a fish tank was one of the worst decisions ever. In less than 6 weeks all our fish were dead due to “fin rot” and I personally spent 30+ minutes a day testing the water, adding chemicals, making sure everything was in working order. It. Did. Not. Matter. Then we got a puppy. Puppies are hard and tons of work and yet they’re WAY better than fish. 

This list surely isn’t exhaustive, how could it be if it doesn’t include Zoom, constant disaster zone play rooms, and the value of pajamas as loungewear?!

Anna Leary is a stay-at-home parent, a mediocre cook, and expert at grocery shopping for delivery or curbside pickup. She wants you to ponder: how much money is *too much* money spent on deli ham and cheese?