In late July, a tight-knit group of parents gathered online to mourn the loss of in-person school for the coming fall. We’d been holding out hope that our children could return to their classrooms at least part-time—for everyone’s well-being and sanity.
“Who’s got booze?” Ari called out, lifting his snifter of whiskey into the video frame. A high school coach and dad of three, he’d been holed up for months with his husband and their kids a few hours away from my home in Washington, DC. We watched as he took a giant gulp and grimaced. “I’ve been drinking since yesterday’s email from the chancellor,” he said. To tittering laughter, a flurry of hands gripping beers and stemware crowded the screen. Sharon, the mother who’d requested we all get together, took a sip of her wine and smiled weakly. “It’s so good to see you guys,” she said.
We’ve all known each other since our soon-to-be third-graders were navigating pull-ups in pre-K, and with a mix of mordant humor and monthly nights out, we’ve had each other’s backs through all manner of parenting joys and fails. But none of us had ever encountered anything like the unrelenting parenting stressors wrought by the pandemic. How were our families supposed to survive intact—much less thrive—under pressure-cooker conditions such as these?
The night of the Zoom call,…