“Covidia III” © Michael Thompson
How Social Starvation Impacted My Child During the Pandemic
6 pm. I walked to the kitchen and stuffed three Oreos into my mouth. No, there was no compunction in me, and no dread about apocalyptic adipose layers. I needed that sugar to contain my sanity for the next one hour, an hour I had started to dread for the last few months because, drumroll, 6 pm was study time for my 9 years old. Study time had always been an ebullient time for us, but a few months into the pandemic and 6 pm began to spell an ominous petrification on me.
What stressed me out was this accurate picture of his study time:
10 mins to open a book.
10 seconds to forget why the book was opened.
7 mins in expressing an unwillingness to write on paper. Who writes on paper now, he asked me.
3 minutes to understand that humans still write on paper.
6 minutes to be convinced that the house was not vibrating.
5 minutes to be reminded of the purpose of study time.
5 minutes wondering how a watermelon could kill the Ender dragon in Minecraft.
20 minutes wondering what he would eat next.
The rest of the time, if any, in consciously reading a few printed words. You do the math.
This hour would wear me out more than the chores of the entire day. Before the pandemic, I never had to worry about his brilliant attention spans, but now, I had to repeat to him the need to focus, and the futility of switching between pleas and firm words left me exasperated. I am not a parent to stultify his imagination, but to my dismay, I noticed his opulent focus exceedingly disintegrated. This would lead to the final test of my patience with a guttural churn while his homework would be done as a hurried activity just before sleep.
I needed to look at the situation objectively while constantly reminding myself that he is only 9. It was clear that his disinterest surfaced only after the pandemic started.
I measured the collective pandemic consequences on him, and I could not help but shudder at the colossal changes that engulfed his young heart. He had a beautiful social world at school that was lost. He missed classrooms, and dining halls, his teachers, the little jokes and activities that kept him busy all day. He had a wonderful group of playmates for evenings who would be skateboarding, or learning the roller blades, or just creating a musical pandemonium at home. But now, his thriving social connect had been completely uprooted, and this unprecedented damage to his social construct manifested in a complete lack of focus. That night, I cringed at how distraught he felt.
Going forward, I encouraged him to spend time online with his friends playing games or chatting or Rubik’s cubing. He was quick to adapt to socialize virtually, and gradually, I noticed an improvement during study time. We also decided to read stories, chat, and only spend about thirty minutes studying. My secret vault of Oreos remained unopened.
Sravani Saha writes stories of life sometimes sprinkled with humor. She wants her readers to connect to her besides getting addicted to coffee or tea.
Michael Thompson is an artist living in Chicago. He has spent the pandemic isolated in his home studio working on collage, memory jugs and fake postage stamps.