In addition to the truly grave aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a first-world problem that parents all over America are facing — along with looking for a creative and non-abrasive substitute for toilet paper — is how to keep their children wholesomely occupied while schools are closed. This can be especially challenging for parents already in a constant struggle to keep their adolescent offspring from becoming permanently grafted onto their smartphones.
In an effort to encourage my three teen daughters to use their unexpected break from school as a time for personal growth (and cheap labor), I’ve developed a list of activities that I hope will benefit the entire family and society as a whole.
First, as referenced above, finding toilet paper has become more difficult than an adult listening to an entire Billie Eilish song without wondering if something might be terribly wrong with the speakers. (Yes, I know she’s rich, and yes, I’m just jealous.)
Why not combine arts and crafts with personal hygiene? I’m thinking of having my children weave bathroom tissue from common household objects — like the fuzz under our couch cushions, pet hair plucked from my black dress pants, and a stockpile of our dryer and belly button lint. Just think of how rewarding it will be when your children clean themselves with something that they’ve crafted with their own hands — while you save the store-bought stuff for yourself.
Next, it’s important to teach our children compassion by checking on elderly neighbors during times of crisis to be sure they are safe, well supplied and sufficiently annoyed by people checking on them. If you do take your children to visit a nearby senior citizen, be sure to practice social distancing by remaining at least six feet away so that your neighbor is more likely to miss when they throw a can of hominy at you and tell you to get off their porch. And if you notice a lonely senior trying to survive without a sufficient number of bored and whiny teenagers around, offer to keep them company by having yours camp in their back yard for the next month.
Speaking of the back yard, with the arrival of spring, it’s time to get the lawn into shape, which for my family involves cleaning up after our two dogs, who have spent the winter transforming my property into a corporate feed lot. With Easter just around the corner, you can give your teens a chance to relive their childhoods by brushing up on their egg-hunting skills — only these eggs ain’t brightly colored or filled with Skittles. Armed with rubber gloves, an old sock or receipts from Starbucks, the kids will have a blast gathering puppy grenades that otherwise will most certainly wind up lodged in the treads of my favorite sneakers. Heck, you could even make it a contest! The teen with the most “eggs” wins a free squirt of hand sanitizer!
These are strange and unsettling times in which we are living, working and praying for more Lysol. Family members must do all they can to keep one another and our fellow citizens safe and healthy during this global pandemic. Until the crisis ends, my family is willing to step up and help by limiting our social interactions, checking on our elderly relatives and neighbors, and washing our hands thoroughly — especially after collecting our belly button lint.
Hang tough, be well and God bless!
— Jase Graves
Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of Longview, Texas, and a Texas A&M Aggie. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective for the Cagle Cartoons syndicate and his blog. Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible. His piece, “Victoria’s Worst-Kept Secret,” is included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family.