April 10, 2020
By Ekta R. Garg
And we’re one month into shelter-in-place!
Okay, so I know that statement doesn’t warrant an exclamation mark, but, really what else can we all do? I think we should hand out exclamation marks and buckets of glitter to everyone. Go to town, parent friends!
(I know what you’re thinking: you’ll never get the glitter off the floor. Seriously, I think along with finding a vaccine for the coronavirus, we should ask a small team of dedicated scientists to discover the secret behind the way glitter gets into everything. Into. Everything.)
If it sounds like I’m a little punchy, maybe I am. We’ve now spent a month sheltering in place, doing our part toward the greater good of society to help our first responders, healthcare teams, and essential employees work as hard as possible on stopping the spread of COVID-19. Teachers have rewritten lesson plans, restaurants have offered curbside options, and parents have discovered a new facet to the meaning of “parenting.”
Things are no different around our house. The kids have had their highs and their lows during Weeks 3 and 4 of staying at home. Thirteen and Eleven have shown a tremendous amount of resourcefulness and also their ages. Some days I’ve been able to deflect bad moods by distracting them with a joke or redirecting them to a new task. Some days I’ve shared memes or funny videos. A few days I’ve retreated to the writing studio to shed a few tears because I’m a little overwhelmed myself, only to hear someone asking whether I can help with a craft project or science experiment.
In the past two weeks:
*We’ve played Checkers (where Thirteen beat me in four or five games, and I had to muster every brain cell—really—to beat her in two games.) This girl is really, really good at this game.
*We’ve accidentally baked sugar cookies to deliver to six homes (which happens when you don’t read the recipe ahead of time and realize it makes more than 12 dozen—yes, really—bite-sized cookies.) When we ended up with so many, we went the homes of some good friends, put the bags of cookies on their doorsteps, and backed away by about 10 or 15 feet, chatting with friends and their parents from that distance, grateful to see them at all.
*We’ve watched old Bollywood films (much to our children’s chagrin, but much to the delight of all the adults in the house) and watched newer Bollywood films that make us laugh even though we’ve seen our favorite parts too many times to count. Ooh, Ranvir Singh. How we love the way you point out that butter knife in “Dil Dhadakne Do.”
One instance stands out, though, from these past two weeks that shows the paradox that is our current times.
School online has worked almost seamlessly. While we’ve experienced a few tech issues, like most of you, we haven’t had any issues. Not really.
Until Wednesday, April 1.
The night before, I’d stayed up late reading, so I woke up later than I normally do these days. By the time I got up, the kids were tucked into their rooms and there was little sound, so I assumed they were well into their school days already. I went downstairs, made my tea, and brought it back up to the studio to write my book review.
Not long after, Eleven stomped into the studio. She told me the internet had been patchy at best since she first tried to sign into Zoom that morning. The home network kept failing, kicking her out of her classes. Her face showed frustration, embarrassment, and anxiety. Eleven has always worried about what others think of her, and she didn’t want to look bad in front of the teachers and her friends.
I looked at the digital clock on the wall. It was just past 9 a.m. With a sigh, I left the book review on my screen and started trying every DIY trick I knew to get the internet running again.
For almost three hours, I kept at it. I shut down the router, turned it back on again, tried to get a hot spot on my phone so the kids could connect their iPads to it, found the internet running almost reliably on my desktop and tried to do an online chat with Comcast. They just kept rerouting me to the website. When the internet was working on my computer at all, that is.
I had no idea what was wrong, and the way the girls’ anxiety started to level up with each passing half-hour didn’t help.
I managed to email one of the teachers and explain the situation; he emailed back with a kind, patient note saying he understood. I racked my brain. What could I do, what could I try that I hadn’t already?
Then I heard it: ukulele music.
Before the shelter-in-place order, Eleven had brought home a ukulele from school as part of her upcoming music unit for arts this quarter. I went to her room and then to Thirteen’s room and found the two of them playing and singing an original song. They were writing lyrics about the coronavirus, how awful it was, and how it was ruining their day.
And they were laughing.
As much as the sarcasm of the song bugged me, I decided not to fight that battle. They were in better spirits, and that counted more. A last-ditch attempt to find the hotspot on my phone actually worked, so I ran it to Thirteen’s room, plugged it into the wall, and left it there for the rest of the school day. Neither of the girls complained about me interrupting their ukulele concert for two.
I managed to call another expert for help, someone here in town, and he was also very patient as he explained how I needed to fix the internet. Since the hotspot kept working, I decided not to touch anything until the end of the school day. As soon as 3 p.m. came around, I trotted down to the basement and followed the instructions the expert gave me. The internet came back, stronger than ever and steady ever since.
So. If you’re finding yourself in need of a laugh—even if it’s at your own expense—try a ukulele. I have proof it works.