May 22, 2020 11:09:57 AM
Thursday morning, I walked out of my bedroom/current work-from-home office to refill my coffee cup. My middle daughter, 11-year-old Zayley, started talking to me before I even could see her.
"Daddy! I have only watched this video for 3 minutes, 21 seconds, and I already have a full page of notes," she said.
I walked into the dining room and saw Zayley wearing headphones and watching a YouTube video on a laptop. Not a math, English or history lesson, either. She's trying to learn to cut hair -- specifically, my hair.
OK, I gave her the idea and have been cultivating it for reasons not fully known to me and absolutely horrifying to my wife Amelia who, to put it mildly, is skeptical.
In my defense, my hair takes on a Bob Ross (or old school Don Henley, if you're inclined to be more flattering) quality when it grows out too much, and it had been a solid 10 weeks since I got a haircut before I went into quarantine in late March.
Zayley says she's interested in learning, so to vet this I told her she had to watch YouTube videos on how to do it each day for four weeks and take notes, then score at least 90 percent on a written test that Amelia and I create from her notes. The integrity of said test not withstanding (neither Amelia nor I know anything about cutting hair), after that we'll get her one of those haircutting dolls off Amazon and let her hack away for practice.
This all gives Zayley something else to do at the midpoint of what will be nearly five months away from a physical school for my wife (a teacher) and three daughters and the beginning of summer in quarantine. Finding, and keeping, a rhythm in this new normal has been key for all of us as we deal with the COVID-19 reality, and while many are starting to let their guard down so real life can "resume," there's probably more of what we've been doing ahead of us than there is behind us.
My household got off to a pretty good start, even if I didn't. It took me several weeks to adjust to working from home, especially the struggle with setting boundaries between my work mode and my dad/husband role when those functions are sharing the same space.
But even I adapted, and the necessity wrought by quarantine has mothered its share of invention for us that we hope to continue even when the hustle and bustle of the "old normal" starts to return.
We have a garden in the backyard, for starters. I've always wanted to do it, but with being too busy, too lazy and too afraid to fail, I had never tried. COVID-19, and freaking about whether the supply chain would dry up, was just the push we needed to get some vegetables in the ground. Not only has it been successful, but it's been therapeutic and good for self-discipline. It's also good for obsession. I literally have dreams (good and bad) about this garden when I sleep, I go out to stare at it several times a day and I have drawn at least five different plans for expanding our growing space by next spring.
Another gardening byproduct has been more bonding opportunities with my in-laws (neighbors, landlords) and my parents. These relationships were already strong, but I have crucially relied on and applied their collective wisdom in making sure I don't kill all my plants. My novice rating on the green thumb scale is a source of entertainment for them, which I'm happy to oblige.
Beyond the garden, we're eating home-cooked meals every day (Amelia's doing), most of the time at the table on our front porch when the weather is nice. We take walks. We've piled in the car for drive-by birthday parties and cruised around rural Oktibbeha County just to get out of the house.
Our kids are playing outside way more often, and we're interacting with them much more than usual. We know them better than we did, a joyous thought, yet bittersweet when realizing we weren't this connected before.
The togetherness has its drawbacks. The kids fight occasionally. Amelia and I have fleeting moments when we get sick of the kids or each other and carve out needed "space" wherever it can be found (see above, garden). We still watch too much TV, and Pfeiffer, 5, developed an unhealthy obsession with Goliath after our eldest Julia, 13, told her the Bible story before bed one night and scared the daylights out of her. Pfeiffer asks probing questions about the giant's demise no fewer than four times a day now.
But we've learned so much about ourselves. We switched off autopilot, just as I'm sure so many others have used this process to do.
As bad as this pandemic has been, and even still could get; as costly as it has been in ways reversible and irreversible, the only thing I can truly do is focus my energy on my responsibilities and making the most of the silver linings this all has presented to make permanent positive changes. Honestly, it's a shame it took a crisis to get me to that point.
If all this haircut training goes well, should I let my 11-year-old cut my hair? Absolutely not. Will I anyway? Probably. The only person whom I really care thinks I'm attractive is my wife, and frankly, she's already signed a contract to love me anyway. Plus, if Zayley botches it, Amelia will enjoy relentlessly mocking me until I feel comfortable visiting a professional to fix it.
Who knows? The kid might surprise us.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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