Posted On 18.04.2020

Happy at Home

My name is Bo Tarasenko, and I am parenting in a strange time. My wife Andrea and I are working from home and doing our best to keep our two young children healthy and captivated in the solitude of COVID-19. Oh yeah — we’re also trying to stay sane ourselves. In this series I’ll be sharing some of our experiences as we try to find our own way of being “Happy at Home”. Today, I’d just like to do some introductions…

I’m going to get straight to the point. Here are ten reasons why you wish you were isolated with me:

  • I have a backyard.
  • I love cooking.
  • I am stocked with everything needed to make music, art, and epic crafts.
  • My house is a five minute walk to the River Valley.
  • I love forcing people to try new things.
  • My basement shelves are stacked with board games, comic books, graphic novels, and some really stellar piles of literature.
  • I am a pro-level dungeon master (yes, the nerdy kind).
  • I have the most incredible circle of friends and family that are a blast to hang out with, no matter the video chat software.
  • My house is a five minute walk to Fox Burger (take out available).
  • I can fix computers (so in demand right now).

Here are two reasons why you wish you weren’t:

  • Just one bathroom in the house. It’s fine though… honestly.
  • I have no idea what I’m doing.

To be fair on that last point – it is refreshing to know that nobody really knows what they are doing right now, and anyone that says they do is clearly lying. There are no precedents for living well and parenting young children responsibly during a global pandemic. We are fortunate enough that medicine and communication have advanced far enough that we clearly have an advantage over those that came before us. Nevertheless, all the doctors in the world still have not been able to tell me how many days in a row I can feed my daughter spaghetti, ice cubes, and ketchup before it’s “no longer O.K. for her guts”.

It’s been about a month now of living in various states of confinement with my family. My level of isolation depends almost entirely on the nose of my one-year-old son, Max. If there is only a little bit of mucus, everything is copacetic. We can go outside. If there is a medium amount or if it’s of an unusual color, he and my daughter Nova (age four) can’t leave the house at all for a few days, and we’re the only ones that can provide care for them. It also means that my wife and I are forced into an extreme test of marriage teamwork, juggling feeding and entertaining children with full-time workloads, including hours of daily video calls. It’s feels a bit like Cirque du Soleil but our kids are the acrobats and we’re the trampolines.

Oh, and I have no idea what will happen if the snot level rises from medium to high. I’m guessing the paramedics will just show up and wrap our house in cling wrap.

IKEA sells a thirty metre roll of paper for five dollars. It’s wide enough to cover a table and perfect for drawing and painting. Although we have run out of display space on our walls, we do save all the art and use it as wrapping paper.

So then, if I don’t know what I’m doing, what could I possibly offer any Kingsway Blog reader? Surely I should just be looking for advice myself? Well, I sort of am. Or at least I’m hoping we can all help each other.

It took a few tries to find some fitness videos that Nova enjoys, but we’re very glad we did. Screen time that gets them out of zombie-tv-watcher mode is absolute gold.

Over this last month I have discovered a few things (and, when I say “I” I mostly mean Andrea, my wife, for whom I am taking all of the credit). These few things have given us focus and guidance, and have allowed us to get to the point where we are truly (mostly) enjoying our time together. And, I might add, with only minimal assistance from TV’s and tablets.

Every week, I’m going to share what I’ve learned from three aspects of COVID family life: Food, Friends, and Fun. Or if you prefer, Calories, Comrades, and Capers. Or, alternately, Sustenance, Socialization, and Stimulation.

My brother introduced me to an offshoot of Facebook Messenger – Messenger Kids. With games and filters it has brought a lot of laughter to Nova’s video chats. The interface is kid-friendly enough that she can enjoy the freedom of a private chat with family or friends without getting frustrated or needing help. Here they are chatting with grandma and grandpa.

My hope is that you do the same with me. I’d love to see pictures of your families, and what you are doing to stay Happy at Home. Please share your challenges, your photos, your successes, your failures. We’re all in this together folks, even if “together” means farther than two metres apart at all times. The gift of the internet means that although we may be more isolated than ever before, we are all still connected. And I openly invite you to share with me, through Kingsway’s social media (@kingswaymall) or by emailing me directly at btarasenko@oxfordproperties.com.

Max and Nova have missed playing with their best friends across the alley, so we’ve started a new, uniquely COVID tradition: cross-alley playdates. It just takes a few toys for the kids and some camping chairs for the grownups. They get to scream at each other and we get to listen. Win-win… right? It’s worth it just to talk to another adult in person.

Somehow, over the past few weeks, I have felt our communities in Edmonton grow stronger. As challenging and scary as our situation may be, we are all united, doing everything we can to protect one another. Family feels more important than ever. Health is more important than ever. And that is the path we are all on right now: a path that starts at home, winds through our home, and ends right back at our home again. This is the path we are all walking together, isolated but not apart, as we learn to be Happy at Home.

Nova and Max wanted so badly to use our computers that I just had to pull out some broken laptops I had around. I pulled the batteries out and they don’t mind a bit that the screens don’t work. The keys are helping Nova practice her letters, and she loves updating us on all the meetings she’s having.

Come back next week for the next installment of Happy at Home. Bo would love to see how you are staying Happy at Home — or not! Make sure to tag Kingsway on Instagram (@kingswaymall) on your posts or email him at btarasenko@oxfordproperties.com.

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