Photo by Claire Nelson, OMN Photographer
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing parents to work remotely, many Oregon State University parent-faculty adjusted their normal routines at home to accommodate activities to keep their children happy, busy and stimulated.
Rebecca Olson, an associate professor of English, has one seven-year-old child. She said she and her partner have overseen the remote school activities provided by teachers. Olson described the past few months of balancing work and children at home simultaneously as absolutely terrible.
“My partner and I split the workweek, but even so, I have at most 25 hours a week to devote to my full-time job, and those hours are frequently interrupted by the distractions of family life. My child is miserable in isolation from other children and has been exhibiting highly anxious behavior. We’re all stressed to the max,” Olson said in an email.
To keep her child busy, Olson said they do a lot of walking in nature, baking and cooking, reading, and building things like robots out of boxes.
“Backyard sports like tetherball and badminton have also been a big part of our pandemic life. We act out Pokemon battles on a daily basis. My child has also just started swim lessons at Osborne—the teacher remains outside of the water and directs my partner, who is in the pool with our child,” Olson said.
Olson cites the start of the day, when she and her child read Calvin and Hobbes comics in bed together, as one of her favorite moments with her child.
“My child loves Calvin and Hobbes but is too young to get a lot of the humor and some of the general conceits, so we end up having lots of talks about everything from what martians are to gender norms. Calvin typically plays with only a stuffed tiger for company, so I think his adventures are resonating in this moment,” Olson said.
Raymond Malewitz, associate professor of English, has one boy who is about to turn six, whose remote education Malewitz is overseeing in addition to work.
“We go for hikes and bike rides every day. We play soccer in the street. He gets a bit of tablet time. He’s also absolutely obsessed with Pokemon, so I’ve loaded Pokemon Go on my phone to incentivize him to get out,” Malewitz said.
He said his favorite day with his kids was a trip to the Cascades to hike the Cone peak trail in the snow, where his son made it six miles on the trail.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of him. The views were pretty spectacular as well,” Malewitz said.
Jillian St. Jacques, senior instructor II and program coordinator of applied journalism, has two kids. His daughter, Katriina is ten; his son, Mika, is 12, and they both go to public school in Corvallis, Ore. St. Jacques said he and his wife share the load when it comes to facilitating their ‘remote learning’ experiences, though his wife also works at OSU as a professor of art history and is even busier than he is. To keep his two children busy, St. Jacques said he always turns to the outdoors when times get rough and has had many fun moments with his children.
“Mountain biking with my son down crazy Coast Range backroads. Slamming the trout with spinners at Green Peter Lake. Watching my daughter learn to skip rocks. And there was a moment when things got really rough when my daughter and I just got in the Jeep at midnight, drove to Martin Luther King Park and sat on the playground structure to watch the stars. We saw a meteorite and several airplanes, and then we saw a satellite and my daughter start[ed] shout[ing]: ‘Hello satellite! Hello satellite! It’s me! Katriina! I’m down here!’ It was like she was seeing her best friend pass by the window, and she wanted everyone to know she was still down here, alive. Of course, I started crying at that point. Who wouldn’t,” St. Jacques said.
But like any other family, St. Jacques said, they also play [Xbox] and board games like Throw-Throw Burrito. Sometimes, his kids were simply bored, he said.
“Because kids don’t always want to read books or make productive use of their time. I wouldn’t even trust a kid like that. Kids have to make mischief sometimes, and they absolutely need to be out there mixing it up with friends, playing King of the Mountain, pelting each other with dead crabs and smashing each other with sticks. No matter how many entertainment possibilities you provide, kids still crave the company of other kids—and when they lose touch with that company, they turn on you,” St. Jacques said.