The Pluses and Pitfalls of Having a Pandemic Preschooler

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As I write this, my four-year-old, Hannah, is at my in-laws’ house in East Tennessee. I basically called and begged my mother-in-law to take her for a few days, knowing they pretty much never leave the house and I felt like it was a safe choice. After 10 months of being mostly stuck at home, even the four-year-old needed a change of scenery.

My preschooler may have a different experience than yours during this pandemic due to the fact that she has three older school-age siblings who are, right now, all trying to Zoom for school in different areas of our house. I thank God daily that we live in a house big enough for this. It is not, however, big enough for my preschooler to really be able to DO anything while her siblings are schooling.

She wants to watch TV? Too bad, second-grade brother is trying to Zoom in to Math in the same room. Do a craft? Nope, fourth-grade brother is at the dining room table in Social Studies class. Even playing upstairs in her room or the playroom has to be done quietly, because her sixth-grade sister is attempting to attend middle school from her own bedroom.

I feel terrible for my little one as we try to maneuver around the Zoom sessions. And, being four, she doesn’t especially understand WHY she can’t go to preschool, church, dance class, or a museum. When she had to quarantine after one of her preschool teachers got the virus, we couldn’t even begin to explain it to her. Our older kids at least understand how germs work. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hannah thinks there is a COVID Monster looming around the corners in the public spaces.

And yet, I still highly recommend everyone procure a cute preschooler during these stinky times.

For one, they give great hugs. I can be really down in the dumps, but Hannah coming to give me THE BIGGEST HUG IN THE WORLD and a slobbery kiss will really lift my spirits.

Second, they are hilarious. Right before Thanksgiving, I asked Hannah if she was going to be a Native American or a pilgrim at their school’s Thanksgiving feast. Her reply? “I’m going to be Elsa every year on Bunny Easter.” Sometimes I think parenting is worth it just for these hilarious moments. Who else will insist on wearing shorts when it’s snowing, give long explanations with no relevance to the actual situation, laugh like you’re a comedian when all you do is stick out your tongue, or think having Nutella on her nose is the funniest thing to ever happen in the universe? (Mostly) just little kids.

Third, having a child I still have to actually take care of does me some good and lifts me out of my own head. I may want to doomscroll all day, but she actually needs someone to make her lunch. I might want to escape into a book and ignore all living creatures, but Hannah REALLY needs me to go through that 27-step bedtime routine with her.

Sometimes I get irritated when she is once again throwing a fit about something ridiculous or completely out of my control. And then I try to remember how difficult the last year has been for her, too. She has now spent almost 20% of her life in a pandemic world. She rarely sees anyone her own age and is fighting to keep up with a household of siblings who can do a lot more than she can do.

So when I hear her singing, “Why do I have to go to bed when everyone else can stay up?” to the tune of Into the Unknown, mostly I just have to shrug and smile. I mean, who else is going to serenade me at bedtime?

And she’s really, really cute.

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