One Way to Assess How Good of a Parent You Were in 2020: Ask Your Kid

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Men’s Health.

WITH COVID-19 came a house of horrors. I was afraid of bridges and heights, but those phobias were fleeting. While my seventh-grade daughter, Samayah, stayed up until midnight and slept until noon, I was marred by nightmares.

If I thought the virus pandemic was a haunted house, then the racism pandemic was surely hell. Each unarmed Black man and woman removed from this earth at the hands and knees of white men in blue shields sent me spiraling into the abyss of terror.

My family has been living in London during all this and my daughter and I talked a great deal, but as I reflect on 2020, I wanted to know, directly, what she’s been reflecting on, too.

So I asked Samayah, starting with what she thought of the early days of sheltering in place.

For the first two months, I loved not being able to go outside, because I’m not a huge walker and you and Mom are. Every single day felt like summer vacation even though we still had distance learning. So if you did have to wake up early, it would motivate you to finish your work early, and then I’d finish by lunchtime and have the rest of the day off to do whatever I wanted.

Which was normally watch Netflix.

Very funny, Dad. One thing I did with you, which was one of the best things during lockdown, was I learned a new sport. I learned how to ride a skateboard and play softball—

At the same time?

I’m being serious. Like you said, you got to focus on your writing and I got to focus on new things I wanted to try out or finish old things that I started and never completed. So you and I playing catch, and me learning how to pitch, was a really fun experience, because I basically had all the time in the world to do it.

And now that I’m a boss, all school sports have been canceled this fall. ARGH!

I think playing frisbee and softball with you out in front of our flat was the absolute best for me, too. You know, before we were in lockdown, you’d go to school, you’d come home, and when I’d ask you how your day was, you’d mumble, “Fine.”

But softball was a time for us to spend quality time together. Kinda like how you and Mommy read books together at bedtime. I felt like this was our reading-books-together time that you and I got to do.

And I thought you were really good at it. And I looked forward to it, because it meant a lot to me. I felt like we grew a lot closer.

Awww, that’s special. We did get closer.

Even though it was a difficult year.

I watched the news and heard about the pandemic and it scared me, and I wanted to go to the Black Lives Matter protest, but you and Mom wouldn’t let me because of COVID-19.

But as a middle school student, I was also focusing on school and not being able to see my friends and not being able to have a birthday party. I was tired of texting all day, every day. I wanted to see them.

I thought it was really smart when you’d open the front door of the flat and just sit in the chair and talk to your friends, or do homework, or just stare outside.

I missed the real world.

I did, too. I found that reading helped me stay in touch with the world. I’ve never read so many books as I did during the lockdown.

I realize that one of the good things about school is you get to spend time with your friends without trying to think, “Hmmm, what should I say, what should we talk about, what’s really been going on with me?”—which is what happens when you don’t have that human connection.

And, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Connection, really. Do we understand ourselves? Are we connected with each other in a way that is life-giving and life-saving?

Um, I guess, Dad.

[Laughs] Okay, so if you could pick something you learned from this experience that you want to share with people—that you learned about yourself, that you learned from the lockdown—what would it be?

Since we had a lot more time to hang, and to be with our family and parents and to really focus on ourselves, I learned how to be way more grateful, because I saw all the things you guys have to go through.

I got to see all of your hard work literally every day, all day.

Well, that’s a blessing. We should be locked down for the whole year! [Laughs] Seriously, that means a lot. I feel pretty cool now.

Ehhh . . . pretty cool? I mean, you’re cool adjacent, perhaps.

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