Parenting (and protesting) during a pandemic

Just as I was sitting down to write this column, I had been doom-scrolling yet again on Twitter, wherein I saw people arguing over who had it worse — parents or non-parents — during the pandemic.

Here’s what I think: You can’t build collective solidarity against the systemic things crushing all of us if we fight amongst ourselves.

I’m not going to lie, I waaaaaaaited to write this column, for a few reasons. One: By the time this is published, what fresh hell will the firehose have wrought? Two: What can I say in this moment that would possibly be worthwhile? Everything feels simultaneously apocalyptic (climate, democracy), revolutionary (uprisings, protests) and tedious (making snack #1,567,899 of the day, but then seeing it go to waste).

What my kids know is that we’re still mostly stuck at home and worn down. Just the other day, my 5-year-old was listing off some of his favorite people and asking whether we could go visit them. He was persistent, and I was getting impatient, which I’m sure he sensed.

He finally let out a growl and said, “I’m so frustrated! I just want to see some people!”

I immediately softened. Here I am, caught up in managing my own BS daily — some days better than others, clearly — and here’s my small person, telling me he’s lonely.

Of course he’s lonely. He asks about school, friends and family with hope in his voice that something’s changed since the night before, with optimism that I’ll have better news for him.

He asks for 10 million hugs a day. He does naughty things because cranky attention from his distracted mother is better than her just staring into her tiny electronic box, typing to pay the bills.

Speaking of that hope, that something will change, there’s the other pandemic: We’re talking to our kids about race. They’re not too young. No kids are.

There’s lots of data out there about it, but most important, we have the voices of our friends and neighbors, and the news, telling us how desperately things need to change. As one way to show our solidarity, we took all the kids to a protest, and explained why. They joined with enthusiasm.

A few days later, I got a free copy of People in the mail. I set it aside, forgetting about it.

Later, my 7-year-old brought it to me with a furrowed brow and glossy eyes, pages open to a photo of a mural of George Floyd.

A young Black girl is standing in front of the mural with a sign: “My daddy plays with me. My daddy reads to me. My daddy tucks me in at night. Please don’t kill my daddy. I promise he’s a good guy.”

She read it on her own.

I said, “That’s a painting of George Floyd.” She knew.

I said, “That little girl is afraid that will happen to her daddy, too, because of the color of their skin.”

She was quiet. We sat.

Finally, she said, “I’m glad we went to the protest, Mama. Let’s go to another one.”


Katie Dohman lives in the Twin Cities with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her at instagram.com/dohmicile.