CULLMAN, Ala. – With schools across the county closed for the next few weeks (or longer), many parents are now tasked with juggling work, helping with schoolwork and searching for childcare. The parents we spoke to have another characteristic in common: they are worried and taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously.
Stephanie Chambers works at the Revenue Office at the Cullman County Courthouse and is mom to 7-year-old Ella, a first-grader at Good Hope Primary School. We asked Chambers her perspective as a working parent.
“Ella is at her grandmother’s until school starts back, and I’m working at the courthouse on property things and renewing tags over the phone, trying to assist customers. I just don’t know. It’s something to be concerned about, and I’m worried from my perspective and scared, too. I’ve not ever seen anything like this in my life and it really makes you stop and think.”
Chambers also expressed frustration about those who might not be taking the situation seriously.
She said, “I have to worry about her (Ella’s) health and well-being because she’s my number one priority.”
For Ella, it sounds as though she is making the best with this extra time with his grandmother, said Chambers, who shared, “She’s been working out in the flowerbeds and cleaning them. She loves to plant things, and when it’s rainy and she can’t go out, she loves to help make doll clothes and she also likes to make blankets. She loves a good game of UNO and she can whoop your tail at it. She has been reading a lot, too.”
Hanceville Elementary third-grader Aistin Gable, 9, might be at home, but he is still focused on learning. His mom, Amy Gable, shared steps they have taken to make the most of this unprecedented time.
“We are making sure to stay out of public places,” she said. “No parks, movie theaters and no trips to the local soda shop. We are doing school work here at home, both online and the packets the school sent. We have family game time and some movie time at night. We are exploring the backyard and working on how to mark a trail so you never get lost in the woods. We are working on plant and bug identification also. We are doing science experiments such as homemade volcanoes (chemical reactions), unpeppering the salt (static electricity) and working with magnets. We have creative time where comic books are made, art is painted, bird houses are built. We have planted a few seeds to study how plants grow and their reaction to different kinds of light. We try to keep learning fun.”
In addition to the school work, Gable also makes sure Aistin understands why all of this is happening.
She said, “We talk about the COVID-19 and its effects on the community, how it makes us feel, how we can do our part to slow the spread of the virus. We discuss hygiene and how it prevents the spread.”
Not panicking is an important lesson Gable hopes her son will learn from this experience.
“We show examples of how panic causes people to buy all the toilet paper instead of a reasonable amount and then to also buy foods and other essential items without making others go without,” she said. “We discuss the importance of being prepared for different types of emergencies so you don’t have to compete with crowds or risk being exposed to a virus or violence even while going for supplies. We have history class and discussions on how the government is handling the pandemic. As a family we keep up to date on the current situation while maintaining the social distancing.”
Another mom, who asked to remain anonymous due to working at a doctor’s office, is not taking any risks and following all orders despite the difficulty and disappointment it could cause her family. She has a daughter at Wallace State Community College and a senior at Cullman High School.
“My daughter has asthma, and I have, a week ago, made her start wearing a N95 (face) mask,” she said. “I feel bad for her and she says that everyone stares at her like she’s crazy, but I just can’t take the risk with her having asthma.”
She added, “We are devastated for (name redacted) and all of the senior class of 2020. I doubt they will even have a graduation.”
She continued, “It really aggravates me, the people that act like this is an inconvenience to them. It’s a pandemic. Forget football, restaurants closing, etc. People need to start taking this more seriously. We could lose a lot of elderly and immunocompromised patients if the public does not stay home.”
To pass time at home, she and the family have been enjoying both board and video games and catching up on yard work and cleaning cars.
“Just stuff at home that keeps us busy,” she said.
Lesley Ann Hyde and her son Colin are getting plenty of bonding time with his school being closed. Colin,10, is a fourth grader at West Elementary and his mom is busy handling her State Farm office. Hyde is a single mom, and both of her parents are seniors and immunocompromised. Unable to rely on family for childcare, she is sharing her office with Colin during the day.
Said Hyde, “This is hard, especially for small business owners. I don’t have anyone else to watch Colin so I am bringing him to work and basically setting him up in my office. He’s using half of my desk for his schoolwork and I am using the other half for my State Farm work. It was difficult getting it started, but we are balancing it out. The good thing is I am actually getting to spend time with my son and to bond more because we are not promised tomorrow. It has made it difficult trying to take phone calls and do my work, but we are doing the best we can to get through it.”
She urged people to do what they are asked to do, saying, “This is something we have got to push through and if people don’t adhere to the recommendations of our state and federal government and go out and keep ignoring these, then the longer this is going to last. We are not closed, but we have a sign on our door to call and do business over the phone.”
Hyde has found several benefits from staying home every night rather than going out.
She laughed, “We are probably eating better and healthier than we ever have been to be honest. We are actually being forced to cook at home and use supplies we have at home so we aren’t even tempted to go out and grab fast food right now. I just don’t want to risk it. I’m taking this time to bond with my son at home. We are actually going to get to do a lot more things around the house that we have been putting off. We are going to finally clean his closet out and go through all his clothes and get them reading to go to (local nonprofit) Curt’s Closet.”
None of the parents have experienced boredom.
Hyde added, “I’m not complaining. We just need to take this time to spend with our families. Get things done around the house that we’ve been putting off for months. I don’t think we are going to get bored because I think there are plenty of things we can do. Plus, spending more time with your pets. This is a great time to bring your dog in, play with your cat and just make the most of it. It’s forced us to slow down.”
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