VIRUS JOURNAL: a pandemic, a layoff and a father who suddenly stays at home

VIRUS JOURNAL: a pandemic, a layoff and a father who suddenly stays at home

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The day his boss watched the TV screen and gave a desperate nod to the plummets of the stock market red lines, my husband felt the resignation coming.

It was a huge blow when it hit our family, like millions of others. But we didn’t have much time to think when he switched from his microbrewery job to a full-time dad to our 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

When Dave stowed his steel-toe boots and goggles, he exchanged one world for another. His daily work was linear: water, barley, yeast and hops are a much appreciated bubble drink. Raising children is more like climbing a mountain in roller skates. It’s fun, but every day pretty much ends where it started.

In the life of a small child, 2 1/2 months is long. During our quarantine, Dave got a chance to take a closer look at their growing mind, even though he wondered if his would remain intact. With playgrounds and play dates out of bounds, bringing them onto the trail was a life saver, and he grew his reserves of patience, creativity and confidence in a well-stocked backpack.

In the meantime, I got down to work at the dining table, covering the rising toll of the corona virus and even an earthquake. I oversaw some math lessons and learned to stop apologizing when the kids catapulted themselves into Zoom meetings.

But it was Dave who made the cheese sandwiches and argued. It was Dave who oversaw the kindergarten reading lessons and watched our daughter change from swagger to tears in an instant. It was Dave who helped our 3-year-old wash his hands, a process similar to wrestling a small octopus 20 times a day.

And like so many parents, he took them outside. Adventures in the forest reserve near our home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City became the center of their days during those weeks of quarantine.

My husband is a man who likes to be prepared. So he packed a backpack like they were gone for weeks instead of hours.

Thirsty? Dad has two bottles of water.

Plasters for cuts, even those invisible to the human eye? Daddy has them, plus ointment.

Do you need a way to carry the ten-year-old camera in the basement? Dad has a paracord and knows where to find it.

Provided they followed a pale yellow butterfly called our daughter Butter as he fluttered forward in the sun. They called one place The Enchanted Forest and loved dramatic splashes caused by throwing stones into the creek. Dave saw them ponder the base of a compass or follow a falcon following circles in the sky.

They stepped into ant heaps, vocally complaining when the socks got wet, and yelling about forgotten muesli bars.

I participated as much as possible. On walks during my lunch break, I learned it was worth seeing the blush of pride on my daughter’s face as she rode down a big hill with her bike even though she was fighting hard when it came time to go home to go. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good for the kids to eat mac and cheese straight from the pan while I finish a story about the latest news.

We hope they remember the beauty of that time with Dad, and how to cope with a strange time of small inconveniences and great insecurities. And there’s still a lot of uncertainty, even when they return to daycare and Dave goes back to work in a reopened brewery.

There are now fewer afternoon walks following butterflies and less screaming over wet socks. But Dad’s backpack will always be packed for them, ready for uncertainty and adventure. On Father’s Day and every day.

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Virus Diary, an incidental feature, shows the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. See previous entries here. Follow Salt Lake City-based AP journalist Lindsay Whitehurst on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lwhitehurst

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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