Family life

20 tell-tale signs you’re on your millionth round of isolating with two small children

Remember the good old days, when the idea of dumping uncooked rice, glitter and sand on the rug and declaring the whole living room a sensory-play area would have seemed preposterous?

It’s not the most relaxing moment to be a parent to kids under five years old. All of our loved ones, in-laws and even some animals at the zoo are able to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but not the tiniest humans. Parents of young kids don’t just need a break—we need an all-inclusive rehabilitation centre (with attached spa). As we weather round after round of isolation periods with unendingly symptomatic children prohibited from attending daycares and preschools, in the dead of winter, no less, comfort yourself with the knowledge that other parents are in a similar pit of despair and chaos. Hey, at least you’re not alone. (Remember being alone?)

There are a few behavioural symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, that you might recognize if you’re in the middle of a self-isolation period with small children. The only known cure is a long vacation that you’re not likely to take any time soon. So for now, we self-diagnose, self-soothe with reality television when we occasionally get a turn with the remote and pray to whoever is listening for an early spring and a vaccine for little kids.

Here are 20 signs you might have isolated with small children one too many times (or 15!):

  1. You’ve muttered “what fresh hell” under your breath so often that now your three-year-old has picked up the phrase. Don’t worry; she’ll probably never be healthy enough to attend school again, so nobody is going to know.
  2. To save yourself a few steps, you’ve seriously considered dumping uncooked rice, glitter and sand on the rug and declaring the whole living room a sensory-play area.
  3. You’ve been intimidated (but also strangely impressed?) by the bossiness, ahem, leadership potential, of your toddler dictator.
  4. You’ve wondered why none of the kids’ indoor playgrounds in your city has devoted itself to the exclusive use of COVID-exposed-but-generally-fine (but bounced from daycare) children. (Note: If you own such a play place…. The pass should be week-long and include an unlimited supply of Kleenex and Neocitran. Cannabis gummies and noise-cancelling headphones could be available for parents at the cafe. And it would be great if you could design a tunnel that sanitizes the kids’ entire bodies as they crawl through. Contact me for more incredible business ideas.)
  5. You’re finding it extremely difficult to not murder your childfree friends. Yeah, Joanne, we’re having a peaceful Saturday here, too. Just finishing our second hot coffees and thinking of getting started on a thousand-piece puzzle. No, we haven’t watched Squid Games yet, but didn’t you find Encanto to be Lin Manual Miranda’s most enthralling soundtrack yet?
  6. You have silently (or not) screamed at Netflix for not allowing you to block the worst of the kid shows.
  7. You’ve done at least one deep dive with your partner about the backstories of a certain crime-fighting canine gang. Why is the only likeable character only around seasonally? And how did they all live in such proximity to this “lost world” and only discover their dinosaur neighbours in season 5? How many lead animal wranglers have hit puberty and been swapped out by now? 
  8. You experienced a massive high when you learned that you can, in fact, block annoying kids’ shows on Netflix! (It’s in the settings, but it only works from a computer.)
  9. You’ve straight up cried over the thousand-ish dollars in daycare fees you’re hemorrhaging while your hellions do head-dragging races under the kitchen table.
  10. You experienced a wave of warmth for your not-crafty husband when he made an art project with the tiny terrorists, but felt your gratefulness morph to panic when he went to get fishing wire and feathers and had palpitations when he suggested out loud and in real-time that he hang the feathered abominations in your living room.
  11. You recalled the realtor insisting the hardwood would be fine for another decade at least and marvelled at how your children have achieved this level of damage in just the first five days of being home.
  12. You felt confident that all those articles with the recommended daily screen time for kids missed a zero behind their advised hours per day.
  13. You fantasized about a boarding school in your region that accepts preschool applicants.
  14. You considered whether YOU should launch a boarding preschool to fill this obvious niche in the market.
  15. You lamented the golden age of parenting, when moms and dads could guiltlessly rub whiskey on the gums of their overtired children.
  16. You’ve created affirmations that you chant religiously: I am at peace with the sound-bath of my screeching children. I trust myself to not let my eyes bulge out when I assure the kids I’m not upset that my Gua stone has been broken for the fourth time. I am creatively inspired by the new interior design of my room and wouldn’t have considered freeing the plants from their pots on my own.
  17. You’ve pondered sending a strongly worded letter to the makers of the kids’ vaccines (and/or to their mothers) to check in on progress and remind them that some of us are in a hostage situation of the Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes variety.
  18. You’ve been obsessively refreshing Elon Musk’s Twitter feed to see if he’s decided to make a kid’s vaccine himself yet.
  19. You offered up your eager-to-help kids for an unpaid internship with the vaccine makers. (Qualifications: The eldest can identify “X” marks the spot in the alphabet and the youngest is a marvel at making barnyard animal sounds and locating her belly button…)
  20. You threw serious shade at the three-year-old who, as isolation finished up, coughed once and insisted she’s sick and can’t go to daycare, at which time you grabbed her by the shoulders and insisted we do NOT talk that way in this house.

These are just some of the many reported signs and symptoms of isolating with your kids. Research continues, but for now, it is important to take calming breaths and convince yourself that Everything Is Fine, This Is All Completely Normal. It’s best to say this in a monotone, facing the bathroom mirror with your eyes jarringly wide open and with a vacant stare.

As someone who is still trapped on this level of hell, I cannot help you, but I can recommend screaming into a pillow until you go hoarse, posting your home for a house-swap in Hawaii, and emailing me if you figure out how to make this all stop.

Yours in shared madness,

A Fellow Mom in Endless Isolation

Stay in touch

Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.