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Parents: Time with kids at home a challenge, blessing

By LINDA A. MOORE
The Daily Memphian
MEMPHIS (AP) — About every other day Amazon stops at Eureka Duckett’s home, delivering whatever it will take to keep her 10-year-old daughter busy.
Across town, Sherita Morgan, Duckett’s sister, said her kids would normally be occupied with softball, football, gymnastics, dance and a vacation at the beach. Instead they’re with her.
North Memphis dad Dellamar Pennington says the months at home with his children have been tough, but that they’ve grown closer as a family.
And Germantown mom Suzanne Walls says her three sons have always been close, but have really pulled together during the pandemic. Still, looking at her calendar makes her sad.
When parents welcomed their children home in early March after the coronavirus shut down schools, they had no idea what was in store.
Globally COVID-19 has infected more than 13 million people, with 580,000 deaths.
Locally, infection numbers in Shelby County continue to climb, with an excess of 14,800 cases and 229 deaths recorded as of July 15.
The highly infectious virus meant no school, no after-school programs, no sports, no summer camps, no swim classes.
Parents who depended on a world where children had places to go and things to do were left to figure out how to teach school-age kids and occupy preschoolers. In many cases, they also had to work while doing those things.
They’ve found ways to cope.
“When my husband was working from home, we were able to tag team a little bit more. But now that he’s gone back to work it’s just me, and it’s very difficult for me because my 10-year-old is saying ‘Mommy, I’m bored,'” Duckett said.
She is a social worker with Youth Villages. Her husband works for the Tennessee Lottery. They have a 3-year-old son, Dallas, and a 10-year-old daughter, Kendyll, a student at Briarcrest Christian School.
The money they would have spent on summer camp and swim camp now goes for new Nintendo Switch games, canvases, art supplies.
“(Kendyll) has a summer reading list. They’re supposed to pick one or two books. There are about 20 on the list. Well, we’ve been ordering all of them,” Duckett said.
The kids have gotten more screen time than usual because she needs to work.
“I feel so bad because I don’t know what else to do. It’s not her fault that she’s sitting in the house all summer long,” Duckett says of her daughter. “But mentally, it’s been a challenge for my whole family.”
All three of Morgan’s children – Makenzi, 13; Cayleb, 10; and Caylie, 4 – have ADHD. They would normally be in summer camp and taking summer enrichment classes.
“It’s been a challenge trying to explain to them why they can’t go to the park, why they can’t go to school,” she said.
Morgan is a fifth-grade English teacher with Shelby County Schools and at first tried to keep the kids on a schedule, but it’s been particularly difficult with her 10-year-old.
“The educator in me tries to give him some structure, but it’s going down the hill right now. It’s tumbling out of control,” she said.
“With three kids with ADHD in one house, it’s chaos,” Morgan said.
Chaos is what Pennington has tried to avoid. He was a Shelby County Schools teacher’s assistant, but this year will be a computer lab instructor. His wife, Mauricia Pennington, is a dental assistant and has worked during the shutdown.
“It’s been tough, being that we’ve been in the house the majority of the time for the first two months of COVID,” Pennington said.
He’s been with three of their four children, Dominque Franklin, 15, Dellamar Jr., 10, and 6-year-old Dallas. Their youngest, DeVaughn, 2, has spent a lot of time with Pennington’s mother.
They’ve tried to use the time wisely. His wife and oldest daughter started a makeup business. He started a podcast.
He’s also an assistant AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball coach, and was supposed to get his own team this summer, so he had a personal disappointment.
But they’re closer now as a family.
“I feel like it’s my sole responsibility when I’m here with them that they get some type of benefit from being here with me. My son is cutting the grass. We built our doghouse from scratch. I’m teaching them how to fish so they can eat for a lifetime,” Pennington said.
At Walls’ home in Germantown, 16-year old Tommy and 14-year old McLain are “the Bigs,” and took over tutoring their 8-year-old brother, Carden, who, because of his dyslexia, couldn’t afford to fall behind. He’s now attending small classes at Holy Rosary Catholic School.
The year has been a series of disappointments, said Walls, who works from home in accounts payable for a national retail company.
No Boy Scout camp, no birthday party this summer for her youngest son, a canceled family reunion, no barbecue team for her husband, Shannon Walls, an engineer with Hewlett-Packard.
The most recent blow was the email notice she got that band camp for her older sons at Houston High School was canceled.
“Having to take a pen and mark off yet another major event on that calendar, it broke my heart,” Walls said. “I finally had to take my calendar down because it didn’t matter what was written on it. We weren’t going to get to do any of those things.”
Despite the disappointments and difficulties, they’ve had good times, Walls, said.
“We’ve had so many things that have been canceled and postponed and delayed. But we’ve also had this opportunity to have a truly different lifestyle and a different experience for the family,” she said.
They’ve played board games, card games, taken long walks through the neighborhood and hiked along the Wolf River.
“We’ve been given this rare opportunity to have these experiences that we probably wouldn’t be having,” Walls said.
“I’ve been trying very hard to look at the blessings in all of it. … I’ve got great kids. I’ve got a great husband. If I’m locked in the house, these are the people I would pick to be locked in with.”