Words of Wisdom While Quarantining with the Gaffigans [Interview]
BB: How do you deal with a “He pushed me! She started it!” kid squabble? Is your strategy different knowing you’re trapped in the apartment with them?
JG: We pretty much discipline them the exact same way, except we can’t say “alright that’s it. You’re grounded. No one can go to any birthday parties or playdates for a week!” Because they would probably answer back “Uh, there’s a global pandemic. We’re all grounded!”
But honestly, if they start fighting or squabbling (which is now usually over a charger) we do the same thing we did before. We take away their screens and lock them in a safe until they earn them back. You may ask, “But how can you take away their screens when now they go to school on screens?” Easy, let me tell you – our kid’s schools’ distance learning model included a school issued iPad that only has school apps on them. Their “fun screens” are now the same as playdates and birthday parties. They are the only thing that they really want to do, so the threat of losing them is enough to elicit good behavior.
BB: Have any hidden snacks you like to eat on the sly?
JG: We keep trying to hide snacks from the kids, but it’s not unusual to go into the freezer where we have hidden the reserve pint of Ample Hills ice cream, open the container, and find it empty. We think the kids may have a built-in snack honing device.
BB: Best movie you’ve watched as a family during lockdown? Who picks?
JF: During the first two weeks of lockdown, we were on “spring break” and tried to watch a family movie every night. The “who picks” thing was really hard because our kids are aged 7 to 16, and that’s a big spread for movies. One surprising success was a 2003 film called Holes that my daughter Katie chose because she read the book for her 5th grade book club, and wanted to see the movie. Turned out everyone loved it.
Recently for our oldest daughter’s 16th birthday (a million miles away from the plan she’d had to have all the girls in her entire class for a huge sweet sixteen party), she requested we watch her favorite film, Labyrinth, the 1986 fantasy film starring David Bowie and a very young Jennifer Connelly. It was completely amazing.
BB: What one piece of advice can you give to parents trying to maintain their sanity with kids during the COVID-19 outbreak?
JG: Easy. The next time there is a quarantine, make sure you start out in a 30 room mansion with a pool, a hot tub, preferably set on a beach with perfect weather, a staff of housecleaning robots, including one that cuts hair and does pedicures, and make sure Mary Poppins is there to handle distance learning. I hear she has the coronavirus antibodies.
Seriously, we haven’t figured it out yet because every day we both feel on the verge of losing our minds, but here is one piece of advice: LOWER YOUR STANDARDS. Your house is not ever going to be clean, because if you are in an apartment like we are, with no private outdoor space – someone is always there. No one ever leaves. You can’t have a perfectly clean kitchen if someone is always eating. You can’t have a clean bathroom if it’s being used all day long. It’s impossible to vacuum your floors if you have to vacuum around six people.
Also, lower your standards for your teaching skills. You are not a teacher. And even if you are a teacher, you were not your own kid’s teacher. And even if you were your own kid’s teacher, you are not in a classroom! Do what you can without going crazy. Try your best, and if you fail, you can try again, and fail again tomorrow. We are all in this together, and we are all equally unprepared. Don’t worry, this is not a test. No camera crew is going to burst into your apartment with a snarky host announcing, “Just kidding! There’s no pandemic, we were just testing you to see how clean your floors are, and if you would still shower every day. You have FAILED the pandemic punk!”