I'm Glad You're Going to Write the Great American Novel While We're All Shut-In but I Have Little Kids

The 31 cents my child brought me because he had no idea what else to do with it.
The 31 cents my child brought me because he had no idea what else to do with it.
Photo: Panama Jackson

It feels like months ago when word started coming down that the coronavirus might shut down our whole lives for weeks, maybe even months. Turns out it was really, like, last week when the “stay your ass at home” hammer became a real thing. Of course, as soon as that happened, the charge to “use that time to be productive and do that thing you always wanted to do” went out to the masses.


Learn a new language. Read all of the books you have sitting on your shelf. Hell, WRITE that book or that proposal you’ve been meaning to start and/or finish. Clean up your house. Organize everything.

It was all very well-meaning and intentioned. Cute, even. Here’s the thing: for many of us parents with school-aged children, that shit is way more of a theory than a possibility.

Can I just level with you all? Working from home is cute when you’re single or have a boo and no other responsibilities. It’s just like daylight savings time; that shit is nice when you get to actually sleep in and take advantage of an extra hour of sleep in fall. But if you are a family person with kids under, say, 10, then freeform productivity is not a thing. Daylight savings time is a nuisance that means your kids are up earlier, not later.

For instance, in my home right now are two little boys aged 5 and 3. They’re a fun duo, bouncing off of shit left and right all day when they’re not trying to convince me to download Call of Duty (seriously; I assure you they have no idea what it is) onto their iPads. I love my kids, fam. I couldn’t ask for more fun kids.

They’re currently both in preschool, a preschool that is closed until, well, it reopens. Now I don’t know if you know any 5 and 3-year-old children but while awake, they’re lit. When they’re not running around like Usain Bolt for hours, they’re asking for shit because they can’t do anything themselves, often asking for the shit while running around like Usain Bolt for hours. They can’t cook themselves breakfast or lunch. They can’t bathe themselves. Despite the hours of entertainment they provide one another, they still can’t entertain themselves. Right now, my wife is loudly encouraging them to chill the fuck out because I think one of them took the other’s somethingorother and is crying because he wants it back.

I’m on the top floor of my three-floor townhouse. They’re on the bottom floor and I can hear them clearly. I might not be able to make out every single word, but I can get the gist without trying. It’s loud in here. Kids are loud. They level up. They wake up looking for shenanigans. In fact, I specifically know they’re up to some bullshit when I can’t hear them. That’s when they know they’re wrong so they’re trying to hide their wrongness with silence. Like the time they attempted to put toothpaste into the fishtanks. I don’t think they were trying to murder their fish, but I can’t say they cared about the outcome, either. To complete that nonsense, they poured out all of the fish food into a trashcan and then doused it with water.


On second thought, maybe they were trying to murder the fish. It was attempted manslaughter, at the very least.

Literally, right now, one of my kids walked up two flights of stairs to hand me 31 cents, screamed like a dinosaur and is RIGHT NOW beating a table. Why? Because he can. True story, it’s more work to work from home than it is to do my job anywhere else.


Thank God for teachers. No. Seriously. I’m not one of those people having that realiz...

Literally, as I’m writing this, that same child who brought me his portion of the rent money ran down the stairs and stepped on a part of a toy that he broke and is screaming bloody murder about his foot. I’m not making any of this up, by the way. This is simply the last 3 minutes of my life.


Teachers. Saints. All of them. (Most of them.)

Why am I sharing all of this? Here’s why: If you happen to be in a place with enough time and peace and quiet to learn that new skill, or write that book, or make that album, whatever, cool. Many of us with kids are not. Between trying to keep them alive AND also scouring the internet for color-coded lesson plans from teachers who are generously sharing the wealth (or creating our own as my wife has been doing), just making it from awake to go-the-fuck-to-sleep is tiring as shit. Those last few hours of awake time are spent staring off into space thinking about the fact that schools may not open back up this academic year.


So yeah, fuck that productivity talk. I look forward to your new album or book or art piece that took you 8 hours a day for how many days it took to finish it. I genuinely do. I’ll look forward to it even more if it features Aaliyah and Tupac, even more, if they’re on horses or pangolins. Me and mine? We’re going to do our best to not get down on ourselves for the days not going perfect while we try to work the best ways we can.

And when my kids go back to school, I’ll write my great American novel during work hours like any other self-respecting author, because that’s the only free time I’ll have until my kids are old enough to entertain themselves.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


Asano Sokato

You knew what you were getting yourself into when you threw that condom on the floor. Now all y’all need to hush.