Sheltered Diaries: The Lessons Learned From COVID-19

When you have a mom that is a journalist covering the biggest pandemic in her lifetime (and hopefully yours, too), and your dad works for a hospital system, you learn a lot about the novel coronavirus just by osmosis.

Poor Tiny is the infectious disease expert of the third-grade set.

So today, when he started his one-on-one reading lesson with his teacher, and it used a comic book about COVID-19, let’s just say the small human saw an easy A.

“Did you know that it’s called COVID-19 because they discovered it in 2019?” he quizzed his teacher.

She did not.

But as he read about how it is spread and the best ways to avoid it, I also realized this – this is something he’ll be telling his children and grandchildren about.

And that MAY have prompted me to engage in a low-key worry spiral – that means he’ll be telling them how I reacted, too. So I decided to do a quick Q&A with him today.

Me: What do you think about having to stay at home?

Tiny: “Oh, it’s pretty much fine. I like getting to spend more time with you guys, and I like having more time to play. But I can’t go anywhere that much, and I miss my friends a lot.”

Me: What is one thing you think you’ll never want to do again after this is all over? 

Tiny: “I think I’m starting to get tired of technology for talking to people. Maybe just sometimes after this, instead of only technology if you want to talk to someone.”

Me: What is one thing that surprised you during all of this?

Tiny: “I didn’t think my birthday would be so fun, but it was fun to be with you guys all day, and to have a virtual birthday party. I still want a real one though, so don’t think you’re not going to do that or something.”

Me: What’s one thing you would like to tell everyone?

Tiny: “Stay home so everyone can keep from getting sick, and then we can all go out again and create mayhem.”

Me: What are some things kids can do around the house to help keep people safe from COVID-19?

Tiny: “I wipe down the doorknobs, the remote controls, the Xbox controllers, and the light switches every day. I do it for money, because nothing is free in this world. I have over $100 now.”

So aside from grifting his parents in the name of hygiene (by the way, part of that is birthday money), I’m also trying to keep some sort of time capsule of all of this, in the name of history – and I encourage all of you think about documenting this, too. I found this great kit that someone shared on Facebook if you need a running start.

I realized the other day, as I was looking through some things about the Spanish Flu, how differently this pandemic would be documented. Think of the rich treasure trove of stories and data, sure, but also the lessons and the opportunities to teach empathy to future generations.

So as we endeavor to teach our children the lessons outlined in Google Classrooms, I know I for one hope I can also impart lessons in gratitude, mindfulness, and empathy.

How is your family documenting your sheltering in place? Let us know in the comments.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at

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