I can only see my dad for a few hours at a time: how COVID-19 has affected my visitation schedule


Emma Thumann

For many years, my parents have been divorced. I have gone back and forth from my mom’s house to my dad’s so often that it’s almost second nature. However, I never realized how much a global pandemic would affect my visitation schedule with my parents. And because of this, I have not seen my family at my dad’s house for three weeks so far. 
When I arrived home from work on Sunday, Mar. 15, my mom decided to implement a self-quarantine. Nobody in the household had COVID-19, but this was just to be extra precautious. That Wednesday, I was supposed to follow my visitation schedule and go to my dad’s house until that following Monday.
There was just one problem: two people in my dad’s household were essential workers. There was no way they could quarantine. 
My younger step-sister works as a cashier for a local grocery store. She could easily tell her boss that she wants to play it safe and not work; however, employees of her position are in short supply and high demand, so she is very much needed. My dad is an IT Director for an NJ school district, so he offers repairs and replacements for home technology to continue online instruction at the district.
My mom was aware of this, so she gave me a choice: either I stay with her until the COVID-19 pandemic blows over, or I go to my dad’s house. And if I choose the latter, I won’t be able to come back to my mom’s house, since she’s quarantining and I would essentially not be. 
Am I saying that my dad’s household isn’t taking precautions to prevent them from getting COVID-19? No, it’s just they cannot fully quarantine because some of them are essential workers. My step-mom uses the train every day to get into NYC for her job, but she has since stopped and quarantined herself. My older step-sister, a freshman in college, has returned home. And my dog is happy to have extra attention.
For me, I haven’t lived with my dad in three weeks. It’s especially bad because I was supposed to be at his house during my 18th birthday, which was on Mar. 19. But, we tried to work around it. On Saturday, Mar. 21, My sister and I drove to his house and practiced social distancing: sitting six feet away from everyone, not eating open food, and, unfortunately, not petting the dog. Despite this, everyone was still able to give me birthday presents and sing happy birthday. We even made s’mores!
My dad has since driven to my mom’s house a few times a week to not only talk with us for an hour or so but to also bring my sister iced coffee to feed her addiction. We would bring out chairs and sit around six feet away from each other.
It’s difficult, but we make it work. We have to, for this has been our reality for three weeks, and it’ll stay like this for many more.