My relationship with my parents has always been a good one, and for that, I’ll always be thankful. Like all young people, I’ve had my teen-angst-fueled moments of disagreement growing up, with times when I didn’t get my way or they didn’t get theirs. Dramatically slammed doors, rolled eyes, you get the gist. But, at the end of the day, there was still a table to eat dinner at as a family, or a funny movie to watch together. It was still me and my parents, and we still knew each other very well.
When I moved from a suburban town outside of Toronto to the city of Ottawa for university, I was excited. It was my very first leap at living independently, with the chance to go out whenever I wanted to and enjoy my new life, friends, and school in my own way. I thrived in the new independence, making sure to still call my parents regularly and send quick updates to the family group chat.
But things were different now, and I was convinced that maybe my life away from home had changed me into a daughter they maybe didn’t know as well as they did before. That is, until quarantine happened. Then, I realized that it was I who didn’t know my parents as well as I thought I did.
When I had to prematurely pack up my dorm and headed back to my hometown under the new COVID-19 restrictions in March, I was upset about having to leave my Ottawa life behind me. Being back in my childhood bedroom made me feel like I was plopped right back into the tenth grade, and with both my parents and my brother also cooped up, we spent more time than ever together.
Under these new circumstances, I saw my parents differently yet somehow in the same light — they were still the people who knew and loved me, but I now saw the obvious things I’d glanced over in high school and what I’ve missed since I’ve moved away.
These are a few things that I’ve learned about my parents because of quarantine.
1. How hard they work
Since both of my parents have day jobs, I never really had a chance to see them in their element during high school. Seeing my parents fielding phone calls and video conferences all while juggling bills, deadlines, and stress is more than impressive; it’s incredible.
It’s interesting for me to think that this is what they’ve been doing all my life, but I just never noticed how hard they work because I hadn’t seen it before and I was so caught up in my own world. I never understood the hastily written phone numbers on sticky notes nor the stacks of legal pads. But they’re important for their careers and our very household.
2. How caring they are
I’ve always known that they were good people, but I saw their values shine during our time in isolation. I saw my mom cooking our favourite dishes and calling family members out of the blue to check up on them “just because.” I also saw my dad organizing group video chats with his old buddies to replace their monthly dinner. They did these things because they genuinely care, and when I’m at home with them, I appreciate it now more than ever.
3. They’re still young
While my parents may be approaching retirement age, they still act like young kids who like to have fun whenever they can. My dad still does funny dances and tells corny jokes to make my mom laugh, and my mom participates in at-home Zumba and aerobic exercises to stay fit. They both enjoy family game nights when us kids teach them how to work a video game, and, funny enough, my dad had even asked me to create a TikTok video with him at one point!
4. They have their own dreams
Because the future of “getting back to normal” is still uncertain, it’s not possible for anyone to form concrete plans, but that won’t stop us from dreaming about life after lockdown. This includes my parents, who I realized dream of retirement after all their kids have settled into their own individual lives and are financially stable enough that they can move somewhere warm and sunny after travelling the world together.
As young people, I think we’re often so focused on our own dreams that we don’t always remember that our parents have their own dreams to achieve, too. I selfishly didn’t realize this until my parents told me that my graduation day will mark a new chapter of their own lives as well.
5. They just want to spend time together
After living away from home for my first year of university, coming back made me realize that my parents truly enjoy spending time with me, even though young people like myself often prefer the privacy of their own bedroom or keeping headphones on our ears at all times. But, after being isolated with my parents for so long, I’ve come to understand that all they really want is to just enjoy a meal together or to have a simple conversation. These things may not seem like much, but they represent a larger connection that may be harder to maintain over a wide distance.
While I still enjoy my life away from home, I believe that being quarantined with my parents was positive for our relationship. I now get to know them from a new perspective, and though it sometimes got overwhelming to live under the same roof 24/7, I realized the value of our connection, with quarantine becoming an opportunity to learn more about it. Being quarantined with my parents may have been difficult, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be with anyone else.