“Don’t Let The Wife See You Cry”: Actor And Father Mr Adam Pally On Lockdown Parenting

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“Don’t Let The Wife See You Cry”: Actor And Father Mr Adam Pally On Lockdown Parenting

Words by Mr Adam Pally

19 April 2020

The days are long these days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to long days. In my former life as a professional actor (which was only, like, a couple of weeks ago?) a long day was something that would excite me.

I remember one stretch back in the old times, a week in which I was shooting a TV show during the day before being driven for two hours to a remote location to shoot a movie at night, wrapping in the early morning and then being driven for two hours back to shoot during the day. I look back at those times as some of the happiest in my life. No need to think about where I was headed or what was next. I was living my life to its fullest professional potential.

These long days are not those kinds of long days.

In my old life, being up before the sun meant a quiet commute, coffee brought to you, a schedule prepared, a private bathroom. Out here, in the pandemic reality, I am homeschooling three young kids under eight, and if I am up before the sun, it means someone went to the bathroom right where they were sleeping.

As dawn cracks its stupid face over the dumb horizon, I find myself making three different kinds of breakfasts while musing on the new scarcity of eggs. What happens when we run out of eggs? I wonder. Will I ever get more? “I actually don’t want eggs,” my daughter says as I place down perfectly scrambled cheesy eggs in front of her. I hear this, and then watch as those eggs go cold and inedible while she cluelessly watches her iPad. Of course, I don’t want her to see my reaction – there will never be any more eggs!!! – as I don’t want to freak her out. You know what, I think, I’ll just eat these cold eggs. Mmmm, cold eggs. Maybe I’ll also just eat this half empty bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and three quarters of a S’Mores Pop-Tart that was probably – no, definitely – licked.

This routine of cooking and eating breakfast seems to last three hours. From 6.00 to 9.00am, I am a short order cook who survives on Keurig Donut Shop coffee pods and being told I didn’t do something right. After feeding, it’s school time, and more joy, when my wife and I get into huge fights over the fact that neither of us knows how to work any sort of new tech when each of our children needs to be on their own devices in a Zoom or Google Chat, or a FaceTime, and we are both hungover and irritable Gen X idiots who only know how to roast people’s outfits. Getting our kids online is like putting together a chair from CB2 with only the Aramaic pamphlet.

With the kids safely quarantined to their portals, my wife and I are allowed to clean up breakfast. This takes an hour because my children are disgusting and eat with their hands and, like me, have no regard for anything other than watching videos of other people playing video games.

By 11.00am, the kids are done with their first bit of schooling and have breaks. I still haven’t showered. Cleanliness is not even on the agenda as I have to entertain these idiots till lunchtime. (Obviously my children are not idiots; they’re unbelievable kids, but at the end of the day, they’re also children and they have their limitations. They don’t know how to do anything, like cook or clean or solve a pandemic.)

It is lunchtime, thank God. We make food, somehow, and my wife and I can alternate showering while these beasts are preoccupied by more food. After lunch, school (and its merciful hold on their attention) is done, so it’s on us to both physically and mentally work these three out until they are tired enough to go to dinner. This consists of literally making them run laps around the house while I try to answer the small amount of emails I have and not check the news to see if the world is over – I mean the rest of the world, because I know a lot of my business already is. But, don’t let the kids see you panic! Keep it together. Don’t let the wife see you cry. Don’t look at your phone, either. It’ll only freak you out more! You looked at your phone? Don’t open Amazon, you don’t need to order anything and it's a time to save money, annnnd you just bought an electric drum kit, dummy.

Until, at last, it’s 5.00pm. Here’s where I shine. The alarm on my phone goes off, the first tequila gets poured and my wife and I put on a movie. A frozen dinner is prepared while we drink a bottle of wine. During these two hours, I’m at my absolute best. I’m making jokes, we’re dancing in the kitchen, music is playing, and for the duration of Frozen II, it feels like everything is how it should be in the world.

After dinner, though, is my worst time. Just as the fun parts of the bottle of wine are wearing off, the fun parts of family time have worn off even harder. No one wants to go to bed, everyone wants more snacks, no one wants to brush their teeth, and the world inside our house vibrates with all of that uncertainty, fear, denial… whatever it is we’re all feeling right now.

Finally, at around 10.30pm, all three children are asleep. I am in the dark on the floor of my youngest’s room, scrolling through the horrors of my phone, hoping this will all be over soon. I feel scared. I miss my sisters and their families and my father. I wonder when I’ll be able to see them, and my friends, and Ms Fran Drescher again. What kind of world is this that my children will be growing up in? Stop looking at your phone, Adam. Don’t let anyone hear you audibly cry. I pick myself up off the ground gently, so as not to wake a sleeping child, using all the core strength I have left after the past 10 days, which is about negative none. And I treat myself to one more tequila and one game of NBA 2K20, where I get whipped by someone named BaesapRocky42069. Then I go swallow enough CBD tincture to put down a racing horse and get ready to do it all again the next day.  

Truth is, to single parents and to stay-at-home moms and dads, teachers, nannies, and babysitters, this schedule ain’t shit. They hear this and go, hold my beer. Well, I am holding your beer, and I salute you. To keep a household going is truly the hardest thing, and to everyone whose job may be undefined, whose work is under-respected because what they do is behind the scenes, taking care of their family and house day in and day out, I see you. I’ve always seen you, but now I feel you, too.

It’s not like I won’t miss these times – I will. Getting to be so close to my children for such extended doses of time has been – don’t tell anyone – very nice for me. I spend so much time on the road that just physically being close to them makes me feel whole in a way my job can never do. I try to remember that every time the days feel like they are getting even longer.

Life will return, or at least some version of it will, and there will be a time where my youngest doesn’t want to be wrapped in a blanket and dragged around the house screaming, “I’m a burrito supreme!”. I am very lucky that I get to be here to see it, and it does make all the hard work of it worth it. I am very, very grateful that we are all healthy. Now, if anyone has a weed hook-up in Long Island that is operating during the pandemic, hook a dad up. Just, please, remember to observe social distancing.

Illustrations by Mr Kouzou Sakai

The man of the house