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Like many people, this Times reporter is holed up at home trying to work remotely — with the kids in the house. While the Twitterverse is full of people joking (I hope) that their small humans have already turned on them, there's no shortage of things for kids to do — with each other and with their larger humans. And if they're occupied, they're less likely to band together against us ... right?
Our house is a media hub, so the kids — 11-year-old twins Winston and Betty — are two nights into their "Social Distancing Film Festival." The opening-night feature, for perhaps obvious reasons, Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion," went over well. Winston said, "I love this movie! Well directed and well written." Dad was struck by how scientifically accurate it is turning out to be; chillingly so. The second night, they chose to stream "Outbreak," the Wolfgang Petersen adventure movie from 16 years earlier. Dad remembered it as more thrilling than on this repeat viewing, especially after the Soderbergh film, which made this one seem stilted and conventional. Betty agreed. "It was good, but not as good as 'Contagion.'"
No nightmares to report. Then again, these kids follow the news, so these movies are hardly as frightening as real life.
Tonight, they'll take a break from the outbreaks and check out a double feature of "The Usual Suspects" (Win is a Christopher McQuarrie fan from his "Mission: Impossible" work, though Betty chose it) and "The Farewell" (they love Awkwafina, especially after her interview with their dad in The Times). They're up to plenty of other things as well — more on that later — but I asked friends what they're doing with their kids, and their answers were fun and varied.
Scott from L.A.'s Valley Village neighborhood said, "'Farming Simulator ’19'! My son is virtually farming: He's got a crop of soybeans coming in, awesome tractors and combines and whatnot. ... He showed it to me earlier. Not sure if on some level it's comforting to grow one's own food, or...?! But he's absorbed in it for hours at a time, talking about rainfall, weeds and pests, where to put the hay, etc. It's kind of fun."
Kelly from Washington, D.C., said, "My 16-year-old has already made me watch the entire new season of the Netflix series 'On My Block.' She insisted this was our bonding activity. Without giving it away, the ending was bittersweet — a bit sad, actually." Kelly went on to caution that the show isn't right for all kids: "It’s a bit racy ... sexually graphic at times."
Matthew in Lafayette, Colo., said his daughter in her early teens was "begging for zombie movies and listening to R.E.M.," which only makes sense.
Jennifer from Studio City listed the Netflix docuseries "' Cheer,' 'Lego Masters' streaming on Hulu/Fox, the film 'The Peanut Butter Falcon' for my 11-year-old. My almost-15-year-old wants to go back and watch the old seasons of 'Survivor' (huge fan) and has expressed interest in the 1980 'Fame' and we all loved watching 'Stand by Me.' We are also listening to a variety of movie and TV show soundtracks for exposure. 'Stand by Me' started that and now we are digging 'Big Little Lies' (music, not the show, for kids)."
Another Jennifer, also from Studio City, with 11-year-old twin daughters, said, "Games ... a rousing game of Monopoly yesterday. And cooking ... a lemon pie on Pi Day and pulled chicken sandwiches. And [their] choir teacher assigned watching a musical ... so that has been a great assignment." She said they're "not big on electronics here, although we all enjoyed 'Troop Zero.' Home economics is in full swing though ..."
Of course, that option isn't available for everyone. Megan from Iowa City said, "Our local grocery store was SOLD OUT of yeast and flour. Lots of bread baking going to be happening out here! I've seen friends post their experiments of giving the kitchen over to their teens to make homemade bagels."
Phil from Valley Village has a 10-year-old son in the Cub Scouts, and says one of the den leaders is "putting together a virtual Cub Scout challenge. We're going to challenge all our scouts to earn as many badges as they can, with family, and post the videos of their efforts on social media."
These tasks include building a carpentry project or, for younger scouts, pointing out two different kinds of birds that live nearby and researching them.
"For many, they will leave the house. Often for a hike to identify a tree, or something like that ... maybe visit a place where someone might show reverence ... like a cemetery or a memorial sculpture. Much of the Cub Scout program can be completed with only family."
As to questions of honoring social distancing and flattening the curve, Cubmaster Phil says, "We're still hammering out details. But most of the out-of-the-house stuff does not require interacting with the public. 'Take a walk in your neighborhood' or 'While on a hike, identify...' or something like that. Easy to practice social distancing if it's just you and your kid going for a walk in the neighborhood."
Danny from Albuquerque, N.M.'s, daughter isn't a kid anymore, but she's helping to keep kids busy — constructively: "My daughter, Molly, age 24, is an algebra teacher at a high school in Burlingame, Calif. She's teaching online and is part of a large group of teachers offering free help for kids who need tutoring."
Other moms and dads are happily curating their kids' viewing. Kira from Brooklyn said she just showed her sons "All the OK Go videos ... they (ages 5 and 2) love them." She added, "Also, just livestreamed the animal cams at the San Diego zoo! Too cute."
Tiger in Los Angeles said he's going to show his daughter Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981): "I showed her the trailer and she bought in. We’ll probably watch tonight. I’m very excited." That is, he'll show it when he's not posting memes of the family in "The Shining" with the caption, "A couple of weeks of isolation with the family. What could go wrong?"
— Hello ALI (@dorru12) March 16, 2020
In our house, the kids have worked up wish lists for the Social Distancing Film Festival and to-do lists as well. They tried playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends via Google Hangouts, with mixed success (connection problems Dad didn't figure out in time), but are game to try again soon.
Betty has specific goals for her art skills, such as wanting to "practice working with shading, drawing horns, painting, origami and lettering." She's looking forward to reading a new batch of mystery books picked up just before the pandemic forced this shared isolation. She also wants to "bake a cake," "paint my nails" and "modify my clothes." I'm not sure what she means by that last one, but I suppose I'd better find out.
She also hopes to "Make a dinner for Dad! And hopefully not poison him!"
While I was writing this, she and her brother presented me with the following lineup for our film fest: "The Usual Suspects," "The Farewell," "Community," "The Peanut Butter Falcon," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Dickinson" and "In Bruges." Some of those may take some negotiating.
But hey, we've got plenty of time to talk about it.