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Fighting the coronavirus: Staying at home with the kids

Elizabeth Weslek, a 3rd grader home due to the closure of the Shelter Island School in response to the coronavirus, asked her mother, Vicki, if she could go to a large, supervised event in East Hampton with some of her friends.

“I had to tell her she couldn’t go,” Ms. Weslek said early this week, home from her job as clerk of the Village of Dering Harbor.

She considers herself lucky, she said, to be able to work from home and be with Elizabeth and her brothers, 7th grader Harrison, and 5th grader Evan.

“Elizabeth was disappointed, but when I explained to her about keeping our distance from people to keep us all healthy, she understood,” Ms. Weslek said.

Like most parents who are home caring for children who are out of school, the mother of three is conjuring strategies and plans to keep things as normal as possible. She’s “structuring our days” around getting a schedule for remote learning “and getting out of the house for fresh air as much as possible,” such as heading for Mashomack’s trails.

Ms. Weslek did a large grocery shop in Riverhead over the weekend and the boys went to a skateboard park there. “But I told them after to thoroughly wash their hands,” she said.

They’ve taken to teasing her, calling her a “germaphobe,” but “they understand,” Ms. Weslek said.

Allaying their fears or concerns during something new, and in many ways frightening, is done by giving them sound, clear information, she said. One way to achieve this is turning down the noise from outside.

“We never have the TV on in the house,” she said, but has the radio tuned to National Public Radio for updates.

Setting the right example is also important, Ms. Weslek said. “I never freak out,” she said. “I’ve just become more mindful.”

Reached at home on Monday afternoon, Tracy McCarthy said she was “sitting here with half a face of make up on. I’m kind of afraid to look in the mirror.”

Ms. McCarthy, director of operations of Sylvester Manor, wasn’t getting a late start to the day. Her daughter, Eliza, 8, was playing makeup artist.

They are both home these days with school closed and the Manor directing its staff to work from home.

Mother and daughter are coping well, so far, Ms. McCarthy said. “Eliza’s an only child, so she knows how to play by herself,” she said. But that’s a mixed blessing, she added, because there are no siblings to share the time, “So it’s the two of us the whole day.”

Her husband, Bryan McCarthy, is a North Ferry captain, so, she said, aware she was stating the obvious, “He can’t work from home.”

When he’s home, he will give his wife breaks to be with Eliza. “At least that’s the concept,” Ms. McCarthy said with a laugh. “But he’s here for us.”

She’s making it fun for both herself and Eliza, Ms. McCarthy said, getting outside as much as they can. They made a “fairy garden” — a miniature garden of plants and flowers to attract the fairies — and are having special “theme” days. The makeup session was part of “Makeup Monday,” she said.The previous day had been “Spa Sunday,” where mother and daughter had “lemon and water, face masks and yoga.”

Eliza is taking news of the crisis well, Ms. McCarthy said. Like Ms. Weslek, she’s limiting news coming into the house, and has told her daughter about social distancing and good hygiene.

Eliza is also taking to remote learning with enthusiasm. When they went online, she was delighted and engaged, her mother said. “She told me, ‘I like this,’” Ms. McCarthy said.

The most important thing about her daughter, she said, is “she’s not frightened. She knows this is part of life.”