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Loyola University students leave campus after the university announced it will suspend in-class instruction and transition to online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic in New Orleans, Wednesday March 11, 2020. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Like many dads being honored for Father’s Day, I’ve already gotten a surprising gift this year. The pandemic, though tragic in so many ways, brought my children home to me.

Our daughter, a young professional, and our son, a college student, usually live out of state. He came home this spring to study online after his campus closed. Our daughter, who can do her job remotely, didn’t want to weather the lockdown alone, so she returned to us, too.

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Normally, we’re together only on holidays and special occasions. When our house emptied after New Year’s, I didn’t expect to see the kids until Easter.

Having a full nest again hasn’t always been easy. But sharing a lockdown has taught me new things about my children.

We all know about Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, an annual event meant to teach kids about their parents’ professional lives. This spring, the tables turned as our son and daughter worked remotely a few feet away from me. I got to see what their work lives are like, and it was eye-opening.

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Mostly, I realized how hard they work. Our son cloistered himself in a bedroom to tackle tough math instruction, finishing strong in spite of his displacement from campus. From a dining room table, our daughter ably steered her clients through troubled waters.

Father’s Day is customarily a time to acknowledge the wisdom of elders. But in this unprecedented chapter of our national life, maybe the young have things to teach us, too. Their flexibility and resilience amid misery have been special strengths for the nation and the world.

Our son is studying robotics, and the closure of his campus denied him access to the laboratory where he can do his best work. But he’s accepted that reality without complaint, doing parts of projects online until the lab reopens. The pandemic crushed hopes of faraway internships this summer, but he hasn’t griped about that, either. To make himself useful, he’s volunteering at the local library and food bank.

Our daughter has embraced the global shift to remote workplaces as an opportunity. She’s teaching herself how to work more nimbly away from a traditional office, sensing that such arrangements could define work life well beyond the crisis of COVID-19.

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My children have been far from alone in their willingness to quickly adapt. A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak to an online class of college students. I learned more from them in the bargain. They spoke without self-pity about what had been asked of them as they were uprooted from campus. Despite the confusion, they were keeping their chins up and plunging ahead, seeing self-isolation as something they could do for their country.

Father’s Day has arrived this month in a year short of optimism. Dads, look to the daughters and sons in your life this weekend. They can remind you what hope looks like. 


Email Danny Heitman at danny@dannyheitman.com.