When it’s time to turn in our columns, Mahoning Matters Editor Mark Sweetwood has one standard criteria for whether or not it will be good: Will his parents like it?
Turns out, the elder Sweetwoods are suckers for the musings of our children. So this week we’ve turned it over to the young ‘uns to reflect on the last year with the hopes of impressing our boss’ parents.
If you’ve attempted to manage a lot of kids in one setting — as a parent, caregiver, teacher, Chuck E. Cheese birthday party coordinator — you know there’s only one guarantee: They never agree on anything. To avoid this obstacle, we attempted to wrangle some semblance of order by providing the following prompt: “What was the bad stuff about living through a global pandemic?”
We did this in an interview style. Of course, they took this prompt and immediately rattled off a dozen terrible things from the last 18 months, half of which are inappropriate for Mahoning Matters (particularly Mr. and Mrs. Sweetwood). So we refocused and gently guided them through the prompt, understanding that some kids would take a little more coaxing than the others.
Side note (and there are several side notes in this column): we’ve tried to add links for deeper context. Some references are to meme culture, and so we try to offer a picture or definition when possible.
Here’s what they said.
All the “stuff” was bad. So much so that I needed my alcohol to get me through this (Side note: Ella is not referring to actual alcoholic drinks. We’re not terrible parents. She’s referring to the Japanese candy Pocky).
I guess, my glasses fogging up was pretty bad even though the masks have some metal thing that is supposed to prevent that from happening. Yes, yes. Lots of solutions online to stop your glasses from fogging. They were just as bad.
Online learning on a website that just used slideshows and tests to teach? No. That was bad. Really bad. I mean, where were the worksheets? Where was the teacher? I feel bad for the kids who still have to learn this way.
Always seeing everything getting worse over and over again on the news and social media was bad. Did we really need a running tally each day? Why not give us a running tally for every disease? I remember someone made a calendar where each month was a new disaster. That was funny because that’s what it felt like some days.
Everything blurring together sucked too. The only thing that really helped me was the Whip/Nae Nae dance from Watch Me by Silentó in 2015. Also, wanting to make a whole bunch of art, but overdoing it and then burning out immediately without accomplishing my goals felt bad. Thinking that I couldn’t do it just destroyed my entire vibe for a month.
There were so many celebrities and influencers feeding the basic toxic culture online before 2020, and it got much worse during the pandemic. Seriously, I mean, just because they're famous doesn't mean they're exempt from being decent people. (Side note: Nae Nae dances.)
Twitter canceling literally everything every other day sucked, too. There are some legitimate problems in the world, for sure. But everyone being bored only fueled cancel culture. I cannot wait for people to have time to do something other than sitting at home and tweet. (Side note: Nae Nae dances, again.)
(Side note: Kate started with a slightly offensive joke here. We removed it. But if you knew Kate, you’d know this is how she starts most conversations).
The worst part was that so many people got sick and some died. I had COVID, but it wasn’t that bad for me since I'm built differently. Or so I’ve been told, by my parents, over and over again, like a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, I was sick with COVID, just not that sick. It still sucked. Apparently, I went to school with it for a day without even knowing I had it, which sounds awful. But again, I didn’t feel sick. And no, my parents didn’t force me to go to school. I know how to work them. If I really wanted to miss, I would have just said, “Daddy, I’m sicky,” and he’d say, “Aww, my favorite child. You are permitted to stay in bed all day and watch YouTube and eat candy. You can go back when you’re feeling better.”
When I was forced into quarantine, I missed seeing my friends. Since we weren't in school as often, I couldn't talk to them as much as we used to. That sucked because we had just started a cult. The pandemic really messed up our cult-building plans. No cult meetings for me. *sadge peepo*
I got bored sometimes, but it wasn't hard to overcome. I practiced killer TikTok dances. Ha ha ha! I am a kid, so I obviously love Tik-Tokking with my peers. (Side note: Kate hates TikTok.)
Online school was really bad. I couldn’t do stuff and ask questions without it taking a long time to get answers. It was much easier when we were in the same room with our teachers.
Also, dinosaurs didn’t exist during the COVID pandemic. I think that’s bad. Jurassic Park is a lie. (Or is it?)
I didn’t like being forced to be in the house, away from people all the time, not being able to go anywhere. But I was only 10, so it’s not like I had some kind of busy social calendar prior to March 2020. I’m 11 and I still don’t.
My Mom told me that Skate Zone went out of business. That’s pretty sad. I liked that place. If they closed because of the pandemic, that’s another reason to hate COVID.
People got sick and died. My sister got COVID and I share a room with her. So, of course, I had to quarantine because of her. Thanks, Kate. I’ll find a way to get you back someday.
Masks. Social distancing. Not being able to see your friends. We had a horrible election. Many people died, like my Aunt. I really loved my Aunt. A lot of other people got sick because of COVID, including two of my teachers. One of my teachers is still sick because of it. She just posted on Facebook about how she got to use a real toilet for the first time in months. Months!
I can’t imagine not being able to poop in a real toilet.
OK, I’m not doing any of my jokes this time. This is serious. This is an interview. I need to be serious.
My sister got COVID, which meant we got to stay home even more. Thanks Kate. I’m only kidding. My sister is OK, I guess. OK. No more jokes. This is serious.
Online learning was a different experience than regular learning. It felt different because you were doing everything at your house. It was sort of a hellscape (Am I allowed to say hellscape in your column?).
(Editor’s side note: I checked with my parents and they said, “Sure.”)
Many people died. Not only by COVID, but there were wildfires and hurricanes and other stuff. That was all bad. See, I can be serious.
Mom and Dad
Well, there you have it, loyal readers (e.g., Mr. and Mrs. Sweetwood). The unvarnished truth from some of our youngest citizens. We try to balance the good with the bad, so we’ll report the musings of the Earnheardt kids on the upside of the pandemic in our next column.
Now it’s time to take them to Handel’s, because we pay in ice cream.
— Ella, Katie, Sadie and Ozzie are all budding artists, authors, dancers and comedians (on any given day of the week). Mary Beth Earnheardt is a professor in the Anderson Program in Journalism at Youngstown State University where she advises student media. Follow her on Twitter at @mbexoxo. Adam Earnheardt is professor and special assistant to the provost at YSU and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists executive board. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.