There’s No Place Like Home

In a climate of much uncertainty, Stuyvesant students are weighing in on how quarantine has affected their family dynamics.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Perhaps Uncle Bill sings in the shower. Perhaps Grandpa, deafer by the day, puts the TV on full blast no matter who’s on what important Zoom call. And without a doubt, Mom is the one who keeps leaving black hairs on the bar of soap in the bathroom, even though she insists they’re too dark to be hers. It’s hard, or perhaps impossible, to recall a time when we spent so much time with family. Mannerisms become annoying. Siblings were already annoying, even before the pandemic started up. Yet this pandemic has also provided a rare chance for us to truly get to know the people we live with. This period has been a time for family members to share things. Other than the soap, that is.

For sophomore Eugenia Ochoa, whose school and work schedule have always stood as barriers to bonding time, these past few months have provided her with an opportunity to foster a stronger relationship with her family. “The world right now is in a pretty strange state. We have been through it all together, supporting each other how we can and trying to stay calm when basically the world is falling apart,” Ochoa said. “That has made us closer than we were before.” Time spent with her parents entails conversing, watching movies, and her favorite activity so far: walking their dog.

Junior Rachel Lin has also developed a routine with her family. “We eat dinner together and have game night with Monopoly and Chinese poker at least once a week. I’ve played games and spent more time with my family since the start of the pandemic, and we watch K-dramas and Netflix every day together,” she said.

Sophomore Angel Liu has grown closer to family members over quarantine too, most notably with her grandmother. Pre-quarantine, Liu visited her grandmother fairly infrequently, in trips that always felt more obligatory than voluntary. “I used to visit my grandma pretty much the same time every month or so,” Liu said. “Our schedules were pretty hectic, and so it felt weirdly formal.”

Ever since March, however, Liu’s grandmother has moved in with the rest of her family. Liu’s family lives in a house, and her grandmother used to live in a tightly-packed apartment complex. “With COVID, we thought it would be safer and more convenient for her,” she said. “She used to live pretty close to us, like a 30-minute drive, but quarantine’s been nice because I get to spend more time with her and really get to know her,” Liu said.

Similarly, junior Xiaoshen Ma’s grandparents, who she lives with, have been a source of strength for her during quarantine. “When I’m feeling sad, I ask my grandparents for a hug,” she said. Despite experiencing the quarantine blues, Ma acknowledges that there are some positives to not going to school, especially in terms of family bonding. “My grandparents are happy I’m home and safe. It’s winter, so my grandparents are always like ‘thank God’ she doesn’t have to go to school if it’s snowing.”

Family connections are not confined to New York City: students have also reached out to family members outside of the five boroughs. For Ochoa’s family, for example, connections with relatives outside of the city have cemented even further. “Before the pandemic, we didn’t really talk to them much. Now, we schedule reunions almost every other week,” Ochoa said.

However, managing family relations during these tumultuous times isn’t always smooth sailing. Some sibling relationships are barely staying afloat. “I hate siblings!” Lin, who has a sister and brother, said earnestly. “I feel pretty alienated from my brother since he’s locked himself into his room and played games all day since the pandemic began.”

Junior Devin Deng finds himself in a similar predicament with his sister, though their clashes are a bit more heated. “We probably talk a single time a day, but we’re usually just screeching at each other. It’s usually just about random stuff she gets mad at for no reason,” he said.

In fact, Ma recalls a certain incident when she and Deng were in a Zoom call doing homework together, and she was startled after hearing a door abruptly slam shut in the background. “I heard [Deng]’s sister say ‘Devin! Where are the cookies?! Why do you always eat the cookies?!’ [Deng] then responded by screaming back, ‘I’m a growing boy!’” Ma said.

Despite the rough patches, family gives the pandemic a silver lining. Whether it’s sharing a laugh in front of the TV or yelling at each other across the house, time spent with family can be cherished. “I’ve become so much closer with my family these past few months [by] just hanging out more,” Ma said. “I’m just thankful they’re happy and healthy.”

And in case you need another thing to be thankful about: Uncle Bill may be running up the water bill, but at least he bathes.