Jeremy McFarren and his wife Erin are both public school art teachers. Erin teaches at Whitney Young Elementary and Jeremy teaches at Carroll High School—so they have both ends of the age spectrum covered. They have a 16-year-old daughter who is a sophomore at North Side High School and is heavily involved in dance and theater. Their 14-year-old son is an 8th grader at Memorial Park Middle School and he loves playing with his jazz band. He’s also super into science, mechanics, cars and space.
The stay-at-home order hindered most spring break plans, so in order to make it “not so crappy,” said Jeremy, they started hosting theme dinners.
“We are a family of creatives. We love to cook. We love to celebrate. We love to share meals together,” he said. “So when we sat down to plan out the week, we looked at what we wanted to do to make it somewhat special for them and planned out dinners. I think the next step was precipitated with: ‘Y’know it would be funny if we dressed in Drag for a dinner, or like a Mid-Century family for our All American Burger Night or as Disney Tourists for Pizza Night or Muggles and Wizards for Fish and Chips.’ I think our collective favorite was the Mid-Century All American, but I also loved our Thai-Food-Fresh-Roll Beach Night. Even though it was pretty cold!”
The McFarren’s watch a lot of movies. They tried to start a few dance parties, but it generally turned into mom and dad awkwardly gyrating in the kitchen while the kiddos moved more than their feet.
“We try to play games and work on puzzles,” he said. “We all have various creative projects going. There are some tears and a lot of talking. We try to keep things loose and let everyone deal with this mess together but also in their own way. Of course, a lot of FaceTiming and Zooming with grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.”
Jeremy has been engaged in remote learning from the beginning, working in NACS. He said the schedule helps him help some kids. “It’s super good to be able to check in with students,” he said. “Many more than some think really need that connection to their teachers, so I’ve been glad to do that for them. It’s definitely hard for all involved.”
The McFarren’s kids are in FWCS and things have been a little more up in the air. “Now that remote learning has started, it is good for them to get that same face to face time with teachers,” Jeremy said. “We have supplemented with some online classes and activities for them. The regularity of some specific check in times and activities helps a lot.”
When asked what they miss the most about “normal” life, Jeremy said, “hugs! Well maybe not our son, but we miss being with and hugging our people.” Their son misses playing music with his friends the most.
“Being with, hugging, looking to the eyes of loves ones—just being around those who mean the most to us is a pretty big loss.”
He continued, “Time is lost. Even those of us (me) who don’t mind staying at home and doing creative things really feel the loss of time: time with parents, cousins, friends. It’s the kind of thing that forces contemplation. It’s scary. What can I do without? What can I do to carry on? What helps when I am overwhelmed and afraid? Our people. Not having that makes this harder.”