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What I Learned About My Kids During Lockdown, According to 17 Dads

What did the past few months teach parents about their kids? Quite a lot.

Coronavirus lockdown changed a lot — especially a parent’s relationship with their kids. The situation brought families together, asking them to be nimble in how they reacted to the new normal and how they relate to one another. This closeness allowed parents and children to get very cozy, and view one another from new vantage points. We all learned something new about one another. 

So, what did parents learn about their kids during lockdown? That’s what we wanted to know. The 17 men who responded to our request spoke of both positives (they discovered hidden passions and quiet strengths) and negatives (a child’s penchant for the dramatics; signs of bullying). All of these realizations led the men to take a harder look at what they need to do to encourage the positive and offer better examples to deter the negative. All lessons contain power. Here’s what they learned.

I Learned to Play 

“I started playing Fortnite during quarantine. I feel like I didn’t have a choice, because we have two boys and it’s around all the time. So, I just gave it a whirl. I mean, I was a pretty big gamer growing up. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was my jam. I even won a tournament in college. So, I asked if I could try it out, and my kids were equally excited and embarrassed, I think. But, I picked it up pretty quickly, and I think that surprised them. It was actually really nice to learn they thought I was pretty good at it, not to brag, because as silly as it is, I get that it’s an important part of their lives.” – John, 38, Maryland

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I Realized That My Kids Are TattleTales

“I didn’t realize my kids were such tattletales. They’re twins, both fourth graders going into fifth. A boy and a girl. And I’ve learned about each and every single marginally bad thing each of them has done for four months…from the other one. It’s annoying. It’s obnoxious. And, really, it’s upsetting. They play this weird power game as siblings where they try to bury each other in trouble to make themselves look good. So, my brain will fast forward 20 years and think, ‘Are they going to be like this when they have jobs? Are they going to be the scheming, backstabbing people I work with and loathe?’ Maybe I’m overreacting and it’s a normal kid thing. But it’s been a really negative eye-opener so far.” – Marty, 36, North Carolina  

My Kids Are Risk Takers

“I think my kids and I have done more hiking and exploring in the past few months than we have in our entire lives. It’s been really, really great. We weren’t an inactive family, but we all could stand to get some exercise. And there are plenty of beautiful parks and preserves right near us that I’m ashamed to say we’ve never even been to. I’ve learned a lot about my kids through our adventures. They’re risk-takers, and animal lovers, and really respectful of nature. That was all a big part of my childhood, and I’ve definitely lost sight of how much fun it can be. I’m glad we’re able to do this together.” – Kirk, 36, Ohio

My Kids Have Lost Faith in My Parenting

“My kids are having a hard time believing that it’s unsafe to go outside. Of course they do, right? Two teenage girls who think they’re being ruled by the Iron Curtain. I try to explain to them that this is a serious situation, and that people are dying. But it’s really in one ear, and out the other. They see people on Facebook out and about, at the beach, at restaurants, and they whine and whine and whine about how we’re being unfair. They point to the loosened restrictions all over the country and say we’re just being mean. It’s the same conversation every day, and it’s exhausting.” – J.D., 42, New Jersey

I Learned My Son’s Passion — And Learned With Him

“I know they teach coding in school now, but I never really understood what that meant. So, as my son was finishing up his school year, I took an interest in helping him with that subject. I’m not traditionally a very left-brained person, which it seems like you have to be to understand coding, so learning it at a 5th grade level actually helped. I’m not ready to build my own website yet, but the best part has been watching him teach me. Because he’s really into it. And I can see the passion and excitement when he’s like, ‘No, Dad, this is how you do it.’” – Thomas, 43, California

I Realized My Daughter Is a Master Manipulator

“My daughter is 14. I try to be aware of her social life, if not exactly active in it. Seeing how she interacts with some of her friends – especially some of the boys in her class – is kind of appalling. She plays them against each other. She talks about them behind their backs, and then lies to their faces. It’s really unsettling. I’ll admit, I’m not at my ‘Best Dad’ level right now, and I’m really struggling with how to proceed. Part of me thinks this is kind of normal, she’s a teenager, drama, and so on. But, I don’t want her to grow up thinking what she’s doing is a desired skill.” – Craig, 42, Connecticut

We Brought Back Old Traditions

“Movie nights are something we used to do when the kids were little. As they’ve grown, though, they’ve gotten interested in stuff that sort of gave movie nights a backseat. My oldest son is a freshman in college, so he’s just gone and out of the house. My younger son is in high school, so he’s just too cool for everything. I think our first quarantine movie night was about six or seven weeks ago, with Raiders of the Lost Ark, and we’ve been doing them ever since. It’s definitely not the same as when they were little, but it’s a new spin on one of my favorite traditions.” – Jack, 46, New York

I Found Out That My Son’s a Bully

“I overheard my son playing video games one night. I’m not sure who he was talking to — like if it was a friend, or someone random he was playing with online — but the shit coming out of his mouth? Man. He was calling the other kid a pussy, telling him he sucked, and telling him he was going to kick his ass. It was different than trash talk. I get trash talk. This was, like, venomous. And mean. I mentioned it to my wife, and we’re still trying to curb it. I didn’t want to lose my cool and flip out on him, because I figured that would just alienate us more. So it’s more subtle reminders about how not to be an asshole. My biggest worry, honestly, is that he’s going to get his ass kicked in real life if he keeps talking like this to the wrong person.” – Chad, 38, Rhode Island

Mask-Making Has Given My Son Purpose

“I learned that my son has fully embraced the new normal of mask wearing, so much that he even learned how to sew his own online. So, now it’s become kind of a family thing. The first thing we bonded over was me giving him a bunch of my old t-shirts to use for practice. And now, he’s like our family’s own custom tailor. We have to be careful shopping for fabric, but he’s really, really into it. Like he knows which fabric will be the most comfortable, most breathable, and all that. He’s made some for his friends. Seeing him become so fascinated with it, and skilled at it, has been really cool. And it’s given our whole family something small and fun to bond over during these crazy times.” – Jason, 37, Ohio

I Caught My Daughter Drinking

“It was so dumb. She’s 14. Before lockdown, I learned she was drinking at a party with her friends, and we had it out. But this time, during quarantine, she snuck into the fridge and grabbed two beers to drink while she was FaceTiming with her stupid boyfriend. The actual drinking part didn’t bug me so much. I probably started drinking around that age. It’s more the boneheadedness of one, doing it in the house, and two, doing it to impress her boyfriend. I thought the quarantine might actually be a good chance for her to reset and reevaluate some of her relationships and choices, but we’ve been here for more than three months, and it looks like we’re right back where we started.” – Aaron, 43, Ohio

My Kids Bonded With My Co-Workers

“My wife’s job is a little less flexible, and we can’t bring in a babysitter, so I have to keep the kids with me a lot during the workday. The people I work with have really embraced it. The kids will pop up on the screen to wave to everyone. All my coworkers ask them what they’re up to and how they’re doing. They’ve almost become unofficial mascots at this point. I’ve been taking screenshots and pictures of them talking to my colleagues, so I hope that they’ll get a good laugh out of it when they’re older. They’re really excited to be able to meet some of the people in person one day.” – Ken, 35, Arizona

We’ve Become Dog People

“We adopted a dog from our local rescue about two months into lockdown. She’s been an absolute blessing for the family. I remember the day pretty vividly. Our kids hadn’t been pestering us about getting a dog, but they all came up to me and my wife one day and asked if they could get a puppy. We figured there wouldn’t be a more perfect time than when we were all at home, able to watch it, train it, and care for it. So we went and adopted Sadie. She’s a handful but, after seeing the kids with her, I’ve learned that they’re all capable of handling the responsibilities, and that they all have incredibly big hearts.” – William, 34, Michigan

My Kids Are Dangerously Content

“I’m not saying I’m Mister Motivated all the time, but it’s really scared me to learn just how content my kids are with doing the absolute bare minimum when it comes to…everything. I get it, the landscape of everything has changed. Especially school and education. But seeing how lazy my son and daughter have both become is unnerving. Like, even though we’re locked down, you can still do stuff. You can still seek to improve yourself, explore new hobbies, and figure out how to navigate a difficult situation. They’re not interested in any of that, and they keep blaming the pandemic. Maybe that’s why it’s so scary – I worry that this is going to be a hard habit to break once things go back to normal.” – Patrick, 39, Kentucky

I Realized How Creative My Kids Really Are

“I’ve learned that both of my kids love origami. I had absolutely no idea. They said they found a book in their school library, started making stuff, and just really got into it. They’ve shown me some of their creations, and I’m blown away by the precision and detail of everything. I talked to them about why they enjoy it so much, and I really think I got a better insight into how their minds work. They love the structure, the exactness, and the possibilities origami offers. It’s early to tell if this is just a phase, or something more long lasting, but maybe this discovery will help guide their interests in the future?” – Brian, 37, Pennsylvania

I Found Out Just How Compassionate My Kids Are

“Kids don’t get enough credit for their capacity for empathy. I overheard my daughter – she’s 10 – talking to her friend on FaceTime, and her friend was saying how scared she was about all of this. My daughter kept reminding her that everything will be okay, and said that she understands. It really melted my heart. I told her I eavesdropped, and that I was proud of her. As parents, I think we underestimate our kids when it comes to those more ‘mature’ feelings. But, they can surprise us when we least expect it. And, especially during a time like this, I’m overjoyed to know that this is how my daughter is reacting.” – Nicholas, 39, Nevada 

I Realized My Daughter Is Unpleasant to Be Around

“Before COVID, my wife and I both worked during the day. So, we were present in our daughter’s life, but definitely not to the extent that we’ve been for the past few months. Our daughter is 12, and I swear to God she acts like a fucking Real Housewife. She makes things about her, victimizes herself when something doesn’t go her way. It hurts my heart to say, but she’s pretty unpleasant to be around a lot of the time. Now that we’re seeing it day in, day out it’s clear what a problem she’s become. I don’t know how we’re going to get out in front of this one, honestly. Time will tell.” – Justin, 38, Indiana 

I’ve Tried to Be as Understanding As Possible

“The hardest thing I’ve learned about my kids during lockdown is that they’re processing this whole situation in a way that just seems hopeless. And, to be honest, I empathize. Hope is really, really hard to find in the world right now. It pains me as a father to not be able to comfort them with at least some degree of certainty, and I really wonder if this is going to be the start of something more serious, like depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. That’s all unfamiliar territory for me and, like I said, I don’t blame them for feeling this way. Our relationship as a family has ebbed and flowed. Some days it’s been good, but many days it’s just drudging through each day trying to figure it out. It’s really scary.” – Michael, 40, California