Checking in with ... The Durrant-West family of Leeds

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  • Dale West, right, and Hannah Durrant, back row right, and their four children, JFK sixth grader Parker, back row left, 12, and Leeds fourth graders, from left, Ezra, Rowan and Ellie, all 10, sit outside their Leeds home with the family dog, Scout, a 2-year-old Arubian Cunucu. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dale West, background left, and Hannah Durrant, right, of Leeds join three of their four children to play outside. From left are Leeds fourth graders, Ellie, Rowan and Eza, all 10, Not pictured is the triplets’ older sister, Parker, 12, a sixth grader at JFK Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hannah Durrant helps her daughter, JFK sixth grader Parker, 12, with one of the chickens the family keeps at their Leeds home. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rowan Durrant-West, 10, a fourth grader at Leeds School, swings on the ropeline obstacle course in the backyard of his Leeds home on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hannah Durrant and her daughter, JFK sixth grader Parker, 12, put one of their chickens back in the coop at their Leeds home on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ellie Durrant-West, 10, a fourth grader at Leeds School, jumps on the trampoline in the back yard of her Leeds home on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rowan Durrant-West, 10, a fourth grader at Leeds School, shoots hoops at his Leeds home on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Parker Durrant-West, 12, a sixth grader at JFK Middle School, swings on the ropeline obstacle course in the back yard of her Leeds home. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hannah Durrant, left, and Dale West talk with three of their four children, Leeds fourth graders, from left, Rowan (obscured), Ellie and Ezra, all 10, on the back deck. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dale West, right, and Hannah Durrant, back row right, and their four children, JFK sixth grader Parker, back row left, 12, and Leeds fourth graders, from left, Eza, Rowan and Ellie, all 10, sit outside their Leeds home with the family dog, Scout, a two-year-old Arubian Cunucu, on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 4/8/2020 6:26:20 PM
Modified: 4/8/2020 6:26:08 PM

Editor’s note: Social distancing means we can’t all be together right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still check in on each other. “Checking in with … ” is a new series doing just that. If you have suggestions about who we should feature, please email us at newsroom@gazettenet.com with the series name as the subject line.

Interview with Dale West

Who lives in the same house as you?

Hannah Durrant (spouse), Parker (12), Rowan (10), Ezra (10), Ellie (10), Scout (dog), Valentino (cat) and 10 chickens (who really live outside).

How are you juggling kids at home with your other responsibilities?

Hannah and I both have jobs that have seriously ramped up in the crisis — she’s the director of residence life at Smith College, and I’m in charge of IT and data at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. It was seriously bad the first week while Hannah was still on campus most days and we were figuring out how to manage our increasingly demanding jobs and four challenging learners with a dozen different teaching styles and platforms. The first day we tried ended in major tears and meltdowns on everyone’s part, and we ended up leaving the kids to Netflix and Scratch most days while scraping together meals.

For the second week, we came up with a chart, which we’ve very loosely kept to. Each day starts with a National Geographic documentary (OK, it has now evolved into “Hell’s Kitchen,” which has snuck into the allowable “educational” shows) followed by a series of independent tasks that count as learning and buy us time to get chunks of work done. That documentary time is gold, because after it’s over, all hell usually breaks loose over who gets what computer, what counts as math, who gets what computer again, why Nintendo counts as PE, who gets what computer (again!), etc. All day, we take turns muting ourselves on Zoom to redirect, break up fights, reset computers and break up more fights. Every day we go to bed exhausted, feeling just about as tired as when we had triplet newborns — and equally grateful that we have jobs and a family that keeps us so busy.

How are you getting the things you need: groceries, entertainment, exercise, anything you consider essential?

We actually used to use Instacart religiously, but now Hannah does the shopping once a week for us and her parents. Most evenings we take a pause for walks, games, dinner and a family movie night. It’s the best part of the day and something we often took for granted before with kids doing so many activities.

Any good suggestions to offer?

The social isolation for the kids is the hardest to bear. In some ways, they are closer to each other as siblings, but they are struggling with being physically apart from their friends for such a long stretch. Some days they are outright cranky and restless. One night one of the kids cried themselves to sleep because they were so tired of being stuck at home. A couple things that have helped: video chats! Parker has standing Google Hangout time with some of her friends, Ellie will occasionally FaceTime with a friend, and the other day we hooked the boys up with a Nintendo Online basketball game with a couple of friends. They Zoomed while they played, and it was so refreshing to hear them laugh and talk trash that I wanted to cry.

While we’re managing, I worry about the impact on them in the long run, though — I mean, we’re lucky that we have a big family and can keep engaging them, but they really need to be around other kids. I guess that’s not many tips. It’s all pretty hard, and we’re constantly reminding ourselves and the kids to be forgiving and to do our best.




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