May 1, 2020

Blended family makes adjustments during isolation

She walked down the makeshift center aisle in the Mentor Municipal building while familiar faces paraded by her peripheral view. Looking up to meet several pairs of eyes at the front of the room, she smiled, and continued on, knowing how different the lives of everyone in that room were going to be.

One of which was mine.

My mom, Kathy, walked down the aisle that 2017 day to marry my stepdad, Dan. In joining for second marriages, they weren't just bringing themselves together but also joining two families. Between them, they have seven kids, with four siblings for my mom and two for Dan, giving me 15 cousins on my mom’s side and three step-cousins from Dan’s side.

Life before quarantine was a series of merging families, routines and rules. When things started to fall into place, COVID-19 disrupted the groove of life as a blended family.

Between the five teenagers, two adults and three pets in the Davis-Landgraf house in Concord, Ohio, there is never a quiet moment. When COVID-19 arrived, my family had some adjustments to make.

As many members of the Davis-Landgraf family as can, squeeze into a late-night quarantine photo on the stairs. Photo by Jenna Landgraf

“I think that we're all learning patience with each other,” said my mom, now Kathy Davis. “It's very hard on all of us in different ways.”

Between puzzles, walks and movie nights, the Davis-Landgraf bunch has been trying to replicate parts of their old lives during quarantine. But with two college students, two high school students and a welding student, our schedules don’t allow for much family time.

“We have had dinner almost every single night together, which usually doesn't happen, like sitting down and talking,” said Julia Landgraf, my 17-year-old sister. “The only thing is that we really don't have as much to talk about now that we're not living our lives normally.”

The dynamics of our family relationships are morphing.

“I think I fight a little more with my dad because he doesn't want me to do things,” said Hallie Davis, my 19-year-old stepsister.

My 15-year-old brother, Josh, has spent his days playing video games with his friends. My 17-year-old stepbrother, Brett, is trying to look for welding jobs and Facetiming his girlfriend.

I find myself switching between school assignments and Netflix to cure my cabin fever.

During the day, most of us stay put in our own rooms, handling our own work. My mom even bought new desks for our rooms to help us stay productive.

But that doesn’t mean we all want to stay put. Ohio’s mandated stay-at-home has caused tension in our home as some of us still go out to see other people. Everyone in the family wants to visit with someone: cousins, parents, siblings, friends.  

“Sometimes we feel like prison guards because we are actually following the rules and not allowing our kids out,” my mom said.

Like many Ohioans, members of my family are itching to get back to life as we knew it.

“Instead of counting down the days to prom,” said Julia, “I’m just trying to count down the days until I can see my friends again.”

Jenna Landgraf is a Miami sophomore majoring in journalism and individualized studies.