A note I wrote from April 16, 2020

From my dining room table: My two children, ages four and six, have now been at home for 35 days. Aside from waving to neighbors from our driveway and driving by a friend’s house to shout “Happy Birthday!” from the car window, they have not seen or spent time with family members, teachers, or friends.

As I write this reflection, thinking about the intersections of parenting, research, and what I would write about for this first humanities moment, I look back through photos of all of the art work my children and I made together this past year. Photos of drawings, yard signs, letters, and baby chickens in the skirts we made and decorated for them using cupcake holders (yes, that’s a thing). I have been thinking for a long time about how parenting and research are integrated together, long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now sitting here looking at these photos of fairy houses, sun prints, and posters we made for neighbors, it seems more relevant and prescient than ever.

Madeleine Grumet (1988) posits, “Theory grows where it is planted, soaking up the nutrients in the local soil, turning to the local light” (p. 14). For myself, theory and research are planted in the intersections of motherhood, teaching, artistry, and care. They overlap and intertwine until one cannot be understood without the other. My research can not help but turn towards my children, as well as young learners in my community, especially during this uncertain time in which we’ve found ourselves. As a researcher and parent, my biggest fear is that in this wait for the return to “normalcy” we will miss the quotidian happenings that are packed with nutrients for growth and light.

In my mind, the quotidian moments of this past year, specifically the sharpened memories of making art with my kids at home, is one great, big humanities moment- a pause to refocus on what matters. I do not wish to glorify any parts of this horrible pandemic, which has affected so many and changed lives forever. However the pause, quite literally from my dining room table, and the experience of making intentional art with my kids on a daily basis was something that had been missing for quite some time. Grumet explains, “The dining room table became the locus of this research not because its design was conducive to meditations on eidetic form but because of its proximity to the lifeworld being carried on in the adjoining kitchen” (p. 5). During my time as a doctoral student, I felt that success in my academic career came with the price of failing as a mother. Although I’ve been writing and teaching about the importance of art education for many years, it was quite often neglected at home. Before the pandemic, there were many days my dining room table was (hypothetically) empty, our lives too busy to come together in this space to sit, talk, learn. But, during the days of shelter-in-place, my table truly became the locus of my life, my heart, my research. It was covered in books, art supplies, worksheets, Play-Doh, lunch: the materials of our lives. I found myself trying to be fully present to these lifeworlds, to both the human and non-human things we are surrounded by. What lessons were learned from our time making art together around our table, and how are we changed from these experiences?

Nel Noddings (2013) argues that “It is important for the young, in addition to being cared for, to see and assist in the genuine caring done by adults” (p. xiv). The more practice we all have in caregiving, the more likely it is for us to not only develop a method of caring and empathy but to also transfer this care to others. I found that intentional art-making, together, can be an act of care and empathy. I understand more fully how art-making can give young learners a language to express themselves during uncertain times, and how making art together opens up space for relationships to grow and conversations to be had.

Navigating the intersections of parenting and doctoral research is hard work and not without its share of failure. However, I feel challenged to continue to centralize myself to the lifeworlds carrying on around me, even as we move towards a return to “normal”. My hope for myself, and the reader, is that we take note of and show care for these quotidian moments we may have been overlooking for so long, even if it is something as simple as making a portrait out of leaves and flowers. These opportunities can be rich with opportunities for building relationships and finding beauty in the everyday.


Grumet, M. (1988). Bitter milk: Women and teaching. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Noddings, N. (2013). Caring: A relational approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

– Amber Pitt (Ph.D. Candidate)