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The Dads of Commerce share thoughts on pandemic-era fatherhood.

On this Father’s Day, Commerce Bank honors all of the dads out there, who are hopefully taking a break from work and chores and getting some much-deserved rest and relaxation. Of course, this is the second Father’s Day to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while things aren’t as locked down as they were at this time last year, they aren’t fully normal either.

In the spirit of the day, we asked some of the dads at Commerce Bank to reflect back on what their parenting experience has been like over the past year or so, and share their thoughts with us. What we heard was heartfelt, optimistic, and — in true dad fashion — occasionally funny. (Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

Many people have started new “traditions” with their families during the pandemic. What new things have you been doing that you expect to continue even after the pandemic is long over?

Matthew Schornheuser

Contact center traffic and systems specialist from St. Louis, MO: We started doing bi-weekly Sunday Zoom calls with our family. We have grandparents, all of our cousins and their babies, everyone’s on. That way my grandparents get their updates on all the babies. My grandma has been battling lung cancer leading up to the pandemic, so the biweekly Zoom calls give her something to look forward to. Even though we’re all vaccinated and can spend time together, we still do the Zoom. It’s all my side of the family, and my wife thinks it’s the most bonkers thing she’s seen in her life. We have to strap ourselves in every other Sunday at 5:00 and get ready for the chaos.

Jason Witte

Jason's kids working with wood

Associate vice president and consumer group servicing manager from Kansas City, MO: Prior to COVID, our family spent so much time running from activity to activity that we rarely slowed down to “be here now.” Tasks like taking my daughter to school every day seemed ordinary or mundane until they were gone. You realize that you missed having those 20-minute conversations in the car each day. Once things slowed down and we were limited in where we could go, we started doing more things to bring us closer. We built a garden, played more basketball, started running again and enjoyed that time that we had been rushing through before. Now that things are opening back up, the “chaos” has kicked back in again, but I think we built new traditions that will last. Our kids are growing older and at a time when they may normally gravitate away from us, they seem to still want to be around us. I think that’s saying something about what we built last year.

Philip Bennett

Ava grocery shopping little helper

Strategic planning analyst from Overland Park, KS: There’s a grocery store right next door to my daughter’s day care. I got in the habit of stopping by the store after picking up my daughter, and I discovered that she loves it. Her favorite thing is to push a tiny cart around the store. She gets so amped up about it; her eyes light up when I suggest it. We’re there so often that the employees are starting to know who she is. Most of the time she walks out with a flower or a balloon, whatever the store employees give her that day. I’ll take her even if we don’t need anything. She calls out everything she sees, especially as she learns her letters and numbers. It gets a little out of hand, and she’ll be yelling in the store and everyone is looking at us, but it’s fun for me. I’ll milk this thing as long as I can. Who knows how long she’ll love hanging out with dad in grocery stores?

Jeff Lucas

Mortgage concierge team supervisor from Kansas City, MO: During the pandemic, my 8-year-old daughter and I started a bedtime routine of watching and making TikToks. We brush our teeth, make a TikTok, watch some TikToks, then read a book. It’s fun to have a laugh right before going to sleep. She’s been really into TikTok for a while, so I made a goofy one with her once one night before bed, and she asked if we could do it every night. I enjoy watching her come up with her wild ideas, and how excited she gets to explain them and have us try them out.

Daniel Ecklund

Health care portfolio manager from Roeland Park, KS: When the pandemic started and my wife was pregnant, we started making a point of taking the dog on longer walks. We’d gotten lazy about walking the dog prior to the pandemic, so this was a good opportunity to get back into a good habit. We all loved it, and now that the baby is here, she loves the walks, too. We’ve done it every single day, a couple miles a day.

Justin Wilson

Justin with kids

Senior SBA specialist from Kansas City, MO: We’ve always loved going to national parks and hiking, so we focused in on that during the pandemic. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park last summer. We rented a cabin in the mountains that was very isolated. It was just our family, and that was really nice.

How has your experience been with working from home?

Ecklund: When we first shifted to working remotely, I was so against it. I thought I’d hate it and I wouldn’t be able to focus. I wasn’t a believer. And now, I love it. I’d be totally okay with it if I got to work from home for the rest of my life. I’m sure I’ll adjust just fine when we get back to normal and we’re all back in the office, but I was surprised how much I liked working from home. I love the extra family time, and I’ve been just as productive.

Bennett: Working from home has been a blessing and a curse for me. The flexibility is amazing, and I don’t have a commute right now. On the other hand, I’m stuck in my house all day. I’m trying to spend more time outdoors right now, because otherwise I’d be inside the house all day. We go on walks, go to parks, play in the yard — anything to get outside.

Wilson: I appreciate that if I have 20 minutes between meetings, I can run downstairs and play with the kids for 20 minutes. We’ve started to take more family trips together and get outside and hike as a family. We go for a lot of walks. I love to be a big kid myself, so when it’s nice outside, I’ll grab a water gun, sneak up on the kids, and stir the pot a bit. I have two boys, age 6 and 3, and we have a lot of fun together.

What’s been the hardest part of the pandemic for you?

Schornheuser: Both sides of our family have high-risk folks, and my wife has been teaching in-person since January, so we’ve been pretty isolated from everyone just to be safe. That’s been a challenge since it means being at home with a newborn and not feeling comfortable about asking for help from our families. But we recently started to visit family a bit, and that’s been quite nice.

Lucas: It’s been hard to work from home and be away from the people I worked and interacted with every day. I worked with a great department of people, and I just miss that day-to-day of saying hello and having chit-chats. Also, my kids are in school and preschool, and my wife works as a high school counselor, so it’s just me working from home during the day. I miss having people around during the day.

Ecklund: I’m missing downtown a bit. There’s no reason for me to go there right now, with so many businesses closed, but I liked getting a coffee with coworkers or meeting friends who also worked downtown for a drink after work. I miss the camaraderie of my coworkers being in the office.

Any final words of wisdom for getting through the pandemic?

Wilson: I think it’s important for anyone to try to enjoy what we have in front of us. Don’t focus on the negative; instead, focus on what you can control. I do what I can to stay safe and enjoy my family as much as I can.