It’s been about two months since I last posted, and I couldn’t help but recoil a little when I saw the title of my last post: “Five tips for getting out the door peacefully.” It was a simpler, more innocent time. Definitely before coronavirus.
So much has changed! If I were writing that post today, I suppose the title would be the opposite: “Five tips for quarantining at home peacefully.” But I don’t need to write that. With 7 in 10 Americans now living under mandatory stay-at-home orders, it’s already out there.
Coronavirus and the new normal
As a family, we are doing well. We recognize daily–and increasingly–our privilege to be snuggled up at home, healthy, safe, and together as a family. Our jobs are intact. The girls’ preschool has done a terrific job adapting to distance learning (and maintaining our sense of community) via Zoom video meetings, e-mails, phone calls, and other tools. We are truly thankful.
At the same time, this is a big change for everyone. On the last day of preschool, the kids marked off two weeks at home on their preschool wall calendar. With their extra clothes and naptime loveys stowed safely in their cubbies, they departed for an adjusted “spring break.”
That night, Liana (age 4) announced at the dinner table that “the coronavirus is spreading.” She proudly demonstrated the proper method of hand-washing she had learned, and explained how it would keep our family safe from germs. She told us how she had said to her friends, “See you in two weeks!”
And so we began our new, virtual life.
Preschool from home
Initially, the kids were thrilled about the prospect of more screen time. They celebrated when they heard that their teacher and classmates would appear on the computer for circle time. They would get to use Daddy’s laptop!
Blissfully ignorant of the news media, it has taken some time for them to actually notice that things in their lives have changed. Their initial excitement is just starting to wane as they realize that this is going to be a long-term thing, a new routine altogether.
Case in point: the other day, Liana and I were playing a secret-message game.
“I love you, Mommy,” she whispered into my ear. I gave her a squeeze.
Then came the second message, whispered hopefully: “Can I play with my friends today?”
It was sweet and innocent. It was also a little sad. Video calls or not, there is no replacement for playing with other kids. And as the “new normal” extends from weeks to months, I worry about how the impacts will multiply. I worry for my pregnant friends who are unsure what hospitals will look like when they deliver. It’s scary to think about potential exposures for my brother-in-law who is an ER doctor, my aunt who is a nurse, and my cousin who works in a grocery store. I am frightened for my grandmother in assisted living. I feel sad for my friend who just postponed her May wedding. And yes, even though we are safe and healthy, I feel a little sad for my kids.
Taking it day by day
For a planner like me, uncertainty is one of the hardest things to manage. There are so many things we do not know. Will schools be open in May? Will they open in August? When will I go back to work? When will I be able to visit Grandma again? Will our friends and family stay healthy?
But taken day by day, it is easier.
And there are some good things about a break from our often-dizzying schedule of activities. It’s given us time to relax as a family and do some fun projects at home. Last weekend, the kids had an absolute BLAST experimenting with color mixing. We started with water in the primary colors, then measured and mixed to create the rainbow and experimental blends. The kids are so joyful when they dig in, explore, and make a mess. They’ve already asked several times to do this activity again!
In many ways, the coronavirus has brought on feelings of time scarcity. We are balancing work demands with new responsibilities, including home-schooling, and there is uncertainty about when we will go back to our old routines. But in other ways, the “new normal” has brought on feelings of time abundance within our family unit.
We have more time than ever for phone calls with grandparents, cooking projects, and playing in our backyard. Liana has already learned how to pedal the bike she got for Christmas around the neighborhood (with no training wheels!) The kids have been building elaborate, multi-room forts in our family room. They have embraced backyard games like “Duck, Duck, Goose” and silly obstacle courses, which often end with delighted, exhausted fits of giggling in the spring grass.
Day by day, we will get through this challenge.
Stay safe and healthy out there, friends.