I wish I knew how to better handle the kind of days that we have suddenly found ourselves in. For those of us with kids at home, it feels like an unexpected summer, but without any time to make travel plans or sign up for camps or join a pool. I fear it will be a lame kind of summer break.
As I’ve scrambled to figure out what our days will look like, I decided to draw on my experiences of previous summers to prepare: I went to the library and got a ton of books. My husband bought veggies to plant. He put together the trampoline the twins got for their birthday. We cleared our schedules and prepared for a slower pace.
Underneath all of our actions and decisions was this core guiding principle: “Don’t make it worse for other people.”
Here are a few other guiding principles I’ve come up with to help see us through this not-very-fun “summer” :
1. It isn’t about us. When university and local administrators cancelled school last week, they reminded us that we all need to put others first. Bold leadership from athletics and the arts reoriented us towards a common goal. My own little family doesn’t have any underlying health issues; even if we got sick, we’d probably be fine. But we do have a major responsibility to not spread any illness to those who have chronic conditions or are elderly. They are our primary focus. This means that we won’t gather in large groups or visit family or put our own desires above the good of the group.
2. Homeschool parents are the new experts. I really don’t want my kids’ brains to turn to mush from too much screen time. I’ve printed out a loose “schedule” that a homeschool mom shared to help structure our days. It includes outside time (hooray that the twins have that trampoline) and time for online assignments. I’ve asked my homeschooling friends for more guidance and tips. They’ve been educating their kids for years and haven’t turned into day-drinkers yet, so there’s hope for us novices.
3. Feelings are allowed. It’s important that our family members are allowed to share their feelings about this bizarre new world. My oldest is reluctantly home from college and her spring track season has been canceled. My son is waiting to see what will be left of his senior year and is trying to figure out which college to attend without visiting campuses. The twins miss their friends and their activities. My husband’s work, selling equipment to nursing homes, is taking a hit because his salespeople aren’t allowed into the facilities. These are all real losses and disappointments. Yes, things could be so much worse, but that doesn’t mean our sadness and anxiety aren’t legitimate.
4. Introverts need to plan for some space. Social distancing is my jam. As an introvert, I feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this. Social distancing, yes, please. Socializing in small groups sounds dreamy. I can stay home for a really long time with my books and my garden. However, I live with five other people and they can’t leave this space. I’m going to need to work on being patient and kind with them. I should also carve out some time for walks by myself and time for reading in my tub.
5. Until we can figure out how to help, we won’t make it worse. And we’ll pray. I’ll continue praying for those making decisions about the public good; for those in the medical profession; for the kids who have relied on schools for safety and nourishment; for those who aren’t sure how they’ll make ends meet during this scary time.
These aren’t easy days, but I do believe in us. As a society, we are all modeling for our kids our belief that the whole is more important than the individual. This is important work.
We are also showing our kids that while disappointment can be devastating, we’re strong enough to handle it.
Together, we’ve got this. We belong to each other.