Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Back in March, when schools shut down one week before Spring break, parents, teachers, and staff, truly believed we would come back a few weeks later. When the weeks went by and the lockdown rules became more and more strict, a friend mentioned that she thought we would be ending the school year at home. I could not process her words and couldn't seem to think past one day at a time. Now here we are in the middle of summer, facing the reality that school will not be reopening in the fall. My son, who had overheard rumblings about going back to school a few days a week, or part-time, was looking forward to seeing some of his friends again. When we told him school would start at home again, my heart broke when he began to cry. He asked why we weren't going back for just a few days, and when I explained that the virus is still a risk, he said, "Stupid COVID!" He continued crying and explaining that he really doesn't like home school. I nodded in agreement. I don't like it either. I thought I would, but it didn't take long for the shine to wear off, and the struggles each day to take its place.
We completed a weird school year, are in the middle of a bizarre summer, and will soon start another strange school year. Our feelings are all over the place, shuffling between wanting what is best to keep us safe through all of this, but also missing human interaction. I am to the best of my ability, trying to making sure my children are "fine." Making sure my children are okay is generally not enough for me. I strive for a bit better than that for them, but given the circumstances, well enough is as good as it's going to get these days. We have moments of pure joy, but we also have deep sadness about our reality right now. It will take some time for life to resemble how we knew it just a few short months ago.
We are all impatiently waiting for good news to present itself. For the first time that I can think of, the world is truly going through something together. The irony though is that as much as we are together in this, we have never been so separated. This is a broken time in history and like my son, I feel like just one of the many pieces trying to figure out how to connect together. When my children get upset lately, the issue rarely reveals itself as a result of this pandemic, but it almost always is the reason. I have to remind them -- and myself -- that this is hard for all of us. It won't be like this forever, but it feels like forever right now. Each day blends into the next and sometimes I feel that I choose activities for us each day just to distract ourselves. I give my permission to look for whatever way works right now. This is all so much bigger than us. I didn't answer my son's question as to why we were all here. I am not sure he was even expecting us to, but even if he was, I wouldn't know where to begin. When I start thinking about career, income, creativity, I get sad that they are taking a back seat right now, yet when I see my youngest look up at the sky and wonder, I am glad I have all this time with him to ponder it all, too.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
There is a time in the last few months when at least once we have all forgotten to put on our mask to go outside. I am sure it didn't take long to remember to turn around and go get it. For my kids, especially my younger one, forgetting happens a bit more often. We have had our whole life to walk freely around others without a mask, so it makes sense that suddenly since March wearing one daily is hard to get used to. It feels strange seeing friends or family that you haven't seen in a while, and not hug them. It is hard to stand close to a friend you have had forever and have to back up because they are too close, even with a mask. These everyday reminders of the pandemic are hard enough for me, but for children, it's that much harder. That is why, as much as I would like to have them in school, it just isn't safe.
I hear my kid's phrase questions like this a lot, "When the virus is over, can we _____ (have a sleepover, go bowling, get conveyer belt sushi, go on an airplane, and on and on). The reality is, I don't have an answer for any of those. I am not sure how long it will take for the virus to "be over", or what day-to-day life will be like by then. I certainly know my kids need to keep social lives, they need to get outside and that homeschool will include those two things in a way that it didn't in the past. I can only handle my own kid's safety the best I can by making sure I communicate with the parents of friends to make sure we are all on the same page. If I see on social media kids hanging out with other kids next to them and mask free, I will take pause before letting my kids hang out with them. This isn't because I am judgmental; this is because I want us to stay healthy, and the science has convinced me that distance and masks help to that end.
If and when our children return to school they will be wearing masks all day, they will be in smaller groups, and they will be spread out from each other. Some of them might let their masks fall down over their nose though. Likely some will get excited to share something with a friend and come in too close. Chances are good that my kids will have a challenging time correcting others, as I do. I have stood at the door of a friend's house who said, "I am not masking up for you" and then smiled. I have been told by a few friends, "Oh, come on in, I have been really careful, don't worry about it." Since my twenties, I have not felt this kind of peer pressure. It reminds me of guys pushing for unprotected sex because they are "fine." Or being at a party and being told it would be a lot more fun if I just "did a little bump." There is a very specific feeling of losing your footing when being told, so to speak, that you won't have as much fun if you keep "masking up."
I'm all in favor of my children independently navigating themselves, but not with this virus. They can decide if they feel like having a sandwich for lunch or not, but they can't choose to not wear a mask because it doesn't feel great. I believe my kids understand that, but I am not willing to risk their safety around others who might not. For that reason, the idea of sending them back to school sucks. For all the fun, social, real live in-person interaction they will be missing, having them at home sucks too. Collectively, we are all going to play the "let's make the best of it game" for the next few (weeks? months? years?). I think that the only people saying 2020 was a good year are people who have recently become parents, survived illness, or have stock in Zoom. Who can predict what the end of this year holds? There's still time for more surprises.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Every August -- the last few weeks before school would start -- my parents would take my siblings and me on a road trip. They were teachers and in the summer they would work at summer camps. Between camp ending and school beginning, we would go on an adventure. For a few years in a row, we went to Kennebunkport, Maine. Other summers we would go tour around New England. Every town we stopped in was a new adventure, a new town and a new motel awaited. I loved being with my family without distractions of work or school, and I loved that we were all in it with the same goal: having fun together.
Now, my own family, we are taking our own road trip. We are in the middle of our two-week trek. Last week we rented a minivan and took the highway for a tour of the Western States. Two kids, one dog, one husband, and me all together on this adventure. We started in Nevada, stopping in Vegas, watched the water show at the Bellagio, decided it. was a bit too crowded (Covid-wise). Then we drove to Freemont Street but watched the lights from the car to avoid crowds. The next day we headed to Linden, Utah to visit friends. We had a great time seeing their farm, playing with goats, jumping on the trampoline, and catching up. The next stop was Park City to see more friends -- we spent time at the lake, ate take out in their yard, and got to celebrate our friend's birthday together. From there we went to Idaho Falls with a fun stop at some natural hot springs. We spent time in Yellowstone and saw geysers, springs, and mud pots. Everywhere we looked we saw sights we never saw before, sights we didn't know would be so beautiful.
We drove from there to Whitefish Montana with a night or two in between to break up the drive. As we drove we saw signs for Huckleberries everywhere. They grow all over the northwest and they are used to make everything from jam to smoothies, to ice cream and cotton candy. When we got to Whitefish they were having their annual Huckleberry Days festival, so of course, we went. We went to Whitefish because a close friend moved there a year ago and has been singing its praises since. After seeing the mountains and lakes we understand why. We had so much fun with friends riding down alpine slides, doing an adventure park ropes course, swimming at the lake, paddle boarding, swinging on a rope swing, and of course going out for ice cream. My kids and their friends would walk around the block and pick raspberries and see deer before coming back.
Today we are driving to Washington and have Oregon and the California coast still ahead of us. We stopped today in Coeur d'Alene walked through town and then jumped off of cliffs into the lake. I typically am a daredevil, but I have met my match. My daughter seems to be the bravest of the bunch. By the end of the day we all jumped, but there was one cliff in particular that I stood looking out on for quite a while. I ultimately was too scared for that one, but I braved the others. I was the first to jump off today so that I could help my kids out of the water when they jumped. I needed to go first for their safety, or so I told myself that, but I needed to brave the unknown first. I didn't want to have them go first, tell me it was fine, while I froze contemplating. It was indeed a bit terrifying, shockingly cold, and then fantastic. I loved watching my kids jump while I waited for them in the water. I am so proud of their bravery. Right before we left my daughter begged me to go with her again. After three times, I was done so she had asked my husband who had been watching us the whole time. He politely declined and then changed his mind at the last moment. He took off his shirt and hat and jumped off the highest cliff with our girl. It was such an exciting afternoon.
As we head into the second half of our road trip, I suddenly remember what we came on the road to forget: school begins next week. When my parents would take us traveling as kids they would stretch out the summer as long as possible. Often we would come home the day before school started and driving into NYC from the country would be a shock to my system. I always had jitters before the first day of school and would cry when the summer ended. This year as we drive home from this epic trip, I suspect I will be pretty sad. Yes, the end of summer will be upon us, as well as the start of a new school year, but this will be a year like no other. We will be starting school virtually and anyway you slice it, it just doesn't look appealing. There is so much ahead that is uncertain. Living in the time of a global pandemic is challenging to say the least. We have loved having a respite from being home. This trip has allowed us time and space outdoors without thinking about wearing our masks or standing far enough away from people. Looking forward to the year ahead is like standing on the edge of that cliff today. I don't really want to do it and I am contemplating if it will be okay or not. I am going to commit at some point and set an example to my two kiddos, that sometimes you have to jump in, even when you don't know what it will be like. For now, more of the open road awaits, and I am loving every second.
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
With the beach being one of the safest places we can take advantage of now, we are doing just that. This year we bought wet suits and after our first full day of boogie boarding, we decided we wanted to surf. My husband surfed growing up and he hoped one day to teach the kids but it just hadn't worked out yet. We recently bought a new board and since the kids both skateboard, they took to the waves really well. I wanted to try but was terrified at first. I had only tried it once before years ago, and between the freezing water and the size of the board, I wasn't very successful. This time we got a soft top and with the help of my husband, I got up that first day quite a few times. I have a lot to learn and don't have a real sense of what to look for in a wave, but I am hooked. I have gone out five or six times so far and the last few times, I haven't had much luck. I am so determined though. My daughter who loves it just as much tried to coach me last time. I kept getting pummeled by waves and falling. She got tired of waiting for the board and I kept saying, "one more time, one more time."
We have close friends who we see regularly. Their kids are the same age as ours and it works out well that they all happen to be very close. They are really the only family we spend a lot of time with these days and together we have planned a lot of fun activities for the four kids. We "traveled" to different countries, by reading books together, we have done art projects, cooked meals, and taken bike rides to get treats from international shops. None of our kids went to camp this summer, or got to make new friends, but we had pretty enriching quality time nonetheless. We went to a Japanese garden, picnicked with Italian sandwiches, even and did a tour de Culver City where we biked through town looking for certain monuments. We did all of these activities with masks and with distance. We had a great time, but each week we cut out time for a beach day. I couldn't believe how much joy would radiate from the four kids on these days. They just all seemed so happy at the beach together. They boogie boarded, swam, played in the sand and couldn't get enough of it. Even after a long day of way too much sun, they don't want to leave when we say it's time to go home.
This past week we took probably one of our last outings to the beach before school starts. The kids all wanted to know if once school starts if we could still go to the beach. The answer is yes. My friend said her daughter told her that when we all go to the beach, things feel normal. I couldn't agree more.