Unprecedented time. Life upended. Interruptions and delays. Lulls. The new normal.
These words and phrases have become prominent in our conversations this year. We grapple with the challenges of a pandemic and all of our lives have drastically changed — quite possibly for the long haul. COVID-19 has forced most of us to sit still, stay put, and reorient our routines and lifestyles. For a generation of parents used to being on the “go, go, GO” with their kids, this has proven very unsettling.
I have been extremely fortunate to work remotely in the pandemic, and since my family is one of the many with increased medical risks, we are following health protocols as much as possible. A shameless homebody, it works well enough for me. For my poor children, who are outdoorsy fun-lovers, the shutdowns and social distancing have set at bay most of the fun they looked forward to this year. Homeschooling. Zoom birthday parties. Playing in our yard rather than on the playground. Far fewer visits with friends. Indoor playtime.
“I’m bored” is a common complaint around our home. Every time I hear those words, I feel a pang of deep, gnawing guilt for the lulls my children are experiencing. I’m often tempted to compensate for what they are missing in this season. Yet, when I think further, I am reminded of my childhood. Playing in the yard with my siblings and neighborhood friends. Writing letters to pen pals. Indoor puzzles and board games. My parents never arranged or monitored most of these activities. Funny enough, I do not look back at those times with a sense of loss or deprivation.
I never imagined the pause in our lives would be so drawn out. But rather than wallowing in discontentment, I will use the lulls as teaching, stretching moments for myself and my children. In the lulls, we are learning. Learning to be at peace with a more home-centered life. Adjusting to the daily nearness we now have and addressing the inherent conflicts that arise. My children are learning how to play independently and how to work together. They are learning how to help out in the house. They are embracing the added boredom and learning to be OK with it.
I recognize that this season is a one-of-a-kind for our generation. Although I hope that we never have to go through this again, if we do, we will all have learned some valuable lessons and grown in character in such a way that we can take it in stride and make the most of it. I see that today’s childhood is looking more like mine for the first time. And, for us, it can be OK that way.