Crossing my fingers and toes, but, thus far, our self-isolation seems to be working and we are healthy — physically, that is. Mentally, we were already on the anxiety struggle bus before the world-wide pandemic.
But, hey, we’re still going. I’m not totally sure how, but our life is going on. It’s so hard — I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I’m not about to dress my children in white and pose them with their sustainable crafts alongside a green smoothie recipe. As I write this, one is in pajamas, and the other slept in the clothes he wore yesterday. Both are creating some kind of chaos involving pipe cleaners, glue, scissors and felt. There will be significant cleanup, but, for the moment, we are all at peace.
Here’s what I’ve got in my corner, the little things that actually matter right now, the ways I’m staying sane:
We don’t follow one of those COVID-19 schedules everyone shared on Instagram the week schools closed. I did make flashcards with drawings and simple phrases with our activity options (read, cook, tidy, art, etc). If the kids are in a mood for an art project, as they are now, that’s when they do art (and I frantically get some work done). If they need to cry into a pile of Ritz crackers, I pat them on the back, gently cooing my love and support while they do so. Some days they take naps. Most days they do not. If it stops raining for one second, I suggest they go outside. If they want to sit and read, I’m game. If they want to create an obstacle course, I show them to the pillows. Worksheets do not spark joy in these children. I save my paper for collages.
I am lucky to have small children at this time. Sure, they’re little and can’t really read or wipe their own butts, but their education is fairly simple. The kindergartner can practice her handwriting or reading. BOOM! Language arts. The preschooler can sort cars by color or size. Ta da! Math. You found a bug outside? Science. Jumping on the bed is PE. I don’t have to try to have them keep up with algebra or world history. We can get education as it comes to us at this point.
We are social people. I would call myself an extrovert. My kids are good friends (when it suits them). Thankfully, my kids have good friends. We have been in semi-constant contact via Marco Polo, Duo, Google Chat, Zoom and good, old-fashioned snail mail. Nothing has made my kids feel more special than a big pile of letters from their grandparents, cousins and school buddies. Writing letters or sending art is educational, anyway.
I have no in-person village any more. I can’t send my kids to school and know that they are fed and taken care of for eight hours every day without me. But my daughter’s kindergarten teacher wasted no time and got lines of communication open from the first day of school closures. Before the school district was officially ready, she had lessons, Zoom class meetings and videos reading her students' favorite books. We also have telehealth sessions lined up with our mental health-care providers, and the pediatrician answered my email swiftly even though it wasn’t an emergency.
We live in the golden age of television, right? My kids (and I) have access to multiple streaming sites for movies and TV shows, and there are a variety of services that are kindly free during this time, such as scholastic classes and Mo Willems art classes. Everything is on screens, which might not be your bag, but at least the stuff on the screens is very high-quality these days. Imagine doing this in the '90s with landlines and no internet. No, thank you.
Sometimes I go outside to check for the mail, even when it’s unlikely the hard-working mail carrier has made it to our house yet, merely for the fresh air. Better, I yell to my husband, “I’m taking a lap!” and walk around our block. Best, I call one of my two friends named Sara(h) (one with an “h” and one without) and we meet up at a park that has a publicly accessible walkway. We walk, six feet apart, and usually list foods we’re currently running low on and what meals we may torture our families with later. It’s not a deep conversation, but that small bit of socializing, that tiny little break in the sheltering at home, is enough to remind me that I exist outside of this house. I am still me, even though my career, social life and everything else is on hold.
You’re catching me on a good day. Wednesday, my daughter was writing a poem for school and was sounding out “coronavirus.” I started crying and didn’t stop for two hours. Tuesday, no one ate any vegetables and I really don’t think we brushed our teeth. There are very low moments, when news of death numbers breaks, or we have to talk a toddler down from an emotional ledge, or when my kindergartner (obviously) finds sitting through a Zoom meeting frustrating, especially compared to getting to play with her friends in person. But as I finish writing this, my kids have abandoned their art explosion and are playing nicely in the living room. My son is pretending to tuck my daughter into bed and is singing to her. “Good night. You are safe and sound.”
At least that’s true. We are safe … and reasonably sound.