Four Kids in a Pandemic
It’s been a real ride. Parents, we are creeping towards a full year of existing during a global pandemic. How are you? Really — how are you?
I wanted to share a piece of our story and highlight one of the unexpected outcomes of COVID-19 for our family.
The shock of it all has worn off. We are one of the most adaptable species on the planet, and you needn’t look much further than out your front door for evidence of a society that’s taken an impossibly hard challenge and tried to rise up with it. The day I first started paying attention to the footage of overwhelmed hospitals and makeshift morgues, I felt shock. The day I heard schools were closing and our family had a company shut down and businesses everywhere dropped to $0 revenue overnight, I felt shock. The day I talked to my extended family and we agreed we likely wouldn’t see each other for at least six weeks, I felt shock. But I’ve moved through phases like others — the shock of it all turning to some form of acceptance.
Today my oldest two are back at school. We have already seen and anticipate more missed days, but they are generally happy to don a mask and hang out with their friends and learn new things in a classroom instead of our kitchen.
Can you remember back to the first few weeks of being fully stuck? All businesses closed, all child care and school closed, so many people embarking on their involuntary work-from-home adventure. For that first little bit, amid the stress and anxiety around livelihoods and loved ones’ health, we were overwhelmed by the nagging of ‘I’M BORED.’ Every day we were trying to stay afloat while four little ones were aggressively in our space and face 24 hours a day 7 days a week begging us for something to do (that wasn’t laundry or cleaning – we tried). Our kids were aimless in the face of no structured activities, and I had little doubt we were going to implode without routine and timelines and schedules for learning, sports and playdates.
Fast forward to the spring, summer and today, and there has been a really interesting and positive shift for our family. At first, activities mostly involved a lot of our support — science experiments, scavenger hunts, packing up to go to the field. But over time they began coming up with things and executing them on their own. Certainly, I don’t love all of the outcomes of that: metallic gold spraypaint all over our stairwell, mud “pies” made in the basement, a nut-chopping operation that would’ve certainly raised an eyebrow with the local health authority had they not been so busy with the pandemic.
But our children stopped waking up expecting to have their day filled for them and began coming up with unique ideas to fill them with. They made a ‘zoo’ with their stuffies on the front lawn. They held countless picnics in the backyard on their own. They started a business and made a bit of money selling bracelets, crafts and pre-used toys. They created things and destroyed things and poked around and piled up and knocked down. They laughed and had pillow fights and threw fists and talked through big emotions together. They cared for the baby (even when he didn’t want their care). They met neighbour kids they didn’t know and rode bikes around the block for the first time and coordinated their own ‘play dates.’ Trying not to sound overly nostalgic, there’s something about kids filling free time that felt great; felt like something we had been missing. Even now having school and child care and some activities back in action, I can see the residual impacts when they value free time over dreading it.
I know everyone including parents and children have experienced this pandemic very differently — and maybe even been in significantly different phases or mindsets within it. It has been an extremely challenging 2020 so far and we know it’s not over. But I wanted to stop and capture one of the silver linings that emerged for us. Hopefully, your family has had a few too — stay well.
Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Director of Brand Strategy for Kids & Company. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.