Shelter-in-Place, the Good Stuff

kid drawing chalk art on sidewalkIt’s a learning experience.

When my oldest was asked, as a kindergartener, “What’s something your mom always says?” that was his response. He could’ve said any number of things:

What’s that smell?

Why is this wet?

I JUST cleaned this.

Not ’til I finish my coffee.

Get down. That wasn’t meant to hold your weight.

Or the ubiquitous, Why is there always crap all over the living room?

But my lovely firstborn chose something that makes me sound insightful. I would deliver this “learning experience” adage when he was down on himself for making a mistake, trying to point out that mistakes are how we learn to do something different the next time. I was not born with this wisdom. I, just like my kid, expected perfection of myself the first and every time. It was only later in life I began to tell myself to learn from my screwups and move on.

While all of this sheltering in place isn’t a mistake I’ve made, instead of lamenting what we can’t do, what’s not available, I can look at what I’ve learned from it. 

  1. We do not actually need all the activities we had previously scheduled into our lives.
  2. We are all pretty good at entertaining ourselves (even the oldest, extrovert child) when we have ample opportunity.
  3. While I am fond of baking, given enough free time, I still don’t like to cook.
  4. The people in my neighborhood are awesomely supportive of each other in good times and bad.
  5. Having only each other to play with for quite some time, our kids are now emotionally closer to each other.
  6. I hadn’t lost interest in my hobbies before the pandemic; I’d just lost time and energy enough to want to pursue them.
  7. Jason and I can still do projects together, and even if they are a pain in the ass, we don’t take it out on each other.
  8. Trading books, puzzles and plant cuttings with friends may not be the same as dishing in a bar together, but it’s fun and bonding in a whole different way.

These are the things I want to hang onto longterm. Most of them have to do with protecting free time so that everyone in our family has the opportunity to get bored and think, “what next?”

Some people take “what next?” time and invent things to solve the world’s problems or start new, innovative companies or side hustles. That’s not what I’m after here. I want to maintain the leisure we’ve found during this time of everything shut down — books, movies, gardening, playing. That, to me, is the stuff that makes life worth living. And coronavirus has made me realize, I missed it. What have you learned from the pandemic fallout that you’d like to keep, longterm?

Texas is Open, and Nothing Has Changed (for some of us)

parent interrupts by her daughter while working in the office
Copyright: ferli

Last Friday, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, declared that somethings could go back to normal — restaurants dining rooms are at half capacity, state parks are open with certain social distancing measures in place and curbside pickup for retail can continue. What this means for my family is…

NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

The kids are still not in school and won’t be until fall, and we are still not supposed to be hanging out with friends and neighbors in any real capacity. Our neighborhood parks are still closed and the kids’ soccer programs are still on hold.

What it made me realize is this: While I kinda miss going to Target just to wander around and try on sunglasses and hats, mostly what I miss is my kids going places. I miss it because they miss it; I want them to be happy. And I miss it because I am constantly going back and forth between my stuff and their stuff and I long for a predictable schedule where I can concentrate on writing and work for a big chunk of time.

Halfway through a lengthy job application this morning — complete with writing samples — I paused to help the younger one get on his class Zoom call and then help the older one with some schoolwork. By the time I got back to my computer, the sign-in for the application had timed out, and I had to start over again. This kind of thing happens on a regular basis these days.

I am not a natural at multitasking and the constant switching back and forth between my work and my kids’. It makes me irritable to have to change gears repeatedly. I like being able to focus on one thing, at length, until it’s finished or passed onto someone else for the next step.

I know we’re doing this for the greater good, though I am a little pissy about Bolivar Point in Galveston, which according to recent photo evidence, is packed to the gills when I can’t even send my kids to their friends’ houses. It doesn’t make sense.

I don’t know the answer.

Social distancing to flatten the curve seems right, and our economy does need to be taken into consideration. I’m not sure if opening Texas right now is the responsible move or not, but we’ll see what happens. I am glad the decision doesn’t rest on my shoulders; there’s no clear, correct answer. I can only hope our leaders make decisions based on what is best for everyone and not for their personal pocketbooks or their own political gain. My own frustrations with staying home all the damned time are personal and independent of what is for the greater good.

All greater good aside, what’s frustrating you (personally, not politically) the most about the pandemic and social distancing? What’s been good about it? Let me know in the comments.