One of my favorite childhood breaks from school was the now infamous Blizzard of ’93. Being from the Northeast, school cancellations were typical when extremely low temperatures or feet upon feet of snow blanketed our world. I still remember the feeling of excitement upon waking up to pearl white snow covering the yards and waiting with anticipation for the name of our school to scroll across the bottom of the TV screen. When we finally made it through the alphabet (I went to St. Sebastian’s School which took for-ever to appear) and had the official word of the closing, my sister and I couldn’t get our snowsuits and gloves on fast enough. While the Blizzard of ’93 brought airport, turnpike, township road, and school closings, all our elementary-aged brains could comprehend was the unlimited amount of time we would have outside, along with the steaming mugs of hot chocolate that awaited our exhausted selves at the end of our days.
Until most recently, I didn’t think of the parents through that hardship. My dad, who relied on public transportation to the city for work. My mother, who ran our household like no other and had to make food and resources stretch farther than normal. Our neighbors, who never hesitated to ask if we needed anything if they were one of the few that braved Mother Nature’s white force and walked, or cross country skied, to the nearest gas station. It was that blizzard that made the phrase “stock up on toilet paper, milk, bread, and eggs” hit home.
We didn’t have Amazon, Target, or Walmart to deliver the essentials on our doorstep in a matter of hours. There were no social media channels at our fingertips or news outlets chattering away in the background 24/7. Each family made decisions that worked and made sense for their households without judgment from those seated behind screens. You played with those you could physically get to, whether it be via sledding, skiing, or snowshoeing. I like to think we coined and perfected the act of social distancing for the times we legitimately could not get to places or people with the foot or more of snow that each hour brought.
As a parent now, I look back on that time to not only remember my parent’s viewpoints but mine as well. What stands out in my mind? What did I love? Was I aware of the reality? How did my parents make us feel safe and secure when uncertainty swirled around them at the speed of falling snowflakes? As we hunker down during a much different, yet not less serious situation, what do I want my children to take away from this time? Except for summer and winter breaks, how do you prepare them (and us) for extended periods of time away from everything they know to be normal? Each family and household will answer these questions differently, which helps to remind us that it takes all kinds of things to make the world go ‘round.
There will not be one article that perfectly describes the steps necessary to combat this illness, just like there is no one template that best suits your time at home with your child in the same manner as mine. Furthermore, those with a two-working parent household have an added layer of stress when it comes to childcare during work hours. Because I can only write from a stay-at-home mom’s point of view, I can say that a schedule is a must for my crew. Not a down to the minute, Pinterest-worthy craft kind of schedule, but we need a purpose. And small goals. And victories to celebrate with life lessons to be learned.
Just like their Mama, my kiddos like to know what is coming next. So, one can find the stress in our (and many others’) current situation when I don’t have answers for them to specific questions or a basic timeline for what is to come. However, what I can grant them is a loose, read loose, schedule for our days. I know their personalities, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses better than anyone, so outlining our day should be written in the stars for me. Think again. This is not a summer vacation. This is not a “bonus” week of spring break. This is a new and confusing time for parents who so badly want to listen to the advice put out by the universe, but desperately need to get out of the house as well, yet cannot just pick up and venture out to the zoos, aquariums, libraries, etc. as if it was a normal school break. This is a time to truly focus in the walls of your home and what a realistic day will look like.
Making a lineup, list, agenda or whatever word that is synonymous with a schedule is where I would, and just did, start. When I wasn’t sure what to put first on the list, I wrote down what I knew: school jobs. My oldest was the door holder and light manager at school? Well, that is just fantastic because she now holds that job at home. My youngest most recently held the title of “table wiper” for his PreK class? Awesome sauce. This week finds him in charge of wiping down the table after all meals. This is nothing new here, Mamas. I am merely playing into what they enjoy at school and making it fit our lives.
My kids hear me say that I wish for octopus arms because I could reach and get more done. Thank you, quarantine period, because I now have 4 extra arms to assist me during the day! Sometimes the simplest of ideas can be the ones that save our sanity and patience. Who remembers the articles circulating around about the want and need for additional P.E. times? Well, here it is friends. Break out those hula hoops, potato sacks, and roller skates and prepare to meet those 10,000 steps in no time. And with all that activity, comes the endless snacks your sweet ones will request every twenty minutes of every day.
Having a plan for the day can also include meals and snacks. Gently remind them that they do not eat mindlessly and frequently while at school. Try to mirror snack (if applicable) and lunchtimes to their school schedule and stick to it (because no one really wants to go back to the grocery store to replenish the Goldfish stash).
A deck of cards can serve as a math lesson for kiddos of varying ages. Have your oldest work to his/her ability while walking through number recognition with your youngest. Use those cards to play war or spit. Take an hour for creative play through the game of charades or Pictionary. Let those games streamline into reading or acting out a play. Set the stage for an impromptu play by making one child a human character, the others talking animals, and give them the problem to work with. It will be a comedy show before you know it! Applaud their performances by popping popcorn and hunkering down for family movie night. The possibilities are as endless as the rocks you will find on a neighborhood scavenger hunt and the pollen that is currently falling from those oak trees (thanks, South Texas). Use the apps sent to you by the teachers. FaceTime friends and out of town family. Schedule a “drop everything and <insert activity of your choice here>” at some point of the day, but keep them guessing as to when this will occur. Hug and kiss them. Then let yourself breathe, Mama. We are all in this together.
I am trying to believe that we were all given this time for a reason. A reason to re-center. Time to de-clutter. An excuse to face that project that we have so cleverly put off for quite some time. A time to work from home. An opportunity to talk less and listen more. A breathing period for our rushed and weary souls. A moment to be humbled by what we have and how to use our gifts to help others. Let us step out of the current for just a moment to picture what our kids will say about this in 30 years and what impact we can have on that viewpoint. I hope yours are as warm and fuzzy as those endless cups of hot chocolate were for me, back in ’93.