Life sure can surprise you when you are least expecting it. This Pandemic has been an eye opener in many areas of our lives, and so I want to share what we have learnt as a family about our lives.
Before I share this I think I need to preface it by saying it is not lost on me how serious this virus is and the long term effects it will have on families, businesses and the world. That being said I have made a more conscious effort to avoid the news as well as following along with the updates too closely for my own mental health and sanity. In reality our family has been so fortunate to not yet have major impacts because of these changes happening in the world. My husband still goes to work, my family is all safe and healthy and we have not had too many additional stresses or worries because of the pandemic. I think one thing I have learnt about myself is I cannot take on too much outside stress. For me to stay happy and healthy I need to focus on gratitude and what is happening within my world. I also have realized no matter who you are or where you are, the pandemic has impacted you, so while I say we have not been majorly impacted of course our lives have changed and with change comes some stress.
The first lesson that happened fairly quickly into all this social distancing was the realization of how well prepared and stocked our house was. Fraser might look at it as proof that I have a shopping problem but I like to think I was just prepared. It really was “fun” to stay home for the first couple weeks. We had “sleepovers”, movie nights, tons of crafts, game nights and lots of creative ways of keeping busy. I immediately realized that previous to pandemic I would often find the things that I didn’t like about our house before realizing how fortunate we were. We have an amazing backyard, lots of outside space, my husband has a big shop for him to tinker in, we have lots of technology available to us and I have a very stocked craft cupboard. A shift in my attitude is that I am now more appreciative of the house we have. I think what I realized is that our home is our safe place, it is not a punishment to stay home but a privilege.
That quickly lead to my second realization, without the stress of social interactions I was experiencing way less anxiety… perhaps this means I am an introvert. I think I discovered that a lot of my anxiety comes from all the social stuff, and that staying home is where I am most comfortable. It doesn’t mean I think it is healthy to stay at home forever, but I think post pandemic I will make more of an effort to spend more time at home and be okay with that. Too often I said yes to too much because I thought it was the right thing for everyone else but now I know that the kids and family are okay if we stay home!
I also discovered that we love to travel. Quickly into our isolation we decided to cancel our Hawaii trip scheduled for April. This was really upsetting for many reasons (including it was our first trip without kids, cancelling it meant it was the first time in 4 years we would not get to Hawaii our happy place and we were missing a friends wedding). Part of me was so grateful that we had made the decision before everything got crazy. I was envisioning being stuck in a different country away from our kids or worse getting sick and racking up a giant medical bill. So, although we are sad about the missing the trip I am grateful we have been able to travel before pandemic and that we will hopefully be able to travel after again. I realize now, 6 weeks into isolating, that I do love my home and staying in. However I also love getting to travel and plan trips with our family. We are still trying to be hopeful we will get to do our annual end of summer camping trip with some friends, Tofino in September and surprise the kids at Christmas with the New Year in Maui… but my gut is saying these are more like dreams! So with this news it has us all a little bummed. The kids have talked a lot about Hawaii and Disneyland (two of their favourite places) and it has got me realizing how fortunate we are to have taken them on so many amazing vacations, near and far. I also realize that these vacations are things they cherish so once it is safe we will continue to prioritize our family vacations. There are times I have felt so guilty for this being something I am sad about when I know there are others that have maybe never been on a family vacation or save many years to be able to do one big vacation. I also find myself thinking how privileged I am to be worried about when my next vacation will be when there are families dealing with way bigger issues like worrying about housing, food, money, childcare or their businesses and jobs. With this in mind I am trying to see this as an opportunity for gratitude. I think I always appreciated our vacations but I defiantly took them for granted, the next time we get to go away I will make sure to appreciate it!
A really cool realization has been the lack of screen time we have seen since isolation has started. I keep hearing and seeing that people are resorting to screens to entertain their kids but we have found kinda the opposite in our house. We are screen people and I am a little embarrassed to say we have an iPad for each child and we are fairly relaxed about “rules”. However since the pandemic and really the start of “back to school at home” we haven’t needed to let the kids use the iPads or screens. We do school in the morning and it is using screens for zoom calls, class meets and to watch videos that correspond with their lessons. After that the day is spent with play. With all the sunshine we have had the kids have been busy outside gardening, playing in the sandbox, jumping on the tramp, getting creative with sidewalk chalk, riding their scooters, water fights and the list goes on. I have learnt that our kids can play independently, are good at pretend play and have lots of toys considering my desire to purge regularly! Overall we have some very happy kids and I am proud of the way they are handling these “new norms”. Even my own screen usage is down. I will comment we have days where we resort to giving screens or turning on the tv but I just feel like we all have days we need to just veg out.
One huge realization I have is the support system and people we have in our life. I had always known we were fortunate to have family close by and that our friends are the best of the best. I had a good feeling about the team we have built to support us with Rowen and of course we have loved the school we chose to send the kids too. Pandemic has pushed every one of these people and supports to new levels, and I can honestly say they have all gone above and beyond. The amount of creative ways these people have adapted and continued to support us and our kids is unbelievable. Our family has continuously surprised us with Birthday parades, Easter goody crafts and activities, worksheets and new desk deliveries, homemade goodies, cards and of course FaceTimes or porch distancing visits. Our teachers and support staff have dropped off indoor shoes, muddy buddies, schoolwork packages and more. They are continuing to teach and support with regular correspondence and tons of communication. They have offered loaning out equipment if we do not have enough or the right stuff and really come up with some creative ways to continue therapy from home. I’m not sure we will ever be able to thank all these people are the way they have impacted the experience our whole family is having through this pandemic. It has meant that in a time that is scary and unsure we have some light and laughter. We have some consistency with our kids and we are all adapting. It has made our jobs as parents easier but it has also shown our kids that these people aren’t leaving us, they are here despite being unable to physically be here.
I think when I really sit down and look at these last 6 weeks and how surreal it has all been I feel nothing but gratitude. As of today we are all still happy and healthy. That is all I could wish for in times like that. I know that our family will look forward to a post pandemic life but it will not be the one we had before. Our life is forever changed and I think that is okay. My sister just taught me about “we people and me people” and I am proud to see the way our friends and family are showing up as “we people”. It has got me thinking about how we teach our kids to help others and what we are doing to help others. I am finding some small and some bigger ways we can help out our community… and it has left me feeling a little bit better in a time when we can so easily be brought down. I think if we can do anything during these strange and sad times it is find ways to spread joy and judge less!