Obviously we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and staring down the barrel of another lockdown if this delta variant (and its variant) doesn’t somehow manage to slow its roll (probably through, you know, vaccination). But, as a parent in this time of lockdowns, I can’t help thinking of how absolutely strange of a year this was for both parents and kids.
It’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened. Notably, the polio epidemic in Chicago caused kids to have school over the radio while staying at home. And, to have the kids home with a parent has been the norm for a great deal of our country’s history. But for my lifetime, it has been much more common for both parents to be working out of the house and the kids to either be at some sort of daycare or hang out at home without the parents.
Suddenly, both parents and kids were at home, both trying to get their stuff done in a way that was overall alien to them, while feeling incredibly stir crazy because the world was shut down and they were therefore cut off from all of the things they would normally do outside of the home.
I’ve worked from home for over a decade now, so being home all the time was relatively old hat for me when we came up on the first lockdown last year. I’ve even spent a summer or two with the kids hanging around, because we were unable to find daycare close enough to us at the farm to take in our horde of children. But at the farm, we had the blessing of space, so we could send them outside and have them explore the surroundings and just go crazy. There was definitely some boredom, but overall they were able to find ways to amuse themselves pretty well. Summer is great like that.
But in March of 2020, we were in the midst of winter here in Wisconsin and things were mighty cold when the kids were suddenly forced to be home. We didn’t really know what to do. My wife and I still had to work, and our kids were now here, all the time, looking for something to take their minds off the fact that they were suddenly cut off from their friends and family. Summer of 2020 was a little better because we could do things outside and we even managed to take a trip to explore some national and state parks to get out while still staying away from others. Yet, everything still felt off. A large part of that was due to how cut off we were from family and friends. Although we definitely scheduled some distanced social time, it simply wasn’t what we were accustomed to. And when winter returned, we were right back where we had been, even though the kids were now going to school two days a week. Cabin fever set in hard by then.
Spring of 2021 was super exciting though. Not only were we, as a country, getting vaccinated, but the death and infection numbers plummeted and the horizon looked a lot brighter than it had in a long time. We even started planning trips. Trips which would involve planes. Trips which would allow us to feel like things were normal again, at least a little. The pool across the street reopened. Friends became regular appearances in our lives again. And we even managed to throw a party or two, and would have thrown more, but we apparently forgot how to invite people over to our house during the previous year.
Although things are looking a little stark again as this new variant rips through communities, 2021 has been a breath of relief compared to the previous year. 2020 contained so much confusion and anger and, overall, a feeling of unknown for the future and whether we would ever return to normal. My family and I worked through some pretty intense emotions as we struggled to understand what the future would look like, and whether it would ever feel normal again. I believe working through these emotions together has made our family stronger, but I also think we’re all still in this state of shock where we’re still afraid of everything being ripped out from under us again. Although we were the ones actively working to follow the rules and separate ourselves from others for the betterment of the community, I think we all felt abandoned, as though everyone else had left us behind. And I’m not entirely sure we’re ever completely get past that.
2020 has left a mark on my family and me which I highly suspect will always be there. I’m also guessing this is true for many people around the world. This idea of protecting the community by altogether keeping the community separate from itself is an odd one.
But it’s my hope that by continuing forward and working toward the betterment of the community by following the best current information from those who have been studying this virus, that we can finally find an end to this overhanging fear which has many of us hiding out in our houses to keep from being the one who infects someone whose body simply can’t take it.
It’s also my hope that my two youngest kids can be vaccinated soon and further serve to help protect our communities from passing this virus around and get us even closer to that point where we can finally say we’ve reached the other end of this pandemic.
Until then, I’ve got plenty of board games to keep us busy again this winter.