Several summers ago we took our kids on a road trip vacation to the Delaware shore. I was eight months pregnant with my third child and the entire trip was a nightmare start to finish. Sleep schedules were off, I had to give my toddler the Heimlich maneuver, and my older son ran out into the road in front of oncoming traffic. Yet they both LOVE pulling out our album from the trip, reminiscing about how fun it was to dance among the stars and run their toes in the beach sand. Kids’ memories are selective that way.
In the first few weeks the schools were closed for the Covid-19 pandemic, my kids craved the attention of their friends. We set them up on the Facebook messenger app and allowed them zoom meetings and online video games. But as time passed, they asked for those connections less and less often. Last week I asked my five-year-old if he was anxious to return to school. He hugged me and said “No, I don’t like being around other people anymore.”
It is too soon to know how deeply the social distancing and constantly present fear of the virus will affect our children’s mental health, and how that effect will present itself. But it IS affecting the way that we spend our time together.
I am pretty sure I have never had as much “quality time” with my kids as I do now during the pandemic. Even as I wrestle with mom guilt over allowing them an unseemly amount of screen time, we are also treasuring the lack of pressure to BE somewhere or DO something. Instead of packing them up for the Science Center, we hike through nature and look for bugs. My kids build fort after fort after fort. Even my toddler jumps from pillow to pillow, avoiding the ‘lava’ floor.
THIS is what our kids will remember about quarantine: these simple times together.
As I age I rely on pictures of my childhood to recall those times clearly, photographs printed from film that together fit into one small bound album covering my first 18 years of life. We are lucky to live in the age of digital, having such a simple and always-present tool to capture memories with: our cell phones. With every picture we take we have the power to help shape our children’s memories, too, because these pictures are ultimately for them.
I will be printing an album of pictures chronicling our family life in quarantine, and it will be chock full of nature hikes, mud jumping, running amongst bubbles, and catching fireflies. Because I know that, like the Delaware road trip album, my kids will be pulling the quarantine album off the shelf to reclaim their memories and reminisce. And I plan to help them remember all the good times.