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Covid-19 Quarantine Life

What the F*ck Are We Going to Do About The Summer?

Summer Camp is Cancelled

Mr. Real Life Style’s reaction to camp being cancelled for the summer.

How are we feeling and what are we going to do with our kids all summer? I could almost hear the collective “Holy Sh*t” at the end of the week. I know camp is not cancelled everywhere in the country or every camp in my area for that matter. However, both the day camp my kids go to and the overnight camp I went to as a child sent out notices last week that the entire summer would be cancelled. According to our pediatrician, the level of virus transmission is not going to change that much over the summer, so camp is not recommended. In fact, I asked point blank, “If there is no change in virus transmission, doesn’t it stand that we should not change our behavior at all over the summer?” He answered, “Yes, from a purely medical perspective.” So for me, even if given the choice, I would not send my children. 

I went bike riding and hiking with the kids on the 83 degree day last Friday. It was HOT in a mask, and it isn’t even 90 and DC humid yet. The idea of kids keeping masks on and not touching their sweaty faces at camp is as laughable as the idea that they could actually socially distance from one another all day long. Or as another smart mom put it, it wouldn’t be financially viable to have a camp with as few children as there would need to be safe.

Our Collective Grief

James is starting to lose it. He misses his school friends and his classroom.

Let’s be real. This sucks. Not acknowledging how devastating this is for us as parents or our children does us all a disservice. Parents were looking forward to getting back to work minus the added burden of childcare, and the kids just wanted things to go back to normal. And what if parents are now asked to go back to work but still have no childcare? Most of us are at the breaking point already and now we know we have possibly another 3 months to go with our children at home. 

Camp is the most fun part of the year for kids, with all the play and none of the homework! My kids are especially devastated at the lack of pool time this summer. Not only are they losing their camp’s great swim lessons, which James was finally old enough to take this year, but our pool club is not going to be able to open in a safe manner, and we don’t have a backyard in which to set up water play. A summer without camp is one thing, a summer without their most favorite summer activity, the pool, is another. We do have some “private” pool invites, but will have to weigh the safety of those invitations as the summer goes on.

What Our Kids Are Missing Most

It occurred to me last week that the two things my kids are missing most are socialization and a sense of newness and adventure. James keeps having these tantrums where he yells, “I just want to do something fun!” Although he was the most thrilled at getting to stay home every day at the beginning of quarantine, this Groundhog Day existence just isn’t working for him anymore. I’ve decided that for the last 3 weeks of school, and mind you he is only in kindergarten, his mental health is more important than feeling as if I have checked the academic boxes. Of course I can make this decision because he is doing well academically. I am normally such a rule follower, but last week he wanted to have a Zoom playdate at 10:30am, in the middle of homeschooling, and I let him. His brain was telling him he needed to reach out to a friend he hadn’t been able to have a play date with in months, a sweet little girl whom he had played with every day all school year. I immediately put down the schoolwork and emailed her mom, with whom I had never interacted before, to see if her daughter could come to the computer NOW. Luckily, we were on the same page!

The kids getting their feet wet on a nature hike not far from our apartment.

There is a nature trail so close to our house it is embarrassing, only because we rarely take the kids. When we do, we always make them stick to the path, as opposed to risking getting wet in the stream area where I assume you aren’t technically supposed to be poking around. Again, my rule following, safe nature! But on Friday, when it was so hot, we wandered in there and I thought, “Really, what am I so worried about?” They did accidentally stick their shoes in the water a few times and whine about it. So what? Shoes wash and no one got a fungal disease (that I know of, yet!). The kids had FUN, even what you could call a little adventure. There was fighting over who made who fall off a rock (nobody in reality), but they need to learn to work their sh*t out, right? 

The Silver Lining

I posted on Instagram about camp being cancelled and my friend Nikki from Australia wrote back to say that there is no summer camp there, just beautiful long family summers together. It made me remember that wait, this is something I always dreamed of, taking the summer off with my kids. Yes, my dream did not involve having to work at the same time nor the lack of a pool or the ability to socialize with other families, but you take what you can get.

Family breakfast on the balcony with the french toast Max helped make.

Then there is the opportunity to finally mold our children into the kind of children we were, those that hummed along with the household, not ruled the roost, as the children of this generation do. Or at least I let my children! This article from the NY Times, Turn Your Demanding Child Into A Productive Co-Worker, reminded me AGAIN how wrong I was in my initial reaction to the cancellation of camp. (Hold that thought until the next paragraph.) On a positive trend, Mr. Real Life Style told Max (8) to fold and put away his own laundry today and it actually happened. James (6) has appointed himself my official paper shredder and has already noted that he will need a new job when he has completed the current pile.  

I Am Not Your Cruise Director

My initial reaction to the news of camp being cancelled was to go into triage mode, thinking up a complicated schedule of activities to keep the kids occupied. If there was not going to be day camp, there was going to be Mommy Camp! Then two things happened. One, my friend/neighbor/loyal blog reader Agnes responded to the last newsletter mentioning the subject with the previously cited NY Times article and the realistic perspective that I needed to hear. Agnes stated that she was going to give the kids each one “class” they could take online, weekly musical lessons, a small amount of daily academic work to keep up their skills over the summer, mandated daily reading time, and a strict allotment of screen time. Other than that, the kids would need to let their parents work and figure out how to entertain themselves. My first thought was that her children are much more well-behaved than mine. My second thought was that she was a genius. And actually, she truly is one of the smarter moms I know!

Max relaxing by himself in a tree.

This dose of practical parenting would have been all I really needed, but then…Max and I usually spend 30-60 minutes before his bedtime reading Harry Potter or playing Lego. When he didn’t feel like doing either of those things he started throwing a fit that we weren’t “doing” anything, and he was bored, and this was somehow my fault. Now, I’m sure this tantrum had more to do with something else going on, but the very idea that he did hold me responsible for coming up with any and all activities to entertain him, and that he couldn’t handle the time without anything specific happening, made me double down on the idea of LOTS of free play time. I told him, “I am not your cruise director,” and went to take a shower. 

For most of time, parents have not been responsible for entertaining their children. Children were responsible for creating their own fun. And this leads to using their imagination and respect for the household’s needs in addition to their own. Imagine that! 

The Gift of Boredom

I have lamented for years that my kids don’t have time to get bored. Not that they never have a lazy morning to build a fort or pull out the costume box, but they rarely have a big stretch of time in front of them where we just say, “Play.” This is partly because we are afraid that if we leave them alone too long there will be a fight to the death, and partly because of their mismatched personalities. One is an extrovert who can’t be too over-scheduled, the other an introverted homebody. Just like their parents! 

Max and James invented a game using their favorite cozy blankets.

We only have so many years before they get sucked into their phones and the computer, and stop exploring their boredom with creative pursuits. I am already worried about this. We had pretty strict screen time guidelines before the pandemic. Like everyone else, these limits have gotten fuzzy over the last few months as their schoolwork has taken them online and we’ve needed to buy time to get our own work done. Does it count as screen time if it is an App which teaches you math and was assigned by your teacher? And what if you and your spouse don’t agree? A lot of things need to be worked out in our new normal. I do look upon the summer as a chance to enforce new rules by taking advantage of the perceived change. I say perceived because truthfully, the only difference is the lack of accountability to the teachers. Not that this isn’t a huge difference. It certainly will be a relief not to worry about living up to anyone else’s academic expectations and to be able to set our own.

Small Adventures

I may not be setting up a Harry Potter class in my house, one of the classes Max was signed up for at his camp, but if I want, he can take one of many through Outschool. When asked, he has expressed interest in learning how to cook. In fact, he wants to go to my twin sister’s cooking camp! If we can’t do that, I will let him make our meals with me. We made french toast together yesterday, and unlike our previous cooking attempts, he stayed in the kitchen through the whole process. Maybe by the time he is 9 he can make us french toast? Or dinner? We also have a Smithsonian Maker Lab book with 28 projects in it and he wants to grow his own rock candy. If your parents won’t buy you candy, make your own and call it science!

Smithsonian Maker Lab book with the recipe for growing rock candy.

Speaking of cool books, I came up with the idea of throwing the kids a family only Zoom half-birthday party at the beginning of June. Their birthdays are both in December so we can do one together. It will be a good excuse for cake and a party, and we can give them new books as gifts that will get them through the summer.

Max outside of the mushroom house in Bethesda, MD.

We also have our bike riding adventures. I found a trail entrance to Rock Creek Park near enough to our house so we don’t need to get a bike rack. It is an 8 mile round trip to the Lincoln Memorial, which would be a very DC adventure. Mr. Real Life Style took them on a small adventure yesterday, riding their bikes to the mushroom house. James just wants to make volcanoes with baking soda and vinegar. I love the idea of figuring out how to make each day different from the others in some way, but that’s enough.

What Our Summer Might Look Like

Virtual learning ends May 29th, and we don’t know exactly when school, in whatever from, will begin again. DCPS is talking about starting earlier in August than previously planned. We have a house rental in Maine planned for mid August, right after their quarantine ends. For the record, we planned this trip last summer. I am not sure what we will do if school is supposed to start at a time that interferes with the house rental. We were supposed to go with extended family but we don’t know who will go now based on safety precautions. I think it would be so good for the kids to have a change of scenery and the opportunity to go swimming every day, even if we can’t leave the house. If school is remote, it doesn’t matter where we are as long as there is an internet connection.

I have two more weeks to work out the details of our exact daily summer schedule and plan for the next 2-3 (TBD) months. However, I know it will involve some online academic classes on Khan Academy for Max, a Summer Bridge activity workbook for James, a specific daily allotment of screen time to be divided up between the iPad and the TV as they see fit, giving the kids more responsibility around the house now that they won’t have schoolwork and we still won’t have a housekeeper, daily reading on Zoom with Grandma, daily independent reading, outdoor time, Zoom play dates with friends, and a lot of indoor free play. I do think the kids need a schedule so they know what to expect and can get into a routine. I haven’t been great about an exact schedule or routine until recently, but I know it helps all of us. And now that we know this is our new normal and that it will last all summer, it will be easier to come up with a schedule from the start.

Stay tuned for more and let me know how you are going to handle the summer!

P.S. My Prediction for Fall

I have no illusions that the children are going back to school in the fall. I’m sorry if that is not what you want to hear. I just do not see how we can possibly send our children into the petri dish that school is in the best of circumstances, unless they come up with some seriously effective treatments for Covid-19, as we know they won’t have a vaccine by then. Have they started selling WWDFD bracelets yet: What Would Dr. Fauci Do? I am following my pediatrician’s advice. We are so lucky to be a part of a practice that sends out weekly emails with updated information on Covid-19 and holds multiple online talks each week for parents to discuss every issue, including whether to send our kids to camp and school, that we need to talk about right now. Thank you, Capitol Medical Group

Real Life Style is a style consulting firm that teaches busy women to wear their power so they can live their lives fully and confidently. Lani Inlander and Kyle Dunphy are based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and serve clients across the country. Learn how you can train with Lani and Kyle to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio

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