Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about....Social Distancing

We recently started a new column series to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about social distancing. We're open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Sara Steven:
I know I’m not alone when I say how much more of an appreciation I have for teachers. And schools. And school administrators. Really, any establishment or person in that establishment that provides a safe place for my kids.

I’m trying to maintain some sense of normalcy right now. That’s the type of advice we’re given, while attempting to navigate through the great unknown of COVID-19, right? Stick with routines. Stick with schedules. Get up and keep active and go about your day as “normally” as you possibly can.

I have two sons. One is a freshman in high school, the other one is a third grader. Monday through Friday, weekdays which now feel blended together like the movie Groundhog Day, have continued on as a “school” week for them, with online classes, tutorials and assignments. I attempt to wake my beautiful boys from their restful slumbers at eight in the morning in an effort to hold onto that routine I’ve been told I so desperately need. And let’s face it, before COVID, they had to wake up much earlier than that. The freshman has no trouble, but the third grader isn’t having it. I walk into his room every few minutes with gentle reminders of, “come on kiddo, it’s time to get up and get dressed” and when that goes unnoticed, it’s every few minutes of direct orders, that he needs to get up because he has a Zoom call with his teacher and fellow classmates at nine, and before that, he needs breakfast and you’d think with an hour’s notice, there will be plenty of time, but there never is. In an effort to speed up the process, I place clothing on his bed, right next to his head, but he casually strolls out of his room nearly a half an hour after I’d initially woken him up wearing something completely different from what I’d put next to his head.

During this drainage of time, the freshman sits on the sofa, looking at his cell phone. Scrolling and reading and texting friends, laughing. At least he’s willing to show me what he’s humored by. A cat that looks as though It’s been engulfed by another cat. I tell him to please put his phone away, it’s time for the morning routine. And a shower. Yes, he needs a shower. But my request is ignored, as if he’s forgotten our special morning routines established since quarantining away in the house early March. He doesn’t want to take time away from the cell phone to take a shower, but he begrudgingly does it, grumbling all the way to his bedroom, a room with leftover Legos and dirty clothes on the floor, and a makeshift blanket bed he set up for the family cat who likes to lay around and catnap the afternoons away, but the cat has chosen the basket of clean clothing that I’d told the freshman to put away the day before. The freshman tells me, “I forgot” when I remind him again. “I can’t do it now, I have to shower.”

Somehow, I manage to get them to eat a little something for breakfast. It can be tough, considering the freshman has decided that breakfast really isn’t the most important part of his day anymore, he’s never hungry in the mornings. And because the third grader wants to do whatever his big brother does because he absolutely idolizes him, he’s not really hungry, either. Even when he is. I cheat by cutting up some fruit for the both of them. I guess this doesn’t count as breakfast food. And, wonder upon wonders, they agree to a slice of banana bread, too. Maybe they think it’s dessert.

While they eat, I water my outdoor plants and can hear their conversation through open windows, and it always starts out so nice. It really does. And then they begin to banter. And the banter turns into a full-blown argument. And somehow, the freshman’s banana bread has ended up a smooshed disaster on his shirt and on the kitchen floor, completely the third grader’s fault, or so believed, not realizing his own antagonizing brought the third grader into a fit of rage and hence the smooshed bread. And there is yelling and screaming and finger pointing, and now I’m yelling, too, and all before the morning Zoom meeting at nine.

While the third grader Zooms from my laptop at the kitchen table, I work on laying out what needs to be done from his computer. The assignments given for the day. The to-do list. I consider myself to be a fairly organized person, but it astounds me how his teacher has it together, not only in maintaining the twenty-three students in her class, but the fact that she is working from home with two of her own. And I can hear her while she’s conversing with her students. She sounds so chipper. How is she so chipper? Meanwhile, the freshman has changed his shirt and is brushing his teeth and keeps walking out to his computer with toothpaste gunk in his mouth, brush dangling from his lips, wanting to know when I’m going to unlock his computer so he can use it. “Get back in the bathroom and brush!” I tell him.

And I know it should be an easier time for me, even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Given the age of my children. But the seclusion has taken a toll on all of us. They were used to their own routines, spending time five days a week in a school setting, getting to see their friends, getting to take a much-needed break away. The third grader had two recesses a day. Now it’s daily walks or bike rides. Or the trampoline. But it’s not the same, and even that becomes a routine. And of course, they are stuck with me now, 24/7. (Cue the foreboding music..)

I think this quarantine has shown us the best and the worst in people, but it’s also shown tolerance and patience. Particularly where our loved ones are concerned. Sure, my boys can drive me a little nutty, but I would do anything to protect them. Even if that means quarantining myself away with them for as long as it takes, until it's a safe environment again. It hasn’t been easy, but I know we’ll all get past this. It’s a little mantra I tell myself, when my boys argue and fight or make messes or make me want to eat my lunch in my bedroom. In the meantime, I continue to say a little blessing for my children’s teachers and all the hard work they’ve put in, in trying to make my job at home with them easier, as well as the other parents who are doing all they can for their kids, too. We’re all trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, as best we can. Even if that means eating your lunch in the bedroom.

Melissa Amster:

Two months ago, we never thought we'd be home almost 24/7, away from friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. for an indeterminable amount of time. Well, here we are. And since we have to make the best of things for the unforeseeable future, I am going to share what is making this quarantine more bearable for me. Even though I am happy to be quarantined with my husband and kids, I will admit that I am stressed about various things right now. While I am thankful to be able to work from home, my work has felt more stressful as a result of not being in the office. My kids may be independent, but they also fight with me on certain issues and seem to think that we're made of money and that food will magically appear in the pantry. My daughter has trouble falling asleep, which impacts my ability to sleep. Attempting to go to the store feels like visiting the "Upside Down" from Stranger Things. (Thankfully, Target has drive-up service!) And just thinking of how long this quarantine could potentially last is emotionally draining, to say the least. (And not for first world problems, but just for the anxiety it provokes in general.) So I need certain constants to get me through all of this.

First of all, I want you to know that we care about your well-being at CLC. If you have any need for the following contact information, don't hesitate to use it:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or

I have posted the information for the US, but if similar organizations are available in your country, please use them if you need to.

If you just need to vent, please feel free to post your feelings in the comments. You can even post anonymously if you would like. (Please keep politics out of this, as we aim to be neutral as a blog, regardless of how we personally feel.)

The things that are helping me stay positive during this time:

Staying connected to family and friends: I've been reconnecting with friends I haven't talked with in a while and video chatting more often with my family. During this time, the extra moments of connection are so vital.

Reading (like that's not obvious or anything): I've read a lot more lately than ever before. Books are such a necessary escape for me. I've heard of a lot of people saying they have lost the motivation to read. I can't imagine losing interest in reading. Even just thinking about what I've read gets me through a long day. I've been sharing lots of books with friends and people in my community. It also makes me happy to help someone find their next favorite novel.

Music: Listening to music has always been comforting to me, and even more so nowadays. My older son and I sing show tunes together a lot. I even brought him with me to pick up a Target drive-up order so we could listen to a Broadway CD in my car, like we used to when I drove him to school. Recently, Marie's Crisis Café started performing from home every night and it's fun to watch live on Facebook. That's another excuse for my son and I to sing show tunes together. My younger son plays piano a lot (self-taught) and I love listening to him figure out a new song on his own. I did most of my Passover cooking while listening to 80s and 90s music on Pandora.

Board games: I've been playing games more often with my husband and kids lately. We recently bought Codenames, which we all enjoy. We also got into some really long Taboo competitions and recently played Trivial Pursuit together. (We have a Stranger Things version of the game, as well.)

Laughter: Being able to laugh right now is so important. As I mentioned in February's post, my husband makes me laugh every day, even if it's over something really small. We recently had a funny psychic moment involving The Princess Bride. My kids have also been making me laugh a lot. My favorite moment recently was when we were playing Taboo and my older son didn't know what a "bookie" was, so he came up with this hilarious clue. Even memes about Coronavirus make me laugh. My favorite is one with the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. (Thanks to Jenny from Book Coffee Happy for this one.)

There you go.

I hope you are staying safe and healthy and that you are finding things to help get you through the days and weeks that have passed and the ones that are still ahead of us.

Please let us know how you are doing and what is keeping you going these days.

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