Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Kiddos Tuesdays when I discuss issues related to the kids.
When it comes to my kids, I am really big on consistency and routine. But of course, right now, we are living in very unpredictable times, very unexpected times and unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of answers. We certainly have no idea how long the coronavirus crisis — how long it will last, or what impact it will have on our families.
Nevertheless, life has to go on to remain… sane, healthy and happy — even under these very stressful circumstances. So what is the new normal for us?
Now some people think that this crisis doesn’t have a big impact on homeschoolers such as my children. I mean, we have been homeschooling since the girls were in third grade. However, that certainly hasn’t been the case. My children have always had an incredible and rich social life. And all of that has been put to rest for now.
So how do we handle no longer being able to go to dance lessons; go to field trips; go to social meetups; have friends over; travel? You know — all those things that, until recently, were such a strong component in our lives. Boy, would I love to tell you that it has been easy — but it really hasn’t.
First, we had to decide if we were going to be on lockdown, where were we going to spend that lockdown time? And we decided not to do it in our Caribbean home. Instead, we decided to do it in our condo in Florida. That’s primarily because I have pre-existing conditions. And healthcare in Florida is incredible. So we had to make that decision. And that meant that the kids had to leave their individual rooms behind. They had to leave the music theater room behind. They had to leave their classroom behind. And of course, they had to leave their friends behind. They had to do all of that and come to a condo that is very small — only three bedrooms — where the kids had to share bedrooms. There is no homeschool room. There is no music theater room. Basically, our living room is our dining room, music room, homeschool room — our everything room. In fact, that’s also become my office where I am currently recording this podcast.
So the very first challenge was choosing roommates. Now, this was interesting because Emmy and Andy do not like sharing rooms. And in fact, the last time we spent significant time in the condo, Emmy was rooming with four-year-old Bug. But this time the twins wanted to be together. It’s a very unusual request but of course, I chose to honor it. In that respect, it wasn’t a problem because Dora and Bug wanted to be together.
I don’t know if it was a case of biological ties that bind, or if it was a case of “they thought that they would be more comfortable” — I really don’t know, and I didn’t press them or question them because I knew the situation was already stressful enough. Fortunately, it has been working out. I say fortunately because I was expecting fireworks in the first week, but that hasn’t been the case.
Emmy and Andy, my twins, are doing pretty well. They’ve managed to find a way to coexist in a very small bedroom, and Dora and Bug were doing the same. It’s very much a surprise for me because usually there’s a lot of complaining and yelling for Mom, but that hasn’t been the case.
Now one thing that we did do soon after arrival was I sent to Ikea for loft beds. So that means that they have some additional real estate in those bedrooms that they didn’t have before. And perhaps that’s part of the reason that they have been able to get along better than they have in the past. I’ve also had to consciously make an effort to be more gentle with them. And believe me, this isn’t easy when I feel under so much duress. I’m concerned about my health; I’m concerned about the health of our immediate family; I’m concerned about my sisters who work in the healthcare system; I’m concerned about other family members who work in the healthcare system; and I’m concerned that if something were to happen to my kids, as it so often does, the health care system will be unable to help them because it would be saturated with so many of the coronavirus cases.
So I have a lot of things in my mind stressing me out. So I do have to make a conscious effort to be gentler and be more understanding. This is not to say that I can always do it — just like any other situation when you’re a mom, you do your best, and sometimes you do better than other times. And that has certainly been the case during this crisis; this coronavirus crisis.
I did make some decisions to help me be gentler with my kids. For example, right now, I’m not really pushing academic challenges. They’re really feeling out of sorts. A lot of homeschool families home school in their kitchen or dining room table. That has never been us — we’ve always had our own classroom. And the kids have always felt that it worked best for them. It wasn’t something that I pushed on them. It was something that they needed. They felt that they were able to concentrate better and focus more on academics when they had that space — and of course here, we don’t have it.
So I have been laying off pushing new material or learning anything new, really but have been, instead, reinforcing the skills that we have learned throughout the year. I am a little concerned about the amount of junk food that they have been eating since we got stuck in our condo, or as I call it, The Cave.
I name all of our homes and this one, I call The Cave. We purchased this condo because it’s in the Kissimmee area near the parks. It’s just a great location! And it’s a great condo. It’s relatively new — but it’s dark; it doesn’t get a lot of natural light. And that’s how I came about nicknaming it.
So since upon arrival at The Cave, they’ve been eating a lot of junk food. But I also have to admit that so have my husband and I. We’re stress eating — everybody is stress eating. I have spoken to my oreo cookie monster, Andy, and have limited her oreo consumption, not only because she’s not as physically active as she typically would be, but because, of course, I’m concerned about her health. But at the same time, I do have to cut her some slack because she is stressed out and these are very unusual circumstances.
I also had to accept that they were going to spend more time on social media. Now this is not my favorite and I do limit how much time they are able to spend on their phones, but right now, I’m trying not to get frustrated that they spend all of that a lot of time on their phones, creating videos and Tiktoks and all of that stuff. Thankfully, they haven’t been asking for more; I’m not sure I could bring myself to give them more.
I have three pre-teen girls and their world was all about socializing and they can’t do it right now. So social media it is. And I have to understand that, both for their sanity and mine. They are able to meet with their homeschool co-op via Zoom and that helps — not so much because of academics, but primarily because they get to see the same kids that they used to spend time with on a regular basis and that helps a lot. It helps them maintain a sense of normalcy and a sense of hope that this too, shall pass. We may not know when, but we know it will. And when that happens, those social ties that they had before will have been nurtured along and will still be available and present at the other side of this dark tunnel.
And while I haven’t been able to replace their dance classes — and that was quite devastating, especially for Emmy, who was the dance recital superstar, I have been able to find, thanks to a great website called lessonface.com, a way for the girls to continue their voice lessons and their piano lessons. So both Emmy, Andy, and Dora have been able to do this. It’s a little dicier with Bug, who’s four-years-old — he really doesn’t have the attention span to spend 30 minutes on an online course. So we haven’t gone there but we’re doing the best we can.
The reality is, that as far as the kids, the most challenging component has been Bug. The condo doesn’t have its own private physical space outdoors and so there is no place for him to go play outside. There’s no place for him to get all of his energy out and, boy, does he have a lot of energy! We have tried doing walks because this is a primarily vacation rental area. And of course, there are less and less people coming into this community. Almost everyone has left and the front office did tell us that only 10 people checked-in this week and they’re not expecting anybody next week.
So as people leave, we’ll be able to spend a little more time walking around in the community outdoors and that, I think, will help. But it’s not the same thing for a 4-year-old to walk around in circles as it is to go out and get their energy out with their friends. But again, we’re doing the best we can with the situation that we’re in.
Ultimately, I think the biggest challenge is helping the girls maintain a sense of optimism and hope in a situation that, right now, seems so very dark; where we don’t know how long that darkness will last; or what the long-term impact will be on our friends, family, our country — the world. And one of the things that I have attempted to do is to limit their access to the media. Because let’s face it, we get a lot of conflicting information and not always very helpful information.
And I also remind them that humanity has survived other pandemics before. Has survived in, has thrived. And it will again, no matter how dark this time seems, we will come out the other side.
Life will return to normal. What the normal will be, I don’t know. There is no way of knowing. But as I said earlier, humanity has always found a way to thrive. And so will my children.